Deakin University has paved the way to dramatically cut the cost of carbon fibre manufacturing, joining forces with LeMond Composites in a $US44m deal to revolutionise its use across the world.

The partnership, signed on 21 June by Greg LeMond – a three-time Tour de France winner and the founder and CEO of LeMond Composites – and Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander AO at the University’s Waurn Ponds Campus, allows LeMond Composites to license technology developed by Deakin’s world-leading carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus.

LeMond Composites will also consider the development of a carbon fibre manufacturing plant in Geelong, which would invest more than $30m in construction and equipment, and create dozens of jobs for Geelong manufacturers to take the carbon fibre of the future to the global market. The specialised carbon fibre production machinery for the plant will be manufactured by Furnace Engineering in Clayton, Victoria.

Professor den Hollander said the new technology, developed by Carbon Nexus PhD Student Maxime Maghe and Carbon Nexus General Manager Steve Atkiss, was a game-changer for the future of manufacturing.

“We know carbon fibre has been in use in aircraft, high-end cars and bikes, among other applications for a long time now, but it remains a niche product that costs a significant amount to produce,” Professor den Hollander said. “This new technology could revolutionise the advanced manufacturing sector locally, across Australia and around the globe, because it will make carbon fibre more affordable to produce, which will make it more accessible for consumers.

“This is a huge global success story and it was incubated right here at Waurn Ponds, by one of our very own future leaders – a PhD student working under the guidance of our gifted leadership in carbon fibre research. And carbon fibre could ultimately be made right here in Geelong, at our Waurn Ponds Campus, where over a decade of government, industry and our own investment has created a map for manufacturing of the future. The opportunities are clear.”

LeMond in 1986 became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France on a carbon fibre bike. He has been a household name among cyclists for three decades, selling carbon fibre bikes under his own brand around the globe, before last year setting up LeMond Composites to realise his vision of affordable carbon fibre cycles for everyday riders. LeMond said the ability to scale low-cost carbon fibre production had been the biggest hurdle to bring the material to the masses.

“Deakin University’s manufacturing process will make it possible to localise manufacturing and make carbon fibre technology more accessible to a wider range of industries like transportation, renewable energy and infrastructure or any industry that benefits from using lighter, stronger, safer materials,” LeMond said.

The Carbon Nexus centre was established in 2014 as a globally-unique, cutting-edge research facility to conduct basic and industrial-scale research into carbon fibre production methods and composite manufacturing techniques.