Tag Archives: Woodside

Successful collaboration

Successful collaboration unpacked

Contrary to popular belief university researchers are good at collaborating, but often this is limited to collaborations with other university researchers. In fact, the Nature Index, one of the many university ranking systems, produces multiple rankings of world universities – one of which is based solely on successful collaboration with other universities.

So, what are the prerequisites for successful collaboration?

I believe there are three key ingredients:

  1. Awareness of the drivers of each institution in the collaboration
  2. A shared understanding of the problem the collaboration is trying to solve
  3. Trust between the people collaborating

The most recent Nature Index list of the Top 100 bilateral collaborators provides some interesting insights into the collaboration process. Almost all collaborations in this list are between institutions in the same country, and often within the same city.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology top the list with most collaborations, while the only entry that includes Australian institutions is one involving Curtin University and The University of Western Australia. In both cases, the collaborating institutions are strong rivals.

What does this data suggest about why there is so much collaboration occurring between university researchers?

The first prerequisite is a given because at the highest level the drivers for all universities are essentially the same. The shared understanding often comes quite quickly as the collaborators are often experts in the field they are working in, and therefore start with a common vocabulary.

Building trust is the most time-consuming part of collaborating, but as the bilateral data above shows, close physical proximity helps and trust can be built between researchers – even when their institutions are in competition.

What about collaborations with industry?

In Australia, there is a lack of appreciation in universities of industry drivers and vice versa.

In the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre, located on the Curtin University campus, Cisco, Woodside and Curtin have developed an innovation centre and workplace for customers, partners, start-ups, universities and open communities. One significant outcome of the first year of operation is an understanding within the three founding members of their drivers and differing corporate cultures, which has proven to be a relatively time-consuming process.

A shared understanding of the problem is often also a challenge, as a different vocabulary is spoken by the collaborating parties. In the past, the model was often that the industry partner provided money and left the university researchers to solve the problem, contributing little input into the process. This often led to a suboptimal solution or a solution to another problem than what was intended.

In our projects at the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre, we meet as a joint industry and academic team on a weekly or fortnightly basis, which allows us to develop a shared understanding of the problem and evolving solution. Finally, building trust is always an involved process, which can be made easier between industry and academia because of the absence of competition between the collaborating organisations.

In summary, the secret to successful collaboration between academia and industry is no different to one within academia, provided additional attention is paid by both parties to cultural differences and the development of a lingua franca.

Professor Andrew Rohl

Director, Curtin Institute for Computation

Read next: Brad Furber, COO of the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at UNSW Australia, paves the path to easier, faster and more impactful collaboration.

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Maths researchers optimise Woodside’s vessel efficiency

Improving vessel efficiency featured image credit: Woodside Energy Ltd

Oil and gas company Woodside is streamlining its offshore operations with the assistance of new mathematical models developed in collaboration with a team of Curtin University academics.

This collaborative research project has focused on scheduling the support vessels that service Woodside-operated offshore facilities. The vessels are used for delivering supplies and for assisting with oil off-takes to oil tankers.

The most cost-efficient vessel routes are influenced by various constraints, including time windows – most facilities are only open during daylight hours – along with vessel speeds, vessel cargo capacities and the capability of each vessel to assist with oil off-takes, as not every vessel in the fleet is equipped for this operation.

Despite an industry-wide push into ‘big data’ computer technology over the past few years, the mathematical models in this project were so large that state-of-the-art optimisation software packages struggled to find good solutions, and in some cases couldn’t even begin processing the model.

New solution algorithms were consequently devised by the Curtin team and this work has been accepted to appear in the Journal of Industrial and Management Optimisation.

“One outcome of the project was providing Woodside with strong evidence for a business case to reduce the support fleet from four to three vessels – this is a significant saving since the cost of running an additional vessel is considerable,” says Curtin’s Associate Professor Ryan Loxton, who led the project.

“Another outcome was modelling the implications of changing the vessel schedule from a ‘taxi-style’ service whereby vessels would service facilities on demand, to a regular fixed schedule that is easier to deliver in practice.”

The Curtin team’s current focus is on developing more powerful optimisation algorithms that will allow for ‘on the fly’ dynamic optimisation of day-to-day and week-to-week vessel schedules.

“Major challenges include the current dynamic and uncertain operating environment, and the computational demands required. The standard solution algorithms are too slow for the problems that we encounter,” says Curtin’s Dr Elham Mardaneh, who worked on the project.

Although the models were highly customised to suit Woodside’s offshore operations, Mardaneh says that there is also considerable potential to adapt the technology to make optimal routing decisions in other industries such as mining.

“Mine sites also involve difficult vehicle routing problems, such as how to route haul trucks among different locations in the most optimal manner.”

– Blair Price

This article on vessel efficiency was first published by Science Network WA on 24 September 2016. Read the original article here.

innovation in western australia

Innovation in Western Australia

Science is fundamental for our future social and economic wellbeing.

In Western Australia we’re focusing on areas where we have natural advantages, and an appropriate base of research and industrial capacity. Western Australia’s Science Statement, released by Premier Barnett in April 2015, represents a capability audit of relevant research and engagement expertise in our universities, research institutes, State Government agencies and other organisations. Mining and energy, together with agriculture, are traditional powerhouses, but the science priorities also reflect the globally significant and growing capabilities in medicine and health, biodiversity and marine science, and radio astronomy. It’s a great place to begin exciting new collaborations.

The Science Statement has also helped to align efforts across research organisations and industry. For instance, in 2015 an industry-led “Marine Science Blueprint 2050” was released, followed by the Premier commissioning a roundtable of key leaders from industry, Government, academia and community to develop a long-term collaborative research strategy. These meetings highlighted critical areas of common interest such as decommissioning, marine noise, community engagement and sharing databases.


“Opportunities abound for science and industry to work together to translate research into practical, or commercial, outcomes.”


Science, innovation and collaboration are integral to many successful businesses in Western Australia. In the medical field, a range of technological innovations have broadened the economy and created new jobs. Some of these success stories include Phylogica, Admedus, Orthocell, iCeutica, Dimerix, Epichem and Proteomics International. Another example in this space is the Phase I clinical trial facility, Linear Clinical Research, which was established with support from the State Government – 75% of the trials conducted to date come from big pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the USA.

Opportunities abound for science and industry to work together to translate research into practical, or commercial, outcomes. For example, the field of big data analytics is rapidly permeating many sectors. Perth’s Pawsey Centre, the largest public research supercomputer in the southern hemisphere, processes torrents of data delivered by many sources, including radioastronomy as the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, is being developed in outback WA. In addition, local company DownUnder GeoSolutions has a supercomputer five times the size of Pawsey for massive geophysical analyses. In such a rich data environment, exciting new initiatives like the CISCO’s Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, in partnership with Woodside, is helping to drive innovation and growth.

Leading players in the resources and energy sector are also taking innovative approaches to enhance efficiency and productivity. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton use remote-controlled driverless trucks, and autonomous trains, to move iron ore in the Pilbara. Woodside has an automated offshore facility, while Shell is developing its Prelude Floating Liquefied Natural Gas facility soon to be deployed off the northwest coast. Excitingly, 3 emerging companies (Carnegie, Bombora and Protean) are making waves by harnessing the power of the ocean to generate energy.

This high-tech, innovative environment is complemented by a rapidly burgeoning start-up ecosystem. In this vibrant sector, Unearthed runs events, competitions and accelerators to create opportunities for entrepreneurs in the resources space. Spacecubed provides fabulous co-working space for young entrepreneurs, including the recently launched FLUX for innovators in the resource sector. The online graphic design business Canva, established by two youthful Western Australians epitomises what entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude can achieve. In this amazingly interconnected world, the sky’s the limit.

Professor Peter Klinken

Chief Scientist of Western Australia

Read next: Professor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University and Dr Andy Marks, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Strategy and Policy) of Western Sydney University on Making innovation work.

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