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New UNSW Nuclear Innovation Centre receives $7.5m gift from Sir William Tyree Foundation

UNSW Sydney 3 mins read

The centre of excellence in nuclear science innovation launches with funding for research, scholarships and academic positions.

The UNSW Nuclear Innovation Centre (UNIC) was launched today to advance Australia’s nuclear science industry, underpinned by a $7.5 million donation from the Sir William Tyree Foundation, which will establish a suite of research scholarships in nuclear engineering.

The Hon. Pat Conroy MP, Minister for Defence Industry, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, officially opened the centre today at UNSW’s Kensington campus.

The gift from the Sir William Tyree Foundation will fund a research program, scholarships for Masters and PhDs in nuclear engineering, and will support junior academic positions at the new centre.

Minister Conroy said it’s a pivotal moment for nuclear science in Australia, and the new centre will play a key role in promoting growth in the field of nuclear science and engineering.

“This is a fantastic initiative that will bring together experts from different disciplines to collaborate and innovate.

“Australia has a long and proud history of excellence in nuclear science and technology, and UNSW has led the way,” he said.

UNSW was the first university in Australia to offer a nuclear engineering program in 1954 and now has the largest nuclear engineering program in the country.

“I can’t think of a better time – or a better place than UNSW – to inaugurate a Nuclear Innovation Centre.”

The UNIC is a cross-disciplinary, cross-industry hub that will initially bring together academics from UNSW and research partners, including the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong. The centre’s goal is to develop a skilled workforce and future leaders to ensure Australia builds a competitive and prosperous nuclear technology industry. This includes training experts for a range of careers, including engineering, science, law and policy.


Director of the UNIC Associate Professor Edward Obbard said his team is intent on advancing Australia's nuclear technology for global impact.


“We are growing a nuclear workforce in Australia grounded in academic excellence, diversity and social inclusion, which in turn are foundations for nuclear safety in all Australia’s nuclear activities. We are connecting our research to industry applications and embedding the results of our research in our education programs, so that they continually evolve.


“The UNIC is part of UNSW’s first societal impact framework, which is helping us to focus our efforts for maximum effect and benefit to society.


Nuclear technology has a range of applications. It can help provide clean and reliable electricity, desalination of water, industrial scale production of clean hydrogen, lifesaving nuclear medicine, space propulsion for interplanetary missions, and deployable, zero emissions power systems for emergency response and disaster management.


The centre will also be fundamental in supporting the federal government’s AUKUS submarine program, which will require thousands of workers trained in a range of skills in the nuclear field.


 A/Prof. Obbard said the gift from the Tyree Foundation will ensure the UNIC can move quickly to start this training.


My heartfelt thanks to Robbie Fennell and Peter Tyree, and the late Sir William Tyree for his vision,” he said.


“I am one person whose academic career in Australian nuclear engineering was started by their gift to UNSW in 2014. Their support will enable us to train 40 top-tier nuclear experts for Australia. I don’t think we’d be here today without the Tyree Foundation’s support and involvement with nuclear engineering at UNSW over the past 10 years.”


Sir William Tyree’s daughter and chair of the Sir William Tyree Foundation Robbie Fennell said she is proud of decades of philanthropic partnership with UNSW, spanning energy, women in engineering programs and medical innovation.


“Our gift to the UNSW Nuclear Innovation Centre builds on a decade of support for nuclear engineering that saw us help to establish Australia’s first Masters in Nuclear Engineering in 2014. 


“Sir William believed Australia must capitalise on nuclear technologies, and I’m sure he’d be proud of our role in progressing nuclear education and research that will develop the technologies and skills for all possible nuclear futures.”

Contact details:

Louise Templeton
0413 495 994

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