Anthony Morfa Thesis

Anthony Morfa Thesis-84
“Five years ago, there was a major change in direction at WSU, and the management at the time said to the researchers, ‘In addition to submitting competitive grants to support fundamental research, you are encouraged and empowered to go out there and start building research partnerships with organisations and work on applied problems that you can provide research solutions to.

“Five years ago, there was a major change in direction at WSU, and the management at the time said to the researchers, ‘In addition to submitting competitive grants to support fundamental research, you are encouraged and empowered to go out there and start building research partnerships with organisations and work on applied problems that you can provide research solutions to.Organisations can be very broad, and could include not for profits, charities, SMEs or large enterprises’.”This was the call from upper levels of university management, and since then, governments have also taken on the role of match-maker between researchers and companies.

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Morfa was similarly enthusiastic about the potential of researchers when embedded with industry partners.“The research that is taking place at these universities is second to none and what our members are actually interested in doing is connecting with industry and understanding the challenges industry face and trying to participate and support industry as much as possible,” said Morfa.

For businesses wishing to engage with researchers, the first step is to begin by talking with Morfa or a similar industry network, so that introductions can be handled by those who already have a list of available researchers.“What we do is facilitate connections to all of our member universities in one step.

While Morfa is specifically working in the area of smart sensing, which involves sensors that measure the temperature, vibration and status of machines, and can interpret these data values to make decisions, the network already involves 550 experts and researchers from 110 different research institutes and centres.“They have specialised equipment, specialised knowledge and can immediately start working on problems with techniques that may not be available to every company,” said Morfa, describing the talents of the researchers in his network.

However, making the connections between researchers and industry may be easier said than done, as John Scilly, smart manufacturing co- ordinator at WSU, highlighted.“A lot of the clients I talk to and the business I talk to really don’t know what’s available.

With research outcomes the primary method by which universities are ranked, maintaining excellence in this field means that universities have had to turn to other sources of funding.

At the other end of the equation, Australian manufacturers have had to turn to innovation as a way to stay competitive in international markets.

Ingrid Marsh, director Industry Development, NSW Treasury, outlined how in the “NSW advanced manufacturing industry development strategy”, a foundational plank of the strategy is for government to bring together academics and manufacturers.“One of the four key areas that we are looking at with this strategy is advanced knowledge and this is where we’re passing on that knowledge between universities and industry,” said Marsh.

Making this happen has been government-funded networks that bring together universities and businesses in identified sectors.

While larger corporations have their dedicated R&D departments, which can operate as dedicated research centres, SMEs and start-ups have had to ride the coat-tails of large enterprises, or wait for the trickle-down of proprietary research to reach the public domain.

In addition, the large and sometimes archaic organisational structures of universities can seem opaque to outsiders.

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