NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, has opened UTS Tech Lab, a state-of-the-art research facility that will bring researchers, business and government together to tackle big challenges such as making our cities more liveable and progressing ideas that will create jobs of the future.
“These labs are designed to create solutions and innovative technologies to solve future problems by bringing together researchers from different fields to work collaboratively with industry and government – something I’m keen to see more of,” Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said at the launch, one of his first public engagements since taking up his new role a week ago.
“The labs will critically examine and look for solutions around research that will have an impact on real-world problems,” he said, noting possibilities in areas such as smart cities, the Internet of Things and advanced manufacturing.
Professor Durrant-Whyte, himself a world-renowned robotics expert, said he had never seen anything like Tech Lab in Australia. The Chief Scientist also spoke of how he had observed the “prosperity agenda” while in the UK recently and seen there how such facilities could create outcomes leading to new jobs.
These labs are designed to create solutions and innovative technologies to solve future problems
Among the many and diverse labs in the facility, a world-class antenna chamber will help develop the 5G communications network – and networks of the future. Projects already under way as it opens include robotics work for Sydney Water, so that leaks can be detected before they become a problem.
A researcher in the robotics lab. Photo: Lesley Parker
UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs says universities have a big role to play as Australian business and industry – and the Australian workforce – are transformed over coming decades.
“It’s critical that universities work hand-in-hand with industry to ensure we capitalise on the opportunities, and address the challenges, this presents. Facilities like Tech Lab will help us do that,” Professor Brungs says.
This will happen not just through its research partnerships but also through the experiences Tech Lab will provide students by allowing them to work on real-world projects.
Tech Lab adds state-of-the-art facilities that will attract companies and researchers from around the globe to work on projects in engineering and digital transformation
While UTS is already known for its engagement and partnership with industry, Tech Lab adds state-of-the-art facilities that will attract companies and researchers from around the globe to work on projects in engineering and digital transformation, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT), Professor Ian Burnett, says.
“UTS Tech Lab is a unique research facility in Australia, where academics and researchers from diverse fields will work in tandem with industry and government – taking new technologies from early readiness to commercial viability,” Professor Burnett says. “This will provide impact for our partners and jobs for our students and the wider community.”
UTS Tech Lab's Director, Associate Professor Ray Kirby, in an acoustic lab
We see Tech Lab as a way of helping to deliver products and services that will be important for for business, for jobs, for the economy, and for the community
Tech Lab will focus on transdisciplinary research, with capabilities spanning areas such as engineering, data analytics, communications, management and leadership. It will offer R&D projects, consultancy, contract work and short courses, and work with enterprises big and small, including startups.
Its Director of Operations, Associate Professor Ray Kirby, says its large spaces and multitude of specialist labs will allow industry to test principles and concepts on real-size structures. "Using a facility like this allows them to de-risk their product development," he says.
It’s also important to have people from different industries and areas of expertise working together in one space on real and important problems, he says. "We see Tech Lab as a way of helping to deliver products and services that will be important for business, for jobs, for the economy, and for the community."
Tech Lab is equipped with state-of-the-art capabilities that include, among other things, one of the largest – if not the largest – electromagnetic informatics and antenna chambers in Australia. The chamber is a world-class facility for conducting industrial projects and research on antenna and wireless systems, including the development of 5G and future communications networks.
Tech Lab’s acoustics laboratories, including anechoic chambers, will provide services that NSW businesses have had to travel interstate or overseas to secure. Other capabilities include:
data analytics, networking and communications
photonics and optical sensing
full-scale structural dynamics facilities
material testing and characterisation
acoustics laboratories, including anechoic chambers
electrical power and energy lab
computational intelligence and brain computer interface
The work done in these labs will focus on developing new technologies around digital transformation, including the Internet of Things, Smart Cities and Advanced Manufacturing. This will impact on areas as wide-ranging as civil engineering and infrastructure, utilities, transport and health care.
UTS Tech Lab has already welcomed partners such as Sydney Water, which will work with the facility in robotics and smart sensing in pipelines, as well as Nokia, which will run training courses out of the space. Tech Lab is also in discussion with many other companies interested in working with UTS in the new facility.