Monash awarded more than $3.5 million for world-leading research with real community impact

Real-time detection methods for drugs and chemical weapons, understanding circular economies, and wellbeing in the workplace are among the Monash University research projects receiving funding in the latest announcement of Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grants. 

Federal Education Minister, The Honourable Dan Tehan MP, today announced more than $3.5 million for eight Monash research projects, where our researchers will partner with industry to deliver improvements to health, education and the economy.

Projects covering sustainability, defence, wellbeing and engineering all received funding. The announcement today brings the total awards at Monash in the 2019 round of Linkage Projects to 17 successful awards and more than $7.5 million in funding.

The Linkage Program promotes national and international research partnerships between researchers and business, industry, community organisations and other publicly funded research agencies. By supporting the development of partnerships, the ARC encourages the transfer of skills, knowledge and ideas as a basis for securing commercial and other benefits of research.

Some of the funded projects include:

Measuring the benefits of reuse in the circular economy

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown how vulnerable our society and economy is on globalised commodity chains so this grant is timely in that we must reset our materials economy along more sustainable lines, embracing circular economy principles that promote product longevity, and the repair and reuse of products and materials,” said Dr Ruth Lane from the Faculty of Arts, who is overseeing the research for Monash University.

This project will advance understanding of reuse commodity chains, their societal benefits and contributions to a sustainable circular economy. Drawing on case study research with charitable and community reuse enterprises, it will identify factors that facilitate or inhibit reuse and develop rigorous methods for assessing the benefits of reuse organisations in terms of materials processed, employment, skills development and contributions to regional economic development.

“COVID-19 has shown how important reuse is, to reset an unsustainable material economy, to create new jobs into the future, and provide affordable second-hand goods and services for those in need,” added Dr Lane.

Architectural Work Cultures: professional identity, education and wellbeing

In the architecture profession, there is a strong perception, and overwhelming anecdotal evidence, of problems with wellbeing among practitioners and students, such as long hours, precarious conditions, and frustrated creative fulfilment.

This project promises to be the first major study to use interdisciplinary, qualitative and quantitative methods to address the question of how workplace cultures and professional identity affect subjective wellbeing in architecture – and lay the foundations for practical improvements in the future.

Professor Naomi Stead from the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture, who is leading the project, said: “This is significant because, as a profession, architects often don’t make good business-people.”

“It’s an unfortunate fact that many small and medium practices operate on the very edge of financial viability, and the discipline of architecture looks to the arts and humanities, as well as engineering and the STEM disciplines, much more than it does to business and economics.

“We would argue that architecture practices, which are run as sound and profitable businesses, will also be better workplaces and better able to produce beautiful, quality buildings which contribute to the common good.”

On-site and comprehensive technology for chemical weapons, toxins and drugs

The project will apply new chemical detection methods to on-site and real-time analysis of chemicals, chemical signatures and degradation products of chemical warfare agents, drugs and toxins, using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.

A further objective is to apply very high resolution analysis methods for detailed profiling of these chemicals in locations such as clandestine drug laboratories, and how profiling of these chemicals can help us to understand methods used for their production. The opportunity for roadside analysis will be investigated.

Project lead Professor Philip Marriott from the Faculty of Science, said: “Real-time chemical methods can provide an immediate assessment of both the presence of chemicals of concern for enforcement purposes, but also for the occupational health and safety of investigating personnel.”

“Rapid analysis at clandestine labs can permit a more thorough site coverage. For chemical weapons, on-site analysis provides improved testing for residues and chemical signatures that may otherwise degrade if sample analysis was delayed, or samples were sent to laboratories far from deployment regions.”

To view all approved projects, please visit: rms.arc.gov.au/RMS/Report/Download/Report/a3f6be6e-33f7-4fb5-98a6-7526aaa184cf/209