THE FEDERAL Government has committed up to $96 million from its Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) to a project aimed at boosting enrolments in engineering courses at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville.
The funding is NAIF’s first investment commitment in Queensland and it will be used to develop a Technology Innovation Complex.
“The Technology Innovation Complex (TIC) will provide contemporary facilities as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) offering, targeted at engineering students,” Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan said.
“JCU is establishing a focus of engineering for the tropics and the Technology Innovation Complex will be the centrepiece of an ‘innovation hub’ in which undergraduate students, industry partners, post-graduate researchers and start-up businesses will collaborate.
“This is part of a broader plan by JCU to modernise its facilities across the Townsville campus over seven years from now till 2025, and it’s great that a NAIF loan can help facilitate this process and attract more students.
"We also need to attract more young Australians into engineering to support our strong resources sector. We have built our mining sector by harnessing the efforts of some of the world's best engineers trained here in Australia. This new facility will help us repeat that success in the future."
The proposed financial assistance is subject to the finalisation of the Queensland Government’s consideration and agreement for the approved funds to be advanced.
Northern-based Senator Ian Macdonald said he was pleased to see NAIF making a loan commitment that would significantly benefit the economy of North Queensland.
“I am strongly committed to promoting further development in North Queensland and believe this JCU project will attract industry, generate jobs and retain graduates in the region,” Senator Macdonald said.
“It will particularly help JCU attract more regional and international students in engineering, which in turn will boost expertise in a profession so vital to infrastructure development and innovation in Northern Australia and throughout our part of the world.
“The TIC is part of a broader modernisation and building program that JCU tells me will potentially return a public benefit of some $700 million over 30 years, driven by increased participation in higher education and collaboration with industry, so it is terrific the NAIF funding can help generate that sort of benefit.”
Senator Macdonald said he believed that Queensland had regularly had the highest number of active projects in the NAIF pipeline, as well as projects in the advanced ‘due diligence’ phase.
“This is not surprising, considering North Queensland has the highest population and most developed infrastructure in Northern Australia, and I look forward to seeing further investment decisions being announced by NAIF for funding in our region in future.”