Swinburne University of Technology is set to take a lead role in the development of Industry 4.0, following receipt of a $135 million industrial software grant from engineering giant Siemens.

The chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia, Jeff Connolly, said the grant would support Victoria and Australia by preparing students to participate fully in the emerging global innovation economy.

The university said the grant would be used to digitalise its Factory of the Future, creating Australia’s first fully immersed Industry 4.0 facility. The Factory of the Future is located inside Swinburne’s Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre (AMDC), opened in July 2105 at a cost of $100 million.

The factory is “more than just a design, research, manufacturing or teaching space,” according to the university; it is also “a hub for engaging undergraduate and high school students, alumni and the wider community … [and] provides industry and organisations with state-of-the-art facilities to explore conceptual ideas for manufacturing next generation products.”

Professor Bronwyn Fox, director of the university’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute, said the factory would work with industry partners to solve key challenges through integration of innovative design platforms, advanced manufacturing technologies, materials and information systems.

“The outcomes of our work will commercialise new technology, enabling Australian companies to capitalise on the expanding international market and tap into global supply chains,” Fox said.

Swinburne said the grant would provide a suite of advanced product lifecycle management software designed to integrate data, processes, business systems and people in an extended enterprise, and a new generation cloud-based IoT platform, MindSphere.

“The new software will give students and researchers access to the same apparatus being used by leading companies on advanced projects, developing the skills needed to thrive in the highly-competitive digital manufacturing sphere,” it said.

MindSphere is billed as “an open cloud based … IoT operating system with data analytics and connectivity capabilities with … tools for developers to create applications like MindApps and services.” It was developed jointly with SAP on the SAP HANA cloud platform.

Swinburne’s deputy vice-chancellor (research and development), professor Aleksandar Subic said the partnership with Siemens was aligned with recommendations made by the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce. (Earlier this month Swinburne and the taskforce released a joint report Industry 4.0 Testlabs in Australia Preparing for the Future.)

“We’re immersed in the fourth industrial revolution and we want to make sure that students and researchers are equipped with the required advanced capabilities and tools to help transform Australian industry and access global value chains,” Subic said.

“The international competition will be fierce in the manufacturing domain, which is why this development is so timely and critical.”