Monash UniversityGraduate research

Graduate research

Chemical attraction

Science and industry stand to gain from an innovative program that marries their interests.

How can green chemistry reduce the environmental impact of industrial and domestic waste? What is the potential for benefiting society through the development of self-healing polymers? The answers to these challenges may be found by students working towards their PhD as part of GRIP, an innovative program that links academia with industry and government.

GRIP – Monash University’s Graduate Research Interdisciplinary Program – is an incubator of industry-relevant research, explains the Vice-Provost (Graduate Education), Professor Zlatko Skrbis. He sees it as a catalyst for innovation that benefits students and industry.

“We are bringing together the interests of academic and industry leaders to identify challenges, topics and ideas that need to be addressed,” he says.

This year, Monash has launched a GRIP underpinned by the Australian chemistry industry. In partnership with the Plastics and Chemicals Industry Association (PACIA) and the Victorian Government’s Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, the GRIP pairs PhD students with more than 20 participating companies and organisations, including BASF, Procter & Gamble, 3M, Agilent Technologies, Nufarm, PPG, PerkinElmer, Dulux, Axieo and KPMG. The program also involves Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority and CSIRO. It links to Monash University’s Green Chemical Futures initiative, which has already attracted more than $100 million in investment.

The researchers coming out of the program will have a firm understanding of industry needs, says PACIA chief executive (and Monash alumna) Samantha Read.

We’ve seen a tremendous response from industry to this initiative,” she says. “This is recognition of the vital importance of strong collaboration between academia, the research community and industry in helping to drive innovation. The role of innovation in helping to create competitive advantage for the Australian chemistry industry cannot be overstated.”

Professor Karen Hapgood, a chemical engineer, and Associate Professor Tony Patti, a chemist, oversee the GRIP program, working with a team of academics from the science and engineering faculties who supervise the students in collaborative partnerships.

Students will gain industrial experience through mentorship by an industry R&D expert, and by working as interns.

“The PhD projects will be industry-focused, and the industry partners will be looking to commercialise the research outputs,” says Joseph Lawrence, director of industry partnerships at Monash.

Mr Lawrence says students will gain from the joint influence of research scientists and industry engineers. The program also gives industry a role in fostering the next generation of chemical scientists and engineers, and the opportunity to develop relationships with Monash and its extensive research capabilities. Many of the participating companies intend to build a deeper partnership with the university; PerkinElmer, for example, has established an industrial flagship facility at Monash in the new Green Chemical Futures building.

Another GRIP that focuses on sustainable water management in developing Asian cities is also underway at Monash, and other programs are in the development stage.

Professor Skrbis says the GRIP model was inspired by the Centres for Doctoral Training in the UK and other international best-practice models in graduate research education.

“These allow universities to productively engage with industry partners – but those partnerships also serve as embedding mechanisms for PhD students who are future captains of industry, and future research leaders,” he says.

Learn more about graduate research at Monash.

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