"As 2019 comes to an end and we enter a new year (some say a new decade) it’s timely to reflect on our achievements, and consider our strategic direction. During the year, I wanted to hear from you about what we do well and what we could do better. The response was overwhelming! Thank you for engaging so positively in those key processes. We are now using that information together with data gathered in formal and informal discussions to develop our 2020 priorities and the 2025 strategic plan. Keep an eye out for announcements in 2020! Below are a few of the many highlights of a very busy 2019 for Research and Innovation at UOW." - Professor Jennifer L. Martin AC FAA

National and International Recognition

Our researchers continued to be recognised through awards and prizes. In 2019 these included: 

  • Led by A/Prof Kerrylee Rogers (SMAH), the Blue Carbons Horizon team - (Dr Jeffrey Kelleway (UOW), Professor Neil Saintilan (Macquarie University), Dr Debashish Mazumder (ANSTO), Ms Atun Zawadzki (ANSTO) and Professor Colin Woodroffe (UOW) - were awarded a prestigious national award the Australian Museum Eureka Prize (Environmental Research). This Global Challenges funded team found that coastal wetlands capture more carbon as sea levels rise.
  • A/Prof Jeremy Crook, D/Prof Gordon Wallace and Dr Eva Tomaskovic-Crook from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (AIIM) were recipients of the Frontiers Research Award at the 2019 Research Australia Health and Medical Research Awards, for their work on human stem cells to assist in treating traumatic brain injuries and diseases.
  • Professor Liz Halcomb (SMAH) was awarded the prestigious Bridges Webb Medal from the Australasian Association for Academic Primary Care. Prof Halcomb is the first nurse to be awarded this medal.
  • The Australian Society for Microbiology awarded the ASM Frank Fenner Award to A/Prof Martina Sanderson-Smith (SMAH/IHMRI), for her contributions to microbiology.
  • Dr Natalie Matosin (SMAH/IHMRI) received a NSW Tall Poppy Award for her research into new approaches to improve quality of life for people suffering mental illness.
  • Three UOW researchers were appointed Fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences: Prof Gordon Waitt (SOC), Prof Mark McLelland (LHA) and Prof Terry Walter (BUS).
  • D/Prof David Adams (IHMRI) was elected Fellow of the Physiological Society
  • Seven UOW researchers were named  Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers list for 2019 - Distinguished Professors Shi Xue Dou (AIIM) and Hua Kun Liu (AIIM), Professor Zaiping Guo (AIIM/EIS) and Zenobia Jacobs (SMAH), Associate Professor Shulei Chou (AIIM), Senior Professor Tony Okely (SOC) and Professor Yoshio Bando (AIIM).

Industry Impact

UOW secured significant funding to work with industry and end-users in 2019, including:

  • Two Global Innovation Linkages Projects totalling $1.6 million: the IoT-Battery Electric Transporter for Underground Coal Mining (Dr Khay See, EIS/AIIM) with partner: Shanghai Shenchuan Electric Co. Ltd, and Power Quality of Future Electricity Networks (Professor Sarath Perrera, EIS) with partners: The University of Queensland, University of Tasmania, National Measurement Institute, Ausnet Services Ltd , Powerlink Queensland, Tasmanian Networks , TransGrid, Endeavour Energy, ARCMesh, SMA Solar Technology AG.
  • ACIAR Projects totalling $2.4 million led by Prof Neil Andrew (ANCORS/ LHA), Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: Pacific Agri-food Systems. Partners include World Fish, CSIRO, U Sydney and Partner Countries,
  • ARC Linkage Projects – 4 awarded to UOW totalling $1.5M (Prof Paul Keller (SMAH), Prof Susan Turnbull (LHA), Prof Shi Xue Dou (AIIM), Prof Gordon Waitt (SOC),  
  • New funding of $27.9M from the Department of Health to Dementia Training Australia (DTA). DTA is a UOW-led consortium,  delivering a national approach to workforce education and training in dementia. UOW Belinda Goodenough partners include La Trobe University, QUT, University of Western Australia and Dementia Australia.

iAccelerate continues to grow a thriving regional economy, attracting new companies and industries to the Illawarra: 

  • The Bega Valley Innovation Hub was established and ran the iAccelerate program for two cohorts of startups or scale-ups, with 90% female founders.
  • The iAccelerate Innovation Network ecosystem has broadened internationally to include hubs in Vietnam, Portugal, Colombo and Pakistan.
  • iAccelerate worked with the Sydney Business School to take Deans Scholars through an innovation program based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Innovation and Commercial Research Unit (ICRU) has had a stellar year enabling researchers to work on real-world challenges, build their career options and access additional funding sources. In 2019, ICRU enabled researchers to receive more than $33M in research income. Other highlights include the successful spinout of MOSkin which is set to make radiation therapy safer for patients worldwide. Also, Advantage SME was selected as a Next Practice Concept for SME collaboration at the Asia Pacific University Industry Innovation Network (UIIN) Conference.

Funding Outcomes

We can be rightly proud of the bumper year for national competitive grant funding in 2019.

A highlight was the announcement (on a Sunday!) of the 2020 ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child (led by QUT): Prof Sue Bennett (SOC) (Deputy Director and UOW Node Leader of the Centre) and Prof Lisa Kervin (SOC) and their team will receive more than $5M through the Centre. Another $10M of ARC funding to UOW was announced throughout the year (18 Discovery Projects (31% success rate), 6 DECRA Fellowships, and 2 Future Fellowships).

2019 NHMRC outcomes were also excellent with UOW researchers awarded $8M (four Investigator Grants totalling $4.7M and four Ideas grants totalling $3.3M). 

Global Challenges supported two new Keystone projects in 2019, drawing on the expertise of 50 UOW researchers and external partners. This year, external investigators were involved in 42% of GC projects, 54% of Project grants were led by women and 50% of Seed projects were led by early career researchers.  

As we aim to Replace, Reduce and Refine animal use in research we are pleased to announce the second 3Rs Animal Research Grant to Dr Diane Ly (SMAH) and her team, who are investigating a 3D in vitro model for studying Group A Streptococcus skin infections.

Events and Launches 

A snapshot of events include:

The Three Minute Thesis  winner was Faculty of Business HDR student Vivien Forner for: ‘How can we stop emergency service volunteers from quitting’.  

Dr Dom Tanner (SMAH) and Dr Yee Lian Chew (SMAH/IHMRI) participated in the inaugural and highly successful Soapbox Science Sydney during National Science Week. 

In August, the RSO introduced mandatory training in human research ethics. To date, over 700 staff attended workshops and completed the online training. 

The Graduate Research School launched ‘Best Practice in HDR Supervision’ featuring 22 academics sharing their insights and experience. 

Science Space celebrated its 30th Anniversary, welcomed record visitor numbers including 17,000 school students, were finalists at the NSW Tourism awards in November, and hosted the Sci-Fri cinema series and Up-Late programs. The pilot Makerspace is attracting enormous interest from students, staff and the community. 

More than 600 people – both town and gown - attended our fourth UOW Big Ideas Festival in October. Another 500 joined online for the livestream event, to witness the fascinating and entertaining big ideas from 10 newly minted UOW Professors. 

And in November, we held our fourth annual Research and Innovation Forum featuring inspirational guest speaker and UOW Fellow Dr Pia Winberg on “Transitioning research into a new industry”. We launched our UOW Research Impact Strategy White Paper and the 3rd UOW Scholars competition for 2019. 

Looking to the Future

The academic and HDR surveys we ran in 2019 provided key insights, and helped inform the recent Graduate Research School Review. We have plenty to celebrate as a University and, as any forward-looking organisation does, we look for ways to improve. During 2019, we identified a triple bottom line for research and innovation at UOW: Performance, People, Planet. We will aim to align what we do (excellent research and innovation) with how we do it (respect, integrity, collegiality).

Priorities for 2020 include a revitalised VC-Fellowship scheme, and implementing the UOW SAGE/Athena SWAN (SASI) Action Plan, the Graduate Research School review recommendations (yet to be announced) and the Reconciliation Action Plan (Research).

In 2020, we will host the University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) conference (March/April) and welcome colleagues from NCSU, Surrey and Sao Paulo Universities, to our beautiful campus. Please join in the fun and excitement. The focus is the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and funding for cross-UGPN collaborations will be available through a scheme to be launched during the conference. 

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to everyone for the warm Wollongong welcome I received in my first year at UOW.

Seasons greetings to you and your loved ones as you celebrate the end of 2019. I hope you enjoy a well-earned break.

See you in 2020!  

Professor Jennifer L Martin AC FAA
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).