UTS-industry collaborations receive $5.5M boost

Professor Dayong Jin (right) will lead a collaborative Industry Transformation Research Hub. Photographer: Vanessa Valenzuela Davie

Professor Dayong Jin (right) will lead a collaborative Industry Transformation Research Hub. Photographer: Vanessa Valenzuela Davie

In summary: 
  • UTS researchers have secured over $5.5 million in the first round of ARC funding for 2016
  • This includes a $3.7 million grant to establish an Industrial Transformation Research Hub, which will deliver innovations in health including detection of cancer, superbugs and pathogens
  • Six Linkage Grants will also fund UTS-industry collaborations in forensic science, law and disability entrepreneurship

UTS Professor Dayong Jin has won a $3.7 million grant to establish a brand new Industrial Transformation Research Hub at UTS, to usher in the next-generation of primary care health detection devices. An additional six UTS-led projects, including three at the Centre for Forensic Science, have also been awarded Linkage Grants in the first round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Grants for 2016.

Professor Jin, who is marking his first anniversary at UTS, says he is very excited about the real-world application of his new hub, which will also have a node at the University of South Australia (UniSA) led by Professor Emily Hilder. Proposed projects for the hub include developing a hand-held device for the early detection of cancer, superbugs and pathogens, and to identify drug-levels in drivers and contaminants in milk.

“The exciting thing for me is that we are academics working with real companies,” says Jin. “This ARC grant is bringing us together; they are making a bridge so we can have a real impact on the street with real people.

“Our work will use next-generation tools to empower people at home and in the workplace to detect conditions early, to save health dollars and save lives.”

The ARC grant will initially fund 10 multi-disciplinary chief investigators (six at UTS and four at UniSA), along with six post-doctoral and eight PhD students. The team will collaborate with six industry partners: Minomic International, Surgical Diagnostics, Perkinelmer, Ausdiagnostics, Preg Tech and Alcolizer Technology.

Director of UTS’s Centre for Forensic Science Professor Claude Roux is also thrilled that his centre scooped three Linkage Grants. One of these projects will use silicon oxide nano-particles with luminescent dyes to detect fingerprints at crime scenes or on difficult surfaces. Currently, using traditional methods, only about half of fingerprints are detected.

“There is a whole suite of technology we can now use to identify more criminals,” Roux says. “We are working with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Police Victoria and most importantly the world leader in forensic light sources, Rofin Australia – so our research involves all the main actors from instrument manufacturers to end-users, allowing us to have a tangible impact on policing and communities.”

Again working with the AFP and also NSW Health Pathology, the second Linkage Grant will fund the creation of a new approach and methodology so forensic science techniques can be used more proactively for intelligence purposes against the illicit drug trade and other organised crime.

“At the moment, forensic science is primarily used after the fact as evidence in court, instead of as an intelligence-gathering tool,” Roux says.

The third project at the centre to win funding is led by Professor Shari Forbes and involves adapting CSIRO’s “Cybernose” technology, an electronic nose as sensitive as a dog’s which looks like a hand-held vacuum.

“The grant is a great opportunity for us to work with CSIRO to redevelop Cybernose to detect illicit drugs, to be used in Border Security and also to rapidly screen clandestine drug laboratories for toxic substances,” Forbes says.

“UTS has a focus on producing quality research with impact that directly benefits industry and wider society,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Glenn Wightwick. “The latest ARC funding results further cement our reputation as an excellent research partner, and boost our capacity to deliver innovative real-world solutions.”

The other three successful UTS-led linkage grants include a project headed by Professor Natalie Stoianoff (Law) who is working to identify, evaluate and recommend an appropriate legal structure in Indigenous communities that considers traditional knowledge.

With his grant, Professor Jock Collins (Business) will study disability entrepreneurs who run private enterprises, while Professor Chengqi Zhang (Engineering and IT) will use the final grant to develop intelligent systematic frameworks to predict policy impacts on patients.

UTS researchers also secured ARC funding on six collaborative projects administered by other institutions:

  • Farookh Hussain (Engineering and IT) – UNSW Australia (Blue Logistics)
  • Professor Jon Adams (Health) – UNSW Australia (Royal Women and Children’s Hospital)
  • Associate Professor Barbara Stuart (Science) – University of Melbourne (Museum Victoria)
  • Associate Professor Martina Doblin (Science) – Macquarie University (Zoo Board of NSW, AAD, OEH)
  • Professor Michael Blumenstein (Engineering and IT), Professor Damien Giurco (Institute for Sustainable Futures) and Associate Professor Kumbesan Sandrasegaran (Engineering and IT) – Griffith (Cisco)
  • Professor Vute Sirivivatnanon (Engineering and IT) – Monash – $5m (5 years)