Remarks at Curtin University announce new Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance through Data Science



Simon Birmingham:   

Thank you very much, Sue, and certainly it’s a good time to be inside based on the weather that we can hear pounding down on the roof and outside. It’s certainly a wonderful day to be here at Curtin University in the HIVE, understanding more about the incredible research and technology work that is undertaken here and of course across Curtin, and indeed right across our universities and research institutes around Australia.


Can I acknowledge the Whadjuk people , but acknowledge all of Australia’s traditional owners and Indigenous peoples. Acknowledge our Vice Chancellors here today, our host Deborah, and Dawn from UWA, and thank you for coming along, along with so many distinguished fellows, researchers, leaders of industry and partners of research undertaking, students and others, who contribute so much towards Australia’s knowledge and development. It really is fantastic to see firsthand the research facilities that you’ve created here at the Innovation Central Perth and hearing about them at least, but not quite touring the facility this morning, but also of course in the HIVE.


It’s great to understand better how it is that partners such as Cisco and Woodside and CSIRO’s Data61 are working with Curtin and collaborate with Innovation Central Perth to create a state of the art connected community that leverages the cloud, analytics and the Internet of Everything. Network platforms to create innovative solutions to real business challenges. And with ever-increasing volumes and complexity of research data, it’s exciting to understand here in the HIVE how it assists researchers to better understand their research data and develop new visualisation techniques, which of course are just so incredible to see and mind-blowing in many ways in terms of the way in which you can appreciate through those visual technologies what then becomes possible to derive and better understand.


And really, too, a sincere thank you to the two Andrews for showing me around some of that technology and research this morning being undertaken. As we’ve just heard, this important research is set to continue through the ARC Training Centre the Centre for Transforming Maintenance Through Data Science. Not the easiest name to roll of the tongue.


But it captures the essence, indeed. Which will undertake end-user focused research to improve the productivity and asset reliability of the maintenance sector, led by Mr Andrew Rohl at Curtin Uni. Our Government is proud to be providing $3.9 million to establish and support the work at the centre. As we’ve heard, researchers at this new ARC training centre will work collaboratively with industry players – Alcoa, BHP Billiton and Roy Hill and CSIRO – to concentrate their combined effort to develop data intensive mathematical computational algorithms and to introduce timely and cost-effective maintenance scheduling.


It reminds me very much of a point that Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, made powerfully to state and territory education ministers in a briefing I coordinated earlier this year, where he tried to drive home the message by saying that maths is the language of science and that, of course, it underpins so much of the work and breakthroughs across the whole spectrum of scientific disciplines. And today, in 2018 and looking to the future, the role that data plays in terms of informing future research breakthroughs and the role of science, of course, truly demonstrates the extent and the importance of those basic mathematical skills upon which to build a richer, deeper, broader scientific understanding.


ARC training centres foster close partnerships between university-based researchers and industries that are vital to Australia’s future. Importantly, they provide innovative, higher degree finer research and post-doctoral training. And I understand that the ARC Training Centre for Transforming Maintenance Through Data Science will support vital research training to equip the next generation of engineers with skills necessary to meet the future demands of the maintenance sector. And as we’ve heard today, that has incredible practical application, but then enormous productivity and financial benefits for those end users.


This ARC training centre, though, is just one of a very significant package of new research funding that our Government has announced today right across Australia. We’re announcing some $180 million in new research funding through the ARC’s National Competitive Grants program. This funding includes $28.9 million to support seven new ARC industrial transformation training centres and a further $18 million to establish four new industrial transformation research hubs. Just like data science centre here, these new industrial transformation training centres and research hubs led by Australian universities work with industry partner organisations to address the diversity of key challenges, which include advancing artificial intelligence in its application to improve farming efficiency, developing smart materials for safer and more durable road construction – something quite applicable for those who want to hop on the bike over there- supporting the growth of the Australian native food industry. Examples, such as the new ARC Research Hub driving farming productivity and disease prevention, which will be based at Griffith University and through $5 million of investment, to increase farm production and disease prevention by advancing new artificial intelligence technologies and intelligence systems, such as machine vision and machine learning applicable to the agricultural sector. The new ARC Research Hub for medicinal agriculture, led by La Trobe Uni, receiving $5 million to help shape a plant-derived therapeutic medicinal food industry that focuses on primary producers, right through to manufacturers. Or the ARC training centre for uniquely Australian foods and led by the University of Queensland, receiving $3.6 million to transform the native food and agribusiness sector through the development of high value native crops, foods, ingredients, including apparently our export market in Australian ants as part of uniquely Australian foods. And of course, that $180 million stretches further, as you heard from Professor Thomas before. Sixteen new Australian Laureate Fellowships, totalling some $46.4 million for outstanding research leaders from across the Australian research centre to enhance and ensure their work continues here in Australia. One-hundred new ARC Future Fellowships, totalling $84.7 million to empower mid-career researchers to continue their work at Australian universities, ensuring that we have that strong next generation of advanced researchers being supported.


These prestigious fellowships support Australia’s best and brightest researchers to focus on their important areas of research, expanding Australian research capacity and supporting projects that deliver very tangible outcomes to all Australians. Here, I would particularly like to congratulate the recipient of this year’s Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship for the humanities, arts and social sciences discipline. Professor Marilyn Fleer from Monash University, and the recipient of this year’s Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship in science and technology, Professor Christine Beveridge from the University of Queensland. But I also acknowledge several Curtain Uni researchers, some of whom I believe are here today. Professor Julian Gale, who’s Laureate Fellowship project will create new methodologies for quantitatively predicting the result of crystallisation processes, central to industries from pharmaceutical and food manufacturing, through to minerals processing. Professor Hong Hao who’s been mentioned already in the use of new green materials and techniques to develop the next generation of resilient structures, to advance the construction of sustainable infrastructure. Dr Raffaella Demichelis, apologies on the pronunciation there, supporting a fellowship and projects to provide new chemical pathways able to produce clean energy by following a computational and geomagnetic approach to generate new knowledge in the field of material science and open new perspectives in their potential employment to address the contemporary challenges of producing clean energy. Dr Cathryn Trott whose future project aims to deliver detections and exploration of the epoch of Reionisation through observation of the 21 centimetre hydrogen emission line from gas in the first billion years of the universe, to advance early universe physics and deliver lasting scientific and technological breakthroughs. And as I said when I came in before and was shown this screen with a fabulous image of the craters of Mars, and also with different terms applied to the different areas of Mars, you have lost me already and I think in relation to Dr Trott work there, even in the explanation I just read out, I became overwhelmed by the depth of gravity of the work and the technical skills required to undertake.


But I do also want to note there are several new future fellows here from UWA and extend congratulations to all of you. And finally, to also announce and that there are $2.4 million worth of support, there’s 2.4 million worth of support for five new ARC linkage projects that we announce today. And they were rewarded under the new continuous application processes that our government introduced through our National Innovation and Science Agenda to better facilitate, through the ARC grants program, successful collaboration between industry and higher education institutions, ensuring that you can act, apply and get approval in the timelines that best suit your needs for such successful collaboration. The linkage projects support university-based researchers to engage in collaborations across other parts of the innovation system, including industry partners and the community organisations and will help to support people to work together, finding novel ways to recover metals from waste and electronics, develop guidelines for the installation of offshore wind turbines, or create new food businesses and opportunities to empower vulnerable communities.


As you can see from the range of different projects that I’ve highlighted, which are just a snapshot of the many supported in today’s funding commitment. It is a truly impressive range of research undertaking. It backs many of Australia’s areas of obvious competitive, comparative advantage. But also supports our researchers that demonstrated such a wide spectrum of capability and knowledge to be able to continue to drive new knowledge, new breakthroughs, that will ultimately transform our businesses, our services and those around the world to continue to develop a way of life that is the envy of much of the world, but also a country that contributes co much support and sustainment of many others.


Thank you for the chance to be here today, to share in these announcements and particularly congratulations to the many recipients and those working with you, and thank you to the many partner organisations and others that have helped to make such research undertakings and collaborations possible. Thanks everyone.