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UNSW secures industry partnerships in China for robotics and water treatment research

Researchers from the University of NSW (UNSW) that are working to develop research and commercial opportunities in the fields of robotics and environmental protection have secured two new industry partnerships during UNSW’s Torch research roadshow in China.

The delegation of 13 UNSW researchers from 8 schools met with more than 200 enterprises, technology transfer platforms and investment institutions during the roadshows held in Yixing, Shanghai and Guangzhou last month. The event, which aims to encourage global knowledge exchange and industry collaboration, involved companies from a wide range of research fields including health and biotechnology, environment, energy, materials and manufacturing, big data and analysis, imaging and AR/VR.

Cooperation agreements were signed with two technology companies during the roadshow. The first, between the UNSW Centre for Transformational Environmental Technologies (CTET) and China Coal Technology and Engineering Group (CCTEG), will support collaborative research and talent exchange in the field of water treatment.

The project will be led by Scientia Professor David Waite from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who is also Executive Director of CTET, UNSW’s first overseas research centre. The facility is dedicated to driving research and commercial opportunities in environmental protection, especially water treatment, resource recovery and environmental management and sustainability for coal mines.

Robotics engineering company Shanghai Acrobotics, founded by UNSW alumnus Wayne Liu, signed the second agreement to establish a joint R&D centre focused on the development of robotic operating systems. Professor Claude Sammut from the School of Computer Science & Engineering will lead the project to create user-friendly interfaces and human-robot interactions.

Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Sydney, said the partnerships will provide a further boost to driving innovation between UNSW and Australia’s largest trading partner, China.

“Collaborating across sectors and across borders to expand our knowledge is increasingly important. Our world so desperately needs answers to grand global challenges in such critical areas as climate change, artificial intelligence and health,” said Jacobs.

“The UNSW Torch Innovation Precinct, the first of its kind endorsed outside of China, supports researchers and entrepreneurs to seek those answers. Torch is helping us better prepare for the future by advancing new research frontiers, and more effectively translating that research into real-world impact.”

The ongoing development of the Torch Innovation Precinct has provided opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation, including a partnership between UNSW and Beijing-based manufacturer Goldwind Environmental Protection (Goldwind EP), announced during the 2nd Torch Innovation Week last November.

UNSW’s industry partner on photovoltaic energy, LONGi Solar, donated 15 high-efficiency single crystal components at the Roadshow to support the collaboration between UNSW and Goldwind EP. The new project will conduct field trials in China using new desalination technology to provide high quality drinking water for remote villages in Xinjiang Province.

Warwick Dawson, Director of Knowledge Exchange, said UNSW had achieved extraordinary success with its Torch Innovation Precinct over the last three years, establishing deep engagement with industry partners and building an increasing R&D investment pipeline.

“Delivering transforming and enduring global impact from UNSW knowledge, capability and new technologies can only be achieved through a generous spirit of partnership with end users in Australia and across borders,” Dawson said.

“UNSW places a very high priority on strong and close relationships with industry partners. Social progress and economic prosperity are the desired outcomes from our bold and ambitious 2025 Strategy, and partnership with China through our Torch Innovation Precinct is one of the flagship initiatives under our strategy.”

The Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW is an unprecedented partnership between UNSW-led research teams and Chinese businesses and industries with the capital and market access needed to translate Australian research into high-impact new products, processes and services.

UNSW has signed more than $75 million research contracts with 70 partners, with an additional $200 million worth of contracts under active discussion.

Flagship contracts include research and commercialisation in energy, environment, advanced materials, manufacturing and biotech.

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