Industry Challenges


Let’s raise to the challenge of net zero concrete.

Although many organisations – from industry, research and government – have committed to decarbonisation, no individual business can achieve this goal without buy-in from across the entire concrete ecosystem.

Every quarter, SmartCrete hosts an Industry Challenge that tackles a particular industry problem on route to net zero. We bring together stakeholders along the concrete value chain, including designers, engineers, manufacturers, representatives from industry associations and government, to discuss the problem, build a common understanding and define collective challenges for Australia’s research community to solve.

The Industry Challenge aims to

  • Uncover the pressing industry problems
  • Unite industry with leading research talents in material science, engineering, technology and more
  • Foster collaborative research investment
  • De-risk and enable innovation at scale
  • Establish comprehensive research partnerships that develop solutions that improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australia’s concrete ecosystem


Patways to net zero concrete

To create pathways to net zero concrete, SmartCrete has broaden its approach to industry engagement and innovation collaboration.



Industry and research partners


Research projects


Process of the industry challenge

  1. Theme selection

    Identify themes together with industry that are critical to accelerating the transition to net zero concrete

  2. Challenge Design

    Facilitate industry workshops – bringing together representatives from across the concrete ecosystem – to define key challenges and set common innovation priorities within the chosen theme

  3. Industry Review

    Review project proposals to determine their suitability for co-investment, research collaboration and commercialisation before seeking industry commitment

  4. Reverse Pitch

    Pitch the identified challenges to SmartCrete’s research community – 11 Australian universities – and call for expressions of interest for projects to solve those from a diverse and multidisciplinary research cohort

  5. Agile Delivery

    Apply agile project delivery principles, supported by meaningful and transparent structures that encourage collaboration and ensure that agreed research and commercial objectives are met and deliver wider impact

Challenge #5 (Q4 / 2022-23)

Performance-based Specifications for Concrete

The economic and environmental pressures that Australia’s built environment is facing have created an impetus to transition towards more performance-based specifications.

While many research papers have been written about performance-based specifications, discussing different criteria and requirements to achieve the quality and desired performance characteristics of concrete rather than prescribing specific ingredients or proportions, Australia’s construction industry still heavily relies on prescriptive specification.

With new, low carbon materials entering the market, calls for performance-based specifications that simply define the functional and durability aspects of the concrete have become louder.

SmartCrete is looking to investigate the implications and possibilities of moving from prescriptive to performance-based specifications, and what’s required to make a successful transition.


If you are interested in participating or have any questions. Write to us!


Performance-based Specifications for Concrete

Challenge #4 (Q3 / 2022-23)

Low Carbon Concrete: Accelerating the uptake of Geopolymer and Alkali Activate Binder Concrete

Geopolymer concrete (GPC) and alkali activated binder concrete (AABC), being cement-less and having a significantly reduced carbon footprint, are often described as the next generation of Low Carbon Concrete.

Despite research studies recognising GPC and AABC as worthy alternatives to Portland Cement Concrete due to their environmental, technical and economic benefits, the barriers to the widespread uptake of both Low Carbon Concrete types in the construction industry remain.

To accelerate the adoption of GPC and AABC across Australia’s buildings and construction sector, SmartCrete seeks to identify and address barriers that still hinder industry to incorporate GPC and AABC into their standard concrete offering, and thus using them more broadly as a substitute for PCC.


If you are interested in participating or have any questions. Write to us!


Low Carbon Concrete


Challenge # 3 (Q2 / 2022-23)

Decarbonised Infrastructure

Buildings and infrastructure are responsible for approximately 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions each year. With significant volumes of concrete being used in infrastructure projects across the country, developing new engineered solutions and optimising asset management will be critical to decarbonise Australia’s infrastructure sector.

Along with sustainable material use, innovative design and new construction technologies can help reduce the carbon footprint of infrastructure projects.

In collaboration with industry stakeholders, SmartCrete has identified four research themes –

  • Rating and measurement
  • Carbon measurement of use of concrete in infrastructure procurement
  • Standards and specifications
  • Enhancing engineering design

that each have the potential to change and optimise the way industry designs and constructs concrete infrastructure. SmartCrete is looking for research proposals.


Decarbonised Infrastructure


Note: This challenge is closed, with project agreements being finalised.

Challenge #2 (Q2 / 2022-23)

Recarbonisation of cement emissions in Australia

Cement recarbonation refers to the process where part of the CO2 emitted during the cement production is re-absorbed by concrete in use through carbonation. Carbonation is a slow process that occurs in concrete where lime (calcium hydroxide) in the cement reacts with carbon dioxide from the air and forms calcium carbonate. Carbonation, commonly referred to as CO2 uptake, occurs during infrastructure use, end of life and secondary use stages (crushed concrete).

The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has developed CO2 emission calculations for cement which are reported nationally and include emissions from calcination and fossil fuel combustion. Currently no consideration is given to the recarbonation of cement in concrete and a detailed investigation needs to be undertaken in Australia.

SmartCrete is looking for research proposal to undertake Tier 2 calculations for estimating the annual uptake of CO2 in existing concrete structures in Australia.


Recarbonisation of cement emissions in Australia


Note: This challenge is closed, with project agreements being finalised.

Challenge #1 (Q1 / 2022-23)

LC3 Market Pathways

Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC3) is a new low-carbon blended cement that allows cement manufacturers to reduce CO2 emissions from production. Due to the abundance of suitable clay sources available across Australia, there is an opportunity to introduce and adopt LC3 as an alternative supplementary cementitious material (SCM) to bridge future gaps when finite supplies of well understood SCMs (i.e. fly ash and slag) are expected to deplete.

However, to enable widespread adoption of LC3, it is crucial that the requirements and objectives of all key stakeholders across concrete value chain are considered and inform the product development and post-development activities.

Having consulted industry and collectively shortlisted key technical and commercial requirements, SmartCrete is now looking for research proposals that address those requirements and develop solutions that help accelerate the adoption of LC3 in Australia’s construction industry as a whole.

LC3 Market Pathways


Note: This challenge is closed, with project agreements being finalised.