Tag Archives: research innovation

cognitive technology

Disruptive technology is more than just apps

Businesses frequently take a relatively simple view of digital disruption. In fact, it’s often not the applications that are disruptive, but the technologies and networks that power them. Rather than focusing on building the next killer app, in seeking disruptive technology, scientists and business leaders should work together and invest in the underlying technologies that change the fundamental science of how their industries operate.

Digital disruption often occurs behind the scenes, improving or streamlining the processes which define how well (or how badly) businesses and industries perform.

Apps act as simply one channel for people – whether consumers or employees – to access this disruptive technology. An “app-centric” view of disruption risks overlooking more effective ways to not only digitally transform industry practices, but also make these transformations accessible to those whom they benefit.

IoT’s disruptive technology impact

Take the Internet of Things, for example. The natural resources sector has already begun to adopt sensors, data analytics, and automation across all manner of operations, from drilling to transport and even maintenance of mining infrastructure. This disruptive technology has even percolated into not apps, but caps.

Mining3, an industry consortium made up of the CSIRO, several universities, and major mining firms, has developed a cap which monitors truck drivers’ brainwaves to detect fatigue before its deadly consequences set in.

More and more, disruptive technology comes from partnerships just like Mining3, forged between researchers and businesspeople who both seek to challenge what the status quo can deliver.

Researchers possess unique knowledge and critical faculties for tackling major industry or socio-economic issues; businesses can provide the resources, both technological and monetary, to make solutions viable on a large scale. When both parties’ goals align well, these partnerships can ensure digital disruption goes beyond the relatively trivial domain of the next social media app to catch the consumers’ fancy.

Play to your strengths

To be effective, these disruptive partnerships must play to both researchers’ and businesses’ strengths. Watson is IBM’s cognitive computing platform and a product of a collaboration with Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. It can deliver surprising insights and strategic advice in almost any field – as long as it has enough data and human guidance to learn from.

When seeking to develop better treatments for cancer, doctors and research analysts, Memorial Hospital provided both: thousands of hours of training, as well as more than 12 million pages of text from more than 290 medical journals.

The more IBM Watson learns from Memorial Hospital’s expert oncologists, the more effectively Watson can help doctors spot and treat cancers, disrupting traditional methods of diagnosis and care in a way that could save countless lives. Perhaps most importantly, however, these insights and capabilities are accessible to any doctor in any licensed hospital – via a simple-to-use iPad app.

As researchers and innovators, we should focus on technologies which disrupt the fundamentals of industry and society – and an app is just the tip of the iceberg in what’s possible in this Cognitive Era.

Dr Joanna Batstone

Chief Technology Officer, IBM Australia 

Vice President and Lab Director, IBM Research

Read next: Dr Joanna Batstone pinpoints what makes emerging technology so disruptive, and explains why we need to become more ambitious in our disruptive efforts. 

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research infrastructure

Research infrastructure makes industry impact

The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) was conceived in 2004 by the Australian Government in response to the increasing costs and complexity of research facilities. Guided by the 2006 NCRIS Strategic Roadmap, the original investments began 10 years ago, strategically funding Australian research infrastructure across a wide range of fields including health, biosecurity, physics and the  environment.

Since then, the Australian Government has provided $2.8 billion to the program, alongside $1 billion co-investment from state and territory governments, universities and industry. The investment is now recognised as a key driver of Australia’s research innovation in recent years.

“NCRIS has helped Australian researchers collaborate with colleagues in over 30 countries. It has paved the way to our involvement in other great projects, like the Square Kilometre Array. And it has brought remarkable people who I am proud to know into the circle of Australian science,” says Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO in support of NCRIS earlier this year.

The 27 current NCRIS projects include 222 institutions employing over 1700 technical experts, researchers and facility managers. More than 35,000 researchers, both in Australia and abroad, use these world-class facilities.

Many NCRIS-funded projects are household names in the scientific community, such as the high profile particle accelerator, the Australian Synchrotron, and the Atlas of Living Australia, which inventories the natural history of our unique flora and fauna.

research infrastructure
The Atlas of Living Australia, a project funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

There’s the Australian National Fabrication Facility where materials such as metals, ceramics or polymers can be manipulated, and many more state-of-the art facilities.

NCRIS recognises the need for data-intensive research in order to take on major challenges. The initiative funds a wide range of data-intensive facilities, as well as the specialist data services required to support them (including ANDS).

Australia now has two high-performance supercomputing centres funded by NCRIS, which includes the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth and the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) at the Australian National University.

Sophisticated data storage and access facilities are also supported by NCRIS. The Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RSDI) project (succeeded by Research Data Services, or RDS), has produced cost-effective, scaled up, shared storage services in order to improve research collaboration.

The National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (Nectar) provides an online infrastructure that supports researchers to connect and collaborate with colleagues in Australia and around the world using virtual research laboratories and a national research server.

Data gathering infrastructure also plays a vital role in Australia’s research community by collating data to make it more coherent.

The Australian Data Archive and the Population Health Research Network are two such organisations funded by NCRIS.

International recognition

The projects and collaborations supported by NCRIS are gaining Australia international recognition when it comes to data management and new discovery.

“Overall, Australia plays a disproportionately large and useful role in global data sharing, and much, probably most, of that work is supported through NCRIS,” explains Mark Parsons, Secretary General for the Research Data Alliance.

Australian researchers “have made huge contributions to global data infrastructure,” he says.

An expert working group of eminent Australians led by Dr Finkel is currently working on the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap to support future investment decisions and “position the
nation to respond to the world’s big research challenges.”

The industry impact of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy

A snapshot by Dr Tim Rawling, CEO of AuScope

Earth and geospatial scientists are heavy users of data products. When industry geologists access spatial data from the field and the exploration office they require data products that are discoverable, searchable, interoperable and attributed with robust metadata.

research infrastructure
Dr Tim Rawling. Credit: AuScope

Over the last decade AuScope has utilised NCRIS funding to provide a variety of data products including geophysical data (reflection and passive seismic, magnetotellurics and gravity), GIS layers from state and national geological survey organisations, hyperspectral core logging (National Virtual Core Library) and time-series geospatial data from GNSS and VLBI instruments – all delivered using AuScope GRID technologies based on the Spatial Information Services Stack (SiSS).

Perhaps one of the best examples of collaboration to deliver data products to industry users is the national Mineral Library. Working with researchers at Curtin University’s John de Laeter Centre and ANDS, AuScope has also supported the development of a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The project has produced an entirely new workflow, based around a TESCAN TIMA field emission scanning electron microscope, that allows metadata to be collected and recorded from the sample collection and preparation right through to data delivery and publication.

This process has facilitated the scanning of a large stockpile of mineral samples from across Western Australia that will produce a state-wide Mineral Library, allowing mineral explorers to better understand the composition of critical rock outcrop samples from all over the state.

This new NCRIS supported initiative provides a dataset that underpins both academic and applied research programs and is important for the economic future of Australia. Mining companies do a lot of heavy mineral analysis in research and development but, because there isn’t a baseline for mineralogy across each state, it is difficult to have full confidence in the heavy mineral data. This creates an issue for pinpointing where the next major mineral deposits are.

Having solid baseline data will help improve targeting, which in turn reduces the costs associated with exploration and supports new discovery.

This article was first shared by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) in August 2016 . Read the original article and find out more about NCRIS here.

Australia's innovation sector

Rethinking Australia’s innovation sector

Tony Peacock takes a closer look at Australia’s innovation sector compared to the rest of the world. 

Innovation and Science Australia, the new body created in last December’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, has not sat idle during the election period. The Office of Innovation and Science Australia wound up a series of strategic workshops in Canberra yesterday, developing a 15-year Strategic Plan for Australia’s innovation sector. The plan will develop over the next year and will be a vitally important guiding document in setting direction for Australia’s innovation sector to 2030.

As is the case with many workshops, the facilitator asked each participant to make an opening observation, and mine surprised the person next to me. I was surprised at her surprise. It was basically that even the depiction in graphics of innovation as a linear process that moves from knowledge creation to knowledge transfer through to knowledge application can be fraught. It can over emphasise the expectations on universities in our innovation system. Our system is relatively highly reliant on universities already and we have to be very careful not to expect them keep doing more and more. The primary role of universities is to teach and their biggest impact in the innovation system is to develop talent. All universities also conduct research, but in Australia, we rely on university research much more heavily than most countries.

To illustrate, I’ve pulled out the OECD figures on who performed R&D in four countries in 2013 (the latest year with information for Australia, the USA, Germany and Israel). I chose these particular countries because we often hear comparisons between their systems and ours. Relative to other countries, Australia is roughly twice as reliant on universities to perform our total national research effort. Business in Australia performs relatively less research than business in the other countries but it is important when framing strategic directions to remember that in Australia, businesses still do double the research of our universities. Business is absolutely not sitting at the end of a knowledge generation process waiting to be fed.

This is not at all a criticism of universities. Australian universities are an unmitigated success. They do a brilliant job of teaching Australian and international students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. They do brilliant research. There is no doubt they can do better at engaging with industry, but most have lifted very significantly in that space already. How much more can we genuinely expect? Many universities are expressing concerns that they are cross-subsidising research with teaching dollars already (a fraught argument itself because students are attracted to high reputation universities, who largely drive reputation through their research profile). But they are probably leveraged about as far as possible.

Surely the key strategic issue in Australia’s innovation sector is to drive more business innovation? Relative to the rest of the world, our businesses do less research, but they are still the largest part of the innovation system as a whole. We need to think of business as the main player it is in performing R&D and how we can encourage yet more business research to enhance national prosperity. The people at the Office of Innovation and Science Australia are on to it and they acknowledge that there is “no simple way to fully describe its (Australia’s innovation sector) components or dynamics”. Perhaps that’s because in many ways it is not a “system” at all, which makes the task of strategic planning that much more difficult. It is certainly a task worth supporting.

This article was first published by the Cooperative Research Centre Association on 13 July 2016. Read the original article here.