Peter Kidman and Professor Yuy Wieldong at the Xian 2nd International Wool Textile Conference

ONE OF THE OBJECTIVES of the Wool CRC’s Education Program is to enhance the level of wool-related teaching and research at two of China’s major textile teaching institutions, the China Textile University (CTU) in Shanghai, and the Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology (BICT). According to Peter Kidman, the Manager of the overseas project, ‘it is vital that the customers for Australia’s wool have a sound understanding of the technical issues related to early stage processing, wool and wool blend fabric structure and behaviour, wool and wool blend dyeing and dyestuff effluent management. This is particularly the case as China moves towards a market-driven wool industry.’ When this program commenced in 1994, China was Australia’s biggest raw wool customer and imported more than 300 million kilograms of greasy wool, scoured wool and tops. In the following year it produced approximately 650 million metres of fabric of which 205 million was pure wool and 350 million was wool blend.
To achieve the objective of improving the quality of wool training and research in China, five PhD scholarships were granted at the two Chinese institutions, along with ten Masters of Science (MSc) scholarships. Such an ambitious project called for the development of unique relationships between Australian academics (at the University of NSW), researchers at CSIRO Wool Technology, academics at the Chinese institutions, and importantly, the Chinese wool processing sector. As Peter Kidman emphasised, ‘this is an exciting development which ensures industry-focused research and development’.

‘It is vital that the customers for Australia’s wool have a sound understanding of the technical issues related to early stage processing, wool and wool blend fabric structure and behaviour, wool and wool blend dyeing and dyestuff effluent management.’

Two unique features of the PhD program are

1. The manner in which the students are supervised: two core partners of the CRC — the University of New South Wales and CSIRO Wool Technology — share the responsibilities and provide some of the facilities for the students to do part of their experimental work; and

2. The links that have been created with the Chinese Wool Textile Industry: between the two universities in China, University of NSW and CSIRO with the Chinese processing sector.

 ‘This is an exciting development which ensures industry- focused research and development.’

To facilitate these linkages, the Masters program was designed to encourage the two universities to work closely with mills and to identify topics which would satisfy the academic requirements of the universities and at the same time address a mill problem.

Peter Kidman was particularly pleased with the performance of the students at the Xian 2nd International Wool Textile Conference where they presented their papers. ‘An audience of 80 delegates from 11 countries were very impressed with the professionalism of the students, and their presentations generated many questions which they handled extremely well’, he said. Accompanying the students to the Xian conference were their supervisors, Dr Ron Postle and Dr Xungai Wang from the University of New South Wales and Dr Alan DeBoos, Dr David Phillips, Dr Rex Brady and Dr Shouren Yang from CSIRO. The University of NSW’s supervisors have presented a number of lectures to both the universities and the industry. They have also visited a number of mills and discussed the outcomes of their student’s work and, in addition, considered and provided advice on problems raised by the mills’ technical staff. Likewise the CSIRO supervisors have presented lectures and workshops for the universities and the mills and now the CSIRO is currently developing a program with CTU and two mills in the Jiangsu Province, which addresses quality issues related to the production of wool and wool blend worsted yarns.

Four of the PhD students have since returned to Australia to complete their research work, reviewed their findings and designed their theses with both their University of NSW and CSIRO supervisors. The fifth student is completing her research work in China and will return to Australia in the new year to finish her research work with CSIRO. The students have since presented further findings and results of their work at a seminar held at the University of New South Wales. All the Masters students scholarships have been granted and the first two students at CTU have graduated, with one now working for a Chinese wool buying company and the other for The Woolmark Company.

An important feature of the collaborative links which have been established by the program is that the two Chinese universities are now doing collaborative work with a number of mills and beginning to work more closely with The Woolmark Company via two laboratories which were established under the program. These two laboratories have various items of CSIRO-developed equipment which are useful for Chinese mills needing to monitor and improve the quality of their yarns and fabrics.

Since the commencement of the program the Chinese government has dropped the condition that textile university graduates must be employed in the textile industry and, as a consequence, the graduates are now free to choose their own career path. It is therefore a significant outcome that the first three MSc graduates have chosen and obtained positions in the Chinese wool textile industry.

A sound basis for wool related teaching and research programs has now been established at the associated universities, and positive links with the industry have been formed. However, Peter Kidman does warn that it may well be necessary to provide further support to ensure that the Chinese wool textile industry does have the necessary assistance to make it a robust, competitive, long-term user of Australian wool. Building on and expanding the current program will go some way towards this goal.

In this issue of The Wool Press: