Tag Archives: PhD students

AMSIIntern

Disrupting the rag trade with 3D printing

Tec.Fit founder Tim Allison is a business owner bringing cutting edge technology applications to the global fashion industry. Using an innovative scanning app that outputs 3D models and measurements, Tec.Fits allows couturiers and customers to bypass the need to be in the same room when producing customised clothing. Australia’s emerging research talent is now contributing to Tec.Fit’s success.

Tec.Fit solves problems like poorly fitted garments when purchased online. It also offers the fashion industry scalable solutions for bespoke, custom designed clothing like suits, wedding attire and uniforms.

Coming from an international consumer tech background, Allison describes his business as one of the thousands of global companies that are disrupting e-commerce and the designer fashion industries.

Allison is now working with three Australian universities to develop the technology he needs to take his business to the next level by developing next generation 3D printers that can output at scale.

Working with AMSIIntern, a Commonwealth Government funded scheme that rebates engagement with PhD candidates in industry, Allison has been able to engage three PhD students as interns. Tec.Fit is working with PhD candidates from Swinburne, RMIT and Deakin universities and is on the hunt for a fourth PhD candidate to join the Sydney team.

While he knew from the start exactly what skillsets and specific expertise he needed from researchers, it took Allison about 12 months to find the right collaborator.

“I had one professor who said to me: ‘Tim I can definitely do your project – it’s no problem at all – but I am going to need to do eighteen more months of research.’ Eighteen months is a lifetime in technology terms!” said Allison.

Other difficulties he experienced along the way included negotiating with universities on IP ownership and getting priorities aligned with academic partners.

Tec.Fit founder TIm Allison

AMSIIntern Postgraduate Program

The AMSIIntern Postgraduate Program is a unique model for innovation that seeks to connect PhD candidates at universities across Australia with emerging business opportunities. The program builds valuable partnerships between industry and academia to create more collaboration and research commercialisation.

Business Development Manager Mark Ovens says that the AMSIIntern model is all about putting bright students into industry to give them critical workplace skills that enhance their specialist STEM research skills. Ovens describes the program as a stealthy means of uncovering hidden talent that is lurking in the depths of a research school rather than actively looking for work. While there is ample opportunity available, Ovens says that academic institutions can be slow in responding to the opportunities offered by business.

“In Canada, from where this program has evolved, they are placing hundreds of PhD students into industry each year. Around 50% of students have access to industry experience as a part of their doctoral experience. “In Australia the challenge for AMSI is to increase the intern programs per year with industry partners and we need help from all Australian Universities to supply the PhD’s students.” he said.

Ovens said that the scheme needs stronger support from both academia and industry to ensure that current PhD students get the chance to develop valuable industry experience before they graduate. With all Australian universities eligible to access AMSIIntern programs, the scheme provides a unique opportunity for businesses to access research talent.

“There is no employment. Rather, industry partners provide a contract for service and AMSIIntern liases with the relevant university so that the student gets paid a stipend by them,” say Ovens.

“The program allows industry partners to trial candidates during the 3–5 months for cultural and skills fit. At the end of a project they can release students to return to their studies, or if they have completed their degree, they can give them a job.”

Ovens says that the scheme is above all a low risk strategy.

“It’s also low cost with potential high returns as industry partners keep any IP that may result, making it easier to engage with universities,” he added.

Ovens said the project experience of the postgraduate student is at the heart of the scheme.

“Coached by their academic supervisor, industry experience brings new thinking, new ideas and experimentation to bear on challenges that the student must solve – an invaluable, real-world experience that will only enhance their future careers whether in academia or industry.”

Find out more about AMSIIntern here or read some case studies.

– Jackie Randles

Industry placements pave the way to success

Industry placements for CRC students have been an integral part of the CRC Programme since it began in 1991. While students contribute to solving real-world problems of industry, industry partners mentor students on the commercial side of their field and help produce industry-ready graduates who can hit the ground running.

Rebecca Athorn did a PhD, supported by the Pork CRC, investigating increased feeding and progesterone in young pigs during their first pregnancy and the effects on embryo survival. Part of her project was conducted in a commercial piggery owned by Australian pork producer Rivalea.

Athorn’s work showed that feeding the first-time mothers more didn’t affect the size of their litters, but did make the mothers healthier and live longer.

As well as delivering a practical improvement to commercial piggery practices, the study put Athorn in the spotlight for potential employers.

“I was approached by Rivalea as to my interest in working for them after I finished my PhD,” says Athorn. Several of her colleagues also partnered with Rivalea for their Honours projects before joining the company as employees.

“Having been known to the company and having positive references from those they worked with definitely helped,” says Athorn.

Even students with previous work experience in the field can benefit from an industry placement, says Tracy Muller. She worked with the CSIRO and the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada on pig welfare before entering the Pork CRC’s Industry Placement Program (IPP) at SunPork Farms and starting a PhD to identify and reduce lameness in pigs.

“The IPP has positively impacted on my ‘entry’ into the industry,” says Muller. “Together with the support of SunPork Farms, it has certainly progressed my career in the past four years, since graduating from university 14 years ago.”

– K J Lee

Read more about Australia’s CRCs in KnowHow 2017

research collaboration

Research collaboration in the startup scene

Australia produces great research. But despite this, we somehow still manage to rank last in the OECD for collaboration between research and business.

It’s a disconnect that is well documented: a 2014 Department of Education report noted a low proportion of researchers working in business and academic industry research publications. A report by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering revealed a distinct lack of university research collaboration with industry and other end users. And the recently released Innovation and Science Australia report declared Australian industry unable to commercialise research.

Though the naysayers may abound, all hope is certainly not lost. There are steps that Australian research institutions and the startups that represent the future of business can take to overcome the disconnect and engage in effective research collaboration.

1. Establish a direct link between research institutions and startups

Working in research and industry silos will always present a challenge to collaboration. So, the first step to bridging the research collaboration gap is to create a direct line of access between universities and startups.

The easiest way to reach the largest number of startups is to create direct lines to innovation hubs, such as technology-focused incubators that work with startups and scale-ups that could benefit from accessing the research capabilities that are nurtured within Australian universities. 

This could take the form of a mutually-beneficial partnership, such as an industry secondment program for PhD students. Students would benefit from industry experience, while industry gains access to cutting-edge research capabilities and a potential talent pool for recruitment.

Whatever the partnership might look like in practice, by finding mutually beneficial solutions and cementing them within a concrete program, collaboration will likely be a natural outcome.

2. Understand and account for your differences

In any collaboration, working together requires working around the limitations of the other party.

As an example, the open nature of academic science can at times conflict with industry needs to protect the technologies they use. Academic research often moves more slowly due to its long-term focus, compared to industrial R&D that is driven by commercial deadlines and time-sensitive product development.

Understanding these differences upfront will allow collaborative measures and hedges to be set in place when forming a research collaboration to ensure neither party’s prerogatives are being infringed upon.

3. Identify and work towards common ground in your research collaboration

Once links have been created and differences understood and catered for, common ground can be identified, interests aligned and goals established.

Research could listen to the pain points of industry and formulate research that addresses the pain points, rather than trying to pitch a predefined project.

Conversely, industry might consider involving university research throughout the lifecycle of a project, rather than in an ad hoc fashion, to create a long-term culture of interdisciplinary collaboration and give greater meaning to research projects.

Regular interaction in the form of formal and informal meetings will ensure the research collaboration stays on track to meeting the objectives of both parties – particularly as they are likely to evolve.

By implementing all the above, our startups may have some chance of tapping into the brains of our prized research institutions to achieve sustainable and accelerated growth in the future.

Petra Andrén

CEO of Cicada Innovations

Read next: Professor Sharon Bell, board member of Ninti One, examines different approaches to collaboration and debunks the myth of individual creative genius.

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blockchain technology

Blockchain tech shaping spatial information

Blockchain technology is the innovation behind Bitcoin. It has the potential to disrupt many industries by making processes more democratic, secure, transparent and efficient, and is currently approaching the peak of its hype cycle.

In late October, the CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) hosted a Student Day Solvathon, which focused on blockchains in spatial technology. Paul X. McCarthy from Online Gravity and Mark Staples from Data61 facilitated discussion and inspired 20 PhD students to think creatively about how blockchain technology could be applied.

The students divided into four teams with each team given the challenge to design an innovative use of blockchain tech in an application area relevant to current CRCSI research programs and initiatives. They created four initiatives:

Blockchain Technology in the Red Meat Supply Chain

This idea taps into the $15.8 billion red meat industry in Australia. With only 35% of cattle currently meeting the Meat Standard Australia (MSA) standard, the traceable open ledger capabilities of a block chain implementation could provide consumers, farmers and suppliers with greater confidence on the certification process. Increased uptake on MSA certification positively impacts the Australian economy as every 1% increase of certified meat equates to $40 million of additional returns.

Differing from traditional centralised database systems, the open ledger system requires the complete life history of a piece of meat to be well documented and made available across all players in the supply chain. Automated transaction verification techniques using location and timestamp from GNSS, RFID or DNA barcode information is added to the blockchain database when the cattle or meat is transported from one location to another. This not only optimises the supply chain, but also adds value to the quality of meat sold to the consumer. All this information will be able to be accessed from a smartphone, where a series of displays showing quality metrics of great interest to the consumer: an environmental score; a wellness score; a taste score; and other extra data that supports the purchase such as recommended or optimised recipe selections for that particular cut. 

Blockchain Technology in Health

Attacks on hospitals and civilian targets are clear violations of international law and an urgent problem in war zones that can be addressed by a new arrangement of existing technologies and organisations. A systematic solution to this could be one which provides transparent, decentralised, immutable, publicly available records of humanitarian activity used to visualise the location of verified humanitarian facilities.

The decentralised nature of a blockchain could allow untrusting involved parties to agree or trust the validity of information. Records can be immutable and transparent, so there would be traceability and increased accountability. If this platform was augmented with crowdsourced data, there could be continuous verification from multiple sources agreeing or converging on the location of a hospital. In essence, this would be decentralising and democratising humanitarian map data in conflict zones to support policy makers, governments, negotiators, experts in international relations and law (UN, WHO) and humanitarian organisations (MSF, Red Cross/Red Crescent).

Blockchain Technology in Land Administration and Cadastre

A new distributed database maintaining transactions is disruptive to many industries. It is producing a time stamped auditing information record. Land administration title offices maintain registries, ownerships, boundaries of private and public properties and keep records of changes to the properties as they happen.

These changes affect mortgages, restrictions, leases and right of ways. Blockchain technology has a huge potential in land administration contexts as governments privatise land registries, or want to publish trusted copy for all stakeholders without delays. Blockchain protocols in land administration offer complete historical transaction of all land title transactions, reducing dependency on central cadastral databases and can minimise the risk of fraud in data manipulation by a single user. In many parts of the world traditional registry and cadastral systems have not been sustainable in this advanced technological world. Urbanisation is at peak and land parcels are increasing day by day and discrepancies still exist whether it is in the developed or developing world.

Blockchain protocol in land registries could have many benefits like cost reduction, smart contracts, efficiency, transparency and long term investment. 

Blockchain Technology for Road Tolling

Alternate fuel sources will require changes in how road user charges are calculated and collected. Deriving charges that are consistent across carbon based fuels, electric vehicles, and other alternatives (such as hydrogen fuel cells) may prove difficult.

Alongside the issue of equitable pricing is the well-known problem that continued increases in the number of road users will lead to increased traffic congestion. However, the emergence of driverless vehicles presents a possible solution to both these problems that can be implemented using the executable contracts that blockchains offer.

Currencies based on blockchain technology allow value to be held in escrow until certain conditions are met. Once these requirements are satisfied the value is distributed to the opposing party (or parties). This occurs based on how the contract is programmed into the blockchain and as such there is no need for a “middleman” (like a bank) or the fee they charge for providing this service.

Our solution is a market based system where travel on a particular road at a particular time is booked in advance (based on the origin and destination of the user). Before departing on the journey the user has certainty as to how much the journey will cost as well as its duration (they will not be inconvenienced by excessive traffic congestion).

This means all space on the road, tracked through time, is allocated. A non-urgent journey may take a less direct route in order to avoid popular roads and reduce the amount paid in road user charges. Alternatively, an urgent journey can be made via the most direct route at a higher price. Because journeys may utilise roads owned by various parties, the planning system will program the appropriate distribution of value into the executable contract. When the conditions are met (i.e. the journey is completed) the contract is executed within the blockchain and the transfer of value from the user to the road owners represents an alternative to traditional road user charges.

Next Steps

The CRCSI is now developing a one to two-year strategy for blockchain research in spatial technology. Seizing the early initiative with blockchain technology will be important for the spatial sector to lead activities in this rapidly growing research and development area.

To find out more, visit the CRCSI website or contact Nathan Quadros at nquadros@crcsi.com.au

– Dr Nathan Quadros, CRCSI Education Manager

This article was first published by the CRCSI on 18 November 2016. Read the original article here.