Cutting-edge university building to spur regional innovation


North Queensland’s best and brightest Engineering and IT minds will now have a $100 million state-of-the-art facility to call home at James Cook University’s newest building in Townsville.

Located at JCU’s Bebegu Yumba campus in Douglas, Engineering and Innovation Place (EIP) features a multi-million dollar investment in new equipment, 23 new lab spaces, industry engagement and garage space, workshop, multi-modal studio and conference rooms.

A learning environment for tomorrow

JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Simon Biggs says the EIP represented the next generation of learning environments for the university across a range of disciplines.

‘”Our undergraduate and postgraduate engineering and IT students, industry partners and researchers stepped foot in the four-storey, 9,400m2 building for the first time yesterday,” Professor Biggs says.

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He describes the EIP as “a game-changer for both students and academics” and says it aims to offer unparalleled access to resources and equipment that are being used in the industry right now.

“It’s exciting to think about the possibilities and future innovations that will be created within the building’s new walls as staff, students and industry partners collaborate and develop new ideas to address real-world challenges facing the 21st century,” he says.

“Whether you’re studying Information Technology, engineering, mathematics or any number of related fields, the EIP will be a focal point for innovation where students will be able to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

Sustainable home for innovation and ideas

JCU Deputy Vice Chancellor, Services and Resources Tricia Brand said the modern design and function of the EIP was cutting-edge.

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“Providing our staff and students with a building that meets their needs was of paramount importance for JCU,” she says.

“The EIP not only exceeds that benchmark but contains several innovative features suited to our tropical climate. Its modular design will serve our students for decades to come.”

“Coincidently, there has also been a 49 per cent increase in enrolments for Engineering this year at JCU and the EIP will no doubt enhance the learning experience for those students.”

Unique architectural approach

Designed by KIRK Studio, in collaboration with i4 Architecture and Charles Wright Architects, and built by BESIX Watpac, the building features a parasol roof of folded wooden panels, an innovative climate-control system, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold sustainability rating.

Locally manufactured glulam timber is used to form the EIP’s facade system, which not only provides complete cyclone debris impact resistance but achieves both abundant day lighting and transparency and thermal performance standards well beyond standard market systems – a world first for the tropics.

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The EIP’s atrium can also be naturally ventilated, use tempered air or a blend, acting as an intermediate cooling zone from the exterior to the interior.

The surrounding areas include three water features and two feature statues crafted by Waanyi woman and Indigenous artist Judy Watson.

The statues represent two brothers from the Bindal People with one symbolising Mt Stuart (Mandilgun) and the other Magnetic Island (Yunbenun).

Supporting local industry

JCU College of Science and Engineering Dean Professor Ron White said the EIP underscored the university’s “mission to support, engage with, and supply talent to industries within the region”.

“Recent significant investments in the energy, resource, defence and digital sectors have created further promising career opportunities for graduates,” he says.

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Nurturing local talent

To fulfil this mission, Professor White says it is crucial to attract and retain talent both locally and internationally.

“The provision of state-of-the-art facilities in the Engineering Innovation Precinct complements the college’s world-class academic programs and researchers in engineering, IT, and science,” she says.

“These facilities not only enhance the learning environment but also facilitate collaboration and innovation among students, faculty and industry stakeholders.”

JCU Head of Engineering Bouchra Senadji says the new building fosters an innovative learning environment.

“The EIP supports the latest pedagogical approaches and practices, providing a rich environment for our students to engage, learn and grow,” she says.

“The EIP’s state-of-the-art facilities allow for impactful multidisciplinary research and engagement with our industry partners both in the region and beyond.”

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