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RMIT researchers to drive transformations in food, energy and health

RMIT University is part of three major new Cooperative Research Centres, that are investing more than $420 million to tackle the critical challenges of food waste, future fuels and digital health.

The Federal Government this week announced more than $110 million in funding for the new CRCs.

The centres bring together industry, government and researchers from universities, both in Australia and overseas, to achieve national objectives and solve global problems.

RMIT will lead key research programs in the $133 million Fight Food Waste CRC and the $90 million Future Fuels CRC, and will contribute research expertise to a range of projects in the $200 million-plus Digital Health CRC.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, Jane Holt, said RMIT was thrilled to work with industry, government and research collaborators in the successful CRC bids.

“These centres are focused on finding solutions to some of our biggest issues,” Holt said.

“From our $1.3 trillion global food waste problem, to the transition of our energy infrastructure to a low-carbon economy and the digital transformation of our health system – these are complex and multi-faceted challenges that demand innovative thinking and deep collaboration.

“We are especially delighted that two of our researchers – Associate Professor Karli Verghese and Associate Professor Jan Hayes will head key programs in the new CRCs – a well-deserved recognition of their strong industry links and outstanding research leadership.”

Fight Food Waste CRC

John Webster (Fight Food Waste CRC independent chair), Associate Professor David Pearson (ENGAGE Program Leader, Central Queensland University), Associate Professor Karli Verghese (REDUCE program leader, RMIT), Dr Bronwyn Laycock (TRANSFORM program leader, University of Queensland) and Dr Steve Lapidge (Bid Leader and Fight Food Waste CRC Interim CEO) at the official launch.

This 10-year centre will target food waste – which costs Australia $20 billion a year – to improve the future sustainability and profitability of the nation’s food industry.

Taking a triple-bottom line approach to reduce and transform food waste to improve industry profitability, the CRC will tackle food insecurity and enhance Australia’s reputation as a sustainable producer of premium food products.

The Fight Food Waste CRC  is led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and involves 57 participants from around the country and overseas who collectively raised $103 million in funding, matched by $30 million from the Federal Government.

Associate Professor Karli Verghese from the School of Design will lead the CRC’s REDUCEprogram, aiming to cut food waste throughout the value chain.

Verghese said the program would tackle the issue of inefficiency in our food supply chain, combining industrial design, food science and technology, cold chain integrity, packaging and processing and consumer behaviour.

“This CRC provides, for the first time, a fantastic opportunity to bring industry together with leading researchers and key government departments to tackle the complex issue of food waste,” she said.

Other RMIT researchers involved in the Fight Food Waste CRC include Professor Harshan Gill (School of Science), Professor Linda Brennan (School of Media and Communication) and Simon Lockrey (School of Design).

Headquartered at the University of Adelaide, the Food Waste CRC will have nodes at RMIT, the University of Queensland, and Central Queensland University.

Future Fuels CRC

Professor Chris Greig (University of Queensland) Dr Carol Bond (University of Queensland), Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Zed Seselja, Associate Professor Jan Hayes (RMIT) and David Norman (Future Fuels CRC CEO) at the official launch.

Undertaking research and development to transition Australia’s energy infrastructure to a low-carbon economy, the CRC will develop solutions for current infrastructure and equipment to use new fuels like hydrogen and biogas today and well into the future.

Future Fuels CRC is led by existing Energy Pipelines CRC and collaborators include more than 60 companies, six universities, the energy market operator and two regulators. Professor Jan Hayes, from the School of Property, Construction and Project Management, will lead the seven-year centre’s Community Engagement, Public Safety and Security of Supply program.

“We’ll be addressing the issues around safety and social acceptance of new and changed fuels, so that industry can more effectively design, build and operate the projects needed to deliver Australia’s energy needs now and in the future,” Hayes said.

RMIT’s work will specifically address methods of developing an effective “safety imagination”, with the aim of preventing organisational accidents.

The University will provide additional capability in advanced energy systems; design of materials for application to solar energy conversion, gas storage and smart coating systems; and infrastructure asset management.

Other researchers involved in the CRC include Professor Sarah Pink (School of Media and Communication) and Professor Helen Lingard (School of Property, Construction and Project Management).

The combined investment from the Federal Government ($26.25 million), Australia’s energy industry and universities (cash and in-kind support) totals more than $90 million over the life of the centre.

Digital Health CRC

The new centre will develop and test digital health solutions to improve outcomes for hospital and health service patients, while equipping Australians to better manage their own health and wellness.

Digital Health CRC is led by Capital Markets CRC team and will operate through collaborative R&D programs involving 40 commercial and government organisations across the health, aged care and disability sectors, 24 established and start-up technology, advisory and investment companies, and 16 Australian universities.

RMIT will contribute to each of the centre’s research program areas in the fields of public health promotion, policy, governance and law, digital ethnography, network-centric analytics and service design integration, road safety, transport and accident research and informatics.

The cross-disciplinary group of researchers engaged to date in the CRC include Associate Professor Lawrence Cavedon, Associate Professor Jenny Zhang and Dr Flora Salim (School of Science), Associate Professor Sharath Sriram and Associate Professor Madhu  Bhaskaran (School of Engineering), Professor Florian Mueller (School of Design),  Associate Professor Richard Tay (School of Business, IT and Logistics), Professor Tania Lewis and Professor Linda Brennan (School of Media and Communication), and Associate Professor Penelope Weller (Graduate School of Business and Law).

The Federal Government is investing $55 million in the Digital Health CRC, which will have at least $111 million in cash funding and $118 million in in-kind funding over its seven-year life.

Story: Gosia Kaszubska

This article follows on from a Collaboration Article by Linda Brennan that was in the July / August 2017 Edition of Research News

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