Innovation centre to address one of Australia's biggest failings

A new innovation centre at Curtin University in Perth is attempting to address an area Australia struggles with -- connecting academia and industry.

The Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation centre at Curtin University's Bentley campus -- officially opened today by WA premier, Colin Barnett -- is a partnership between Cisco, Curtin, and oil and gas giant, Woodside Energy.

These organisations will provide $30 million worth of funding and resources over five years under the first phase of the centre's plan. Curtin's Institute for Computation is providing around 100 research staff for the centre working across the university's many faculties including humanities, science and engineering, mining and energy.

It is one of eight centres worldwide with the others located in Barcelona, Berlin, London , Rio de Janeiro, Songdo, Tokyo and Toronto. The centres act as incubators for new technologies and entrepreneurs to with solutions in digital transformation, predictive science, and enhanced cognition.

Speaking to CIO, Steven Tingay, a professor of radio astronomy at Curtin University, said OECD statistics rank Australia last on the list for collaborations between industry and academia.

"So what we are adopting here is a novel approach for Australia, which is essentially an open collaboration system with a well-defined governance framework that allows IP to be shared and for academics to connect with industry and focus on a series of real commercial problems," he said.

Tingay said Woodside has provided a list of 1,000 large-scale'data-driven' problems related to data analytics and curation.

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"We are going to assemble the right people from our respective institutions and get them together to solve these problems," he said.

One example could be improving data analysis at a gas plant with 10,000 points of infrastructure where data is collected every second or minute. Typically, this information is used to grossly describe what is going on inside the plant, said Tingay.

"But the potential for the use of this data is much greater for controlling the process flow, pre-empting where faults are going to occur before they occur so you can mobilise maintenance crews ahead of time and save downtime," he said.

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"When you do the numbers, a fraction of a percent in increase efficiency can convert into many millions of dollars in additional revenue. These are the sort of data analytics problems we are going to be focused on."

Tingay has been working with Cisco for several years on the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, the world's largest radio telescope. The SKA is expected to provide new insights into gravity, dark energy and the formation of the universe.

He said Cisco was attracted to the scale and complexity of the SKA because it's essentially the greatest and most complex sensor network imaginable and "that's what the Internet of Everything is all about."

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"It [the centre] is inspired by astrophysics and that SKA connection but it really is focused on taking what we need out of that research and applying it in a much broader, commercially-focused way to other bits of complex infrastructure," he said.


Byron Connolly

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