People could get much cheaper and more flexible solar energy after revolutionary work by students and professors inside a Melbourne lab.

Solar cells that are cheaper, flexible and more practical are being developed at Monash University and it’s hoped with government support they could be available to the public in just a few years.

The cells are the next generation of solar energy, Monash Dean of Engineering Frieder Seible says.

Silicon cells used now are created in a lengthy, labour and energy intensive process while the new ones can be 3D printed in minutes.

They’re also flexible and can be formed on any surface.

“The long range goal is – it’s a little bit utopian – but you have every surface of any building, ever car, generate energy,” Professor Seible said.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Victorian MP Anna Burke toured the lab on Friday, spruiking Labor’s aspirational 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 target.

“What we see here is there’s technology which will revolutionise manufacturing and our capacity to turn sunlight into electricity for Australian consumers and small businesses,” Mr Shorten said.

Professor Seible said the new cells could be publicly available in just a few years with government support.

Mass production of printable cells would create jobs locally, so long as production isn’t moved offshore as it was with silicone cells, he said.

Some silicon cells were invented in Australia but production occurs in China.

“We have to make sure with the printable solar cells that we don’t make the same mistake. Namely that we don’t just invent it here, but we also produce it here in the end,” he said.