U.lab team wins Best Entrepreneurial Educator | UTS News Room


Published on UTS News Room on 5 Nov 2014

Jochen Schweitzer, picture by Joanne Saad
In summary:
  • The co-founders of UTS’s U.lab have been recognised for an outstanding collaboration between business and higher education
  • Dr Jochen Schweitzer and Dr Joanne Jakovich have been jointly named Best Entrepreneurial Educator in the annual Business/Higher Education Round Table awards

Dr Jochen Schweitzer and Dr Joanne Jakovich, the co-founders of UTS’s U.lab have been jointly named Best Entrepreneurial Educator in annual awards that recognise outstanding collaboration between business and higher education.

The awards are made by the Business/Higher Education Round Table (B/HERT), whose members come from higher education, business, industry bodies and research institutions.

Dr Schweitzer is a Senior Lecturer in Strategy and Innovation at UTS Business School and co-founder with Dr Jakovich of U.lab, an open innovation platform that brings students from multiple disciplines together to work on real-world problems. Dr Jakovich was a Senior Lecturer with the Faculty of…

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Beyond the IT crowd: the pitch for Google’s Australian Big Tent

By Jochen Schweitzer, University of Technology, Sydney and Joanne Jakovich, University of Technology, Sydney

Will the web create more Australian culture than it destroys? How do we tell Australian stories in the digital age? Why would Google host an event and ask questions such as these?

On Friday, Google will host Australia’s inaugural Big Tent event at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney. It’s the latest of several Google Big Tent events that have taken place around the world.

Highlights of the recent Google Big Tent event in Rome.

The Sydney event is being billed as an “irreverent, high-energy discussion”, featuring speakers such as Amit Sood, Director of the Google Cultural Institute, former News Corp Australia boss Kim Williams, Bondi hipster comedian Christiaan Van Vuuren, and historian journalist Peter Fitzsimmons.

Recently business leaders around the world have reported not only a lack of innovation capability in their organisations but also that they’re not feeling prepared for a future where continuous innovation is needed.

For Google – as much as for any other leading internet technology company – maintaining and expanding the capacity to innovate is crucial, especially in increasingly complex and uncertain business environments.

What’s more, technology companies have come to realise technology alone cannot solve the big and convoluted problems of our times. People do! People have ideas and ideas need to seed, grow and spread.

Although technology is still one of the most important drivers of innovation, new dynamics are emerging that could determine which firms get the competitive edge.

I am not a number

One of those drivers is that people expect to be treated as individuals. While this is not new, businesses now need to know in much greater detail than ever before what their customers value, what they believe and what their habits and idiosyncrasies are.

Through technology-driven connectivity, abundant information and ubiquitous digitisation, internet businesses – and especially Google – have valuable information at their fingertips.

While the internet is already a solid infrastructure supporting the economy, it is on the cusp of a much larger expansion with emergence of the so-called “internet of things” – in which the majority of objects, and information about those objects, is connected via the web.

This raises many important socio-economic and political issues for stakeholders, as economies and societies become increasingly inter-meshed. How can we use this information best?

Less talking, more listening

Governments, businesses, the cultural sector and civil society are caught up in a historical switch to digital, and are looking at the opportunities that brings for innovation, creativity, economic development and jobs.

This is leading to a proliferation of crowd-funded, open-sourced and horizontally-distributed solutions to systemic challenges, and in turn redefining organisational and governance paradigms.

With radically overhauled business models and industry dynamics comes a trend for much more open, and closer, relationships between businesses and the communities they serve.

Organisational boundaries are becoming more porous, enabling greater collaboration with employees, customers and partners.

Where once a company would go it alone, and be successful doing so, it must now open up its innovation processes for feedback from the wider community. Priorities are shifting from intra-organisational efficiency to a new model that emphasises outside engagement, transparency, collaboration and dialogue with multiple audiences and all characters within them.

Firms realise the groundswell of opinion and innovation being shared online on social media, blogs, text chats, as well as offline in public gatherings and in conversation, is akin to customers influencing organisational strategy itself. Industry leaders don’t just invite stakeholders in for a chat; they increasingly rely on stakeholders’ real influence.

Accepting the crowd as stakeholders in shaping an organisation’s future has enormous cultural and managerial implications.

The innovative organisation is no longer only customer-centric, but crowd-activated, where firms must be ready and willing to pursue strategies that create shared value. The interested, active, informed, amateur expert and expert crowd that has ideas and views about how a field evolves becomes a valuable source of innovation and strategy development.

Rise of the creatives

Internet companies such as Google need to solve issues such as how big data and big ideas apply to fast growing industries, such as Australia’s creative industries.

Creative industries are comprised primarily of many small, dynamic firms that increasingly refuse to play with the big establishments in the conventional client-creator-consumer framework, and are instead innovating new ways to co-create value amongst their networks.

The growth potential of this style of “value creation” is emerging as greater number of entertainment, media, design, and lifestyle experiences are produced by a variegated army of mini-agencies.

Once more, the emergence of social, mobile and digital networks plays a big part in democratising the relationship between organisations and their stakeholders.

Maile Carnegie, Country Director for Google Australia New Zealand. AAP Image/Google

It is in this context that Google hosts an event that encourages the shared envisioning and discussion of how, exactly, the internet can effect change in an economy.

If not technology-driven, innovation comes from ideas that collide and inspire, instilling new thought and action. The Google Big Tent event aspires to do exactly that – it allows discourse, promotes the exchange of views and builds a community of thinkers.

Some may imagine tomorrow’s Big Tent event will be little more than a gated gathering of elitists and technology geeks, miscellaneous politicians and public figures big-noting themselves, or a tedious gathering of Apple product aficionados.

Others will see it as an opportunity to meet and mingle with interesting people, some great ideas.

The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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CrowdShare Sydney – a field experiment

via CrowdShare Sydney – a field experiment | CrowdShare Sydney.

by Joanne Jakovich

CrowdShare Sydney is an experiment in urban participation. We don’t really know what’s going to happen, but like all scientists we hope for the unexpected. Experimentation is about doing and reflecting. By sharing thoughts and deeds we hope to discover new territory together.

Why is participation important? It’s important because we care about each other. It’s as simple as that. We care about others’ wellbeing, their happiness, and their purpose in life. Not everything’s about me. Nor is it simply about ‘us’. Participation is about everyone. It’s about young, old, rich, poor, left, right, green, atheist, religious, agnostic, local, international, immigrant, refugee. Our life here is everyone’s life.

When we set out to design this program, we wanted to discern two frames to work within when considering participation in the future of our city.

The first is the observation that digital isn’t staying. At least it will no longer be the focus. Like electricity, digital will become invisible. Our attention will be on network density. It won’t matter whether something is connected or not. The density of connectivity resulting in denser human relations will be important. How we are connected, the quality, and the agency of this connection is what will count.

The second frame observes that that in the future you (aged under 26, studying at university) will be old. Yes you. Youthful exuberance often clouds a sense of transference—the knowing that what we make and do today is ours for tomorrow. So the question is to you: in 2031, when you’re at the height of your careers, families, investment, and you’re realising the impact of transference, do want to be undertaking urban participation like we do today? Do community forums attended by disgruntled retirees offer you hope for your city?

  • A forum organised by a community group to voice concerns about the proposed NSW planning legislation, 2013.

City engagement should focus on more than feedback (which often descends into mutual contempt). The current approach assumes a lack of capacity of the community. Youth are barely engaged, let alone have some idea of how their future will be affected. Likewise, mass participation is assumed too arduous. We should be surprised that only 4000 submissions were received for the NSW planning White Paper. In a city of 4 to 6 million, what does 0.1% of the population’s feedback mean?

To truly consider the future of our city, a far-reaching culture of participation must come first. This is the central motivation of CrowdShare Sydney. We need to recognise and support all kinds of active agency in the city. We should celebrate the diversity of ways people do things to collectively create their neighbourhoods, their communities, their networks, and their shared places. We need to elevate the small, local things that can grow to have greater impact.  Surrounding this, fluency and skills to empower others are required. To start on this agenda, we need to turn around expectations of participation. Working towards making – not simply critiquing – our shared future is essential.

It’s no coincidence that now, when we are more connected than ever, we are seeing a thriving trend in participation. The web is not taking us away form each other. Both online and face-to-face interactions are on the rise. For example, the Meetup and Open IDEO platforms enable this digital-physical blend on a massive scale. Meetup has instigated 111 million face-to-face interactions around the world. These are individual contributions to agendas, not simply social events. Meetup groups frequently collaborate to solve problems not being addressed by conventional mechanisms.

Through this heightened activity, we are witnessing more awareness and diversity of participation in the public realm. The impact of this is not only one of breadth. There is also a case for sheer volume. Take, for example, the transformation of consumption and production. Conventionally, mass media, produced by a powerful few, attracted a large audience, who were primarily consumers. In comparison, in the current collective media paradigm, as enabled by web 2.0 social media and mobile technologies, there is a greater volume of both consumption and production. Those creating content are avid consumers of their peers’ contributions. The diversity of production is greater, and the diversity of consumption is multiplied.

In fact, a binary notion of consumption and production no longer applies. The interactions between players are complex. Often they are actively collaborating while being in competition. Influence is granular, but can also swell beyond its original authority. While the producers of mass media remain, the disaggregated crowd exists in an expanded state of high-production-meets-high-consumption. Resultantly, there is more detailed, diverse and articulated attention being paid to participation of all kinds.


  • The relationship between production and consumption in a mass media paradigm.

  • The relationship between production and consumption in a collective media paradigm.

In this activated flattened field, citizens are more empowered than at any time in history. Not only are we able to edit, mash, publish, trade, monitor, enforce, crowdsource, and meet our future spouse at the swipe of a finger tip, we can create things in ways never before possible. Creativity bestows a seductive power. Conventionally, ways of making were passed on from master to apprentice. In the open source culture of the web, creators leverage this seductiveness to engage and educate new audiences in making practices.

Increasingly, this online movement is shifting from a focus on coding to ‘making real stuff.’ The tactical urbanism and maker economy movements exemplify this object-based connectivity. As ‘makers’ they are not interested in individual objects isolation, but in their collaborative agency. Members donate unlimited energy to uploading evidence and sharing knowledge about the making of their physical things. Collectively, these objects have a network effect beyond their mere physicality.

In this context, traditional institutions are struggling to understand how to interact with an empowered constituency. One example is the story of the TripView app, which was created at a weekend hackathon in Sydney. By hacking the database of transport timetables, its creators brought Sydney’s complex public transport offerings to users in real time. RailCorp threatened legal action, even though they offered no equivalent service to commuters, and then withdrew. Increasingly, the empowered crowd is creating the services we usually expect from the public service.

Corruption is seen by many as a characterising feature of our city’s largest stakeholders – government and business alike. A digitally expanded, creativity-driven approach to city participation does not distract from the need to address this properly. The distribution of influence, if not power, to a broader audience might aid greater transparency. Activation of citizen attention towards city participation of all kinds aims to increase mutual responsibility and discourse.

In this redefined hierarchy, everyone is a leader. In fact, traditional leaders need to lead by observation and empathy. We no longer want to hear about statistics and mission statements. Stories grab our hearts. We want meaning. We want our actions to have perceivable impact on a real person’s life, if not our own. We don’t expect to have bold and courageous decisions from the top. We demand ways to enable bold and courageous action from amidst the field to better shape decisions that affect us all. Governing agencies will increasingly compete with commercial entities that can offer meaningful urban participation in a seamless way.

If we think about the opportunities described here, a greater sense of ownership and agency in the city is possible. Collaborative tools of making, rather than critiquing, can empower new solutions to specific issues. Creativity can become a tool of action that seeps into every part of society.  The number one skill we’ll need won’t be a skill. It will be an attitude: “Let’s just try it and see.” By working iteratively and collaboratively, we can evolve an approach to creating our city that is inclusive. By recognising that different needs arise in different contexts we can interact appropriately and with relevance. This is not an agenda to exacerbate the digital haves and have-nots, or to further separate the savvy and the disconnected. It’s about people reaching out to each other and giving a damn. It’s about using the tools at their fingertips to share and inspire.

This is why we have established CrowdShare Sydney. When we looked at the phenomena described here, we came to two realisations. First. The detailed disaggregation of attention based on passion rather than necessity creates focussed impact. In effect, we can do more when we know we want to—and better still, when we know we’d love to. Second. We are no longer interested in designing participation. Even this dictates too much. Our job is to curate attention and flow. Once we have gathered the deep, concerned and humble attention of our ‘crowd’, we can work together to achieve great things.

To get started, we set up the ten-part CrowdShare Sydney panel to talk about these concepts with a range of activators and audiences. We set out a platform for actions in the city. These are bottom-up explorations of participation that you, me—anyone—can be involved in. In curating this field, we open the invitation to you: Your task is to activate and interact with your crowd in your own custom way. Our task is to humbly follow you.



Rethinking innovation: harnessing the collective creativity of the crowd

By Jochen Schweitzer, University of Technology, Sydney and Joanne Jakovich, University of Technology, Sydney

The past few years have seen a resurgence in design as a driver of innovation. This has been visible in the popular managerial press and also the scholarly debate in management and design. Many foreign organisations and governments have already successfully embraced design-led approaches to innovation. While Australia can boast an emerging capability in business and government centres in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, our design-led innovation culture is still in its infancy.

The term “design thinking” has become a buzzword, aiming to capture designers’ creativity-driven approach to innovation that can be applied to anything from physical products and intangible services, to formulating and solving complex social problems.

Innovation via design is to open up to – rather than narrow down – the inputs for solving a problem. Design thinking promotes a particular mind-set that takes the user experience, or a human-centred perspective, as point of departure. Design processes are experimental and non-linear, and focus on asking questions as much as searching for solutions.

Central to the concept of design thinking is the ability to visualise ideas and complexity using sketches and prototypes that through their temporary and incomplete nature are essential to the process of knowledge development and innovation.

While design thinking has the potential to empower innovators to approach complex challenges armed with a toolbox of tested design techniques, we also see a trend towards opening up innovation processes.

From crowdsourcing to crowd-share innovation

Crowdsourcing suggest that organisations open up, combine internally and externally developed knowledge, and take their products and services to markets via external paths.

In crowdsourcing, the “crowd” comprises a group of individuals of varying expertise and heterogeneity, who respond to a call to undertake a task. Individuals voluntarily participate by contributing their effort, money, experience or skills in an exchange that is mutually beneficial. The crowd gains social recognition, personal satisfaction, economic return, or skill advancement; the crowdsourcer gains access to the knowledge, ideas and work that the crowd has contributed.

In the worst case, crowdsourcing for innovative ideas is like throwing a hook in a school of fish. You’ll be sure to get an idea, but it’ll be bound to be just like the others. In the best case, unexpected pools of ideas can be explored and new possibilities opened up. But in both cases, the problem arises that although the ideas might be diverse, and represent breadth in thinking, they are conceived individually and therefore lack the potentially game-changing quality that we seek in widely accepted and truly disruptive innovations.

Complex problems need more than just a willing crowd of individuals. They need a whole new approach to collective creativity. New collaborative ways that build perspective on issues and harness experience interactively with and amidst the crowd need to be found.

We devised an experiment to test a combination of the breadth-generating power of crowdsourcing and the intensively human-centred and collaborative practices of design thinking. We call this hybrid approach “crowd-share innovation”.

In an intensive seven-week collection of creative workshops called “Groundbreaker”, we set out to define new tools and methods in this emerging practice. We partnered with some courageous organisations that were excited about expanding their innovation process beyond the boardroom into the unpredictable domain of the crowd.

While problems are often only visible once they reach catalytic impact, the Groundbreaker participants engaged with numerous ethnographic, pictorial, three-dimensional and theatrical explorations in order to create a new perspective on the origin of the problem itself. We called this first step the “public think”.

The second step invited our partner organisations back into the design pressure-cooker for a private (yet definitely non-boardroom) chance to revisit their challenge based on the insights from the crowd. Once again we implemented the intensive, human-centred design processes. We called this part the “private think”.

One of the tools we tested was the 5×5; a rapid innovation competition between teams of five to ten people, comprising of five steps of five minutes each. Teams work through stages of empathy, visioning, ideation, prototyping and pitching to come up with new insights and solutions to a problem. This all happens in the space of 25 minutes, enabling participants to leap through common barriers and conflicts, and freely associate ideas between physical representations and abstract concepts.

Groundbreaker participants engaged with numerous ethnographic, pictorial, three-dimensional and theatrical explorations in order to create a new perspective on the origin of the problem itself. Grounbreaker

Crowd-share innovation, we discovered, is about the shift between the looser realm of the crowd and the tighter reflection of the knowledge holders. In each scenario – public or private – the key is to get the right amount of tension, speed, compulsion, and reflection amongst teams of diverse and open people to allow new kinds of conversations to happen.

We saw that when the collective mindset gets shaken up, new insights become available. By collaboratively building messy physical models and envisioning new futures with a wide array of props, we noticed that latent ideas moved beyond the limits of conversation and into the territory of gestalt. Once a collaborating team gets going, imagination fires across otherwise inert thoughts, and partial ideas rapidly combine and evolve into complex, nuanced approaches to previously unnoticed perspectives on a problem.

Crowd-share innovation is a way to tap into collective creative intelligence and augment the personal interactions between consumers, community, business, and innovators. It is taking them from the online, massive user world to the intimate, living lab of design thinking. It not only opens up innovation to new perspectives, but creates communities committed to an idea. If we get this kind of thinking right at the crux of a complex problem, and gain a shared vision and leadership from real interactions in the beginning, we might be on a better path to solving complex problems with the crowd.

The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

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Students explore NFC

NFC FUTURES from u.lab on Vimeo.

Students at the University of Technology, Sydney this week showcased ideas for using the short-range Near Field Communications (NFC) wireless technology present in many of the current generation of smartphones.

The UTS ‘Launchpad’ event represented the culmination of a semester’s work by students, and involved five inter-disciplinary teams from backgrounds including IT, business and design designing NFC-based solutions in domains including retail and healthcare, aged care.

Some 18 students examined potential applications for use of NFC technology. The event was run by UTS’s u.lab in partnership with NFC-focussed Australian company Commerce in Motion. “[Commerce in Motion is ] looking for some slightly more out-of-the-box ideas of what to do with NFC rather than maybe the run-of-the-mill ideas that people usually come up with,” said UTS’s Dr Wayne Brookes, who co-founded u.lab.

One team developed an NFC-based solution that attempted to find a way of engaging children in physical activity by employing the wireless technology in combination with gamification-like principles. “They came up with the idea of creating a virtual playground where you put NFC tags around a particular area and the kids have an NFC-enabled mobile phone, and the kids will have to physically run from point to point to progress in the game,” Brookes said.

“The interesting thing about the proposal was that the team saw that if you were to install these kinds of NFC tags around an environment using it for children and games, you could easily use it for adults who were wanting to come up with a different sort of exercise regime. [Or] you could use the infrastructure when you could have an event and people come to it and tap their phone at the destination. So it’s kind of like a gathering place for people if you wanted to organise an event in a park, for example.

Another team looked at the potential for using NFC for easily tracking patients’ within a hospital, offering the staff of healthcare institutions the ability to track a patient’s movements in real-time. Another looked at the feasibility of using NFC to create “stores without borders”. “Their idea was if products people buy were already NFC-enabled in theory you could just be anywhere in the world and you see a product that you’re interested in and you tap your phone and you can then go through an ordering process on your phone,” Brookes said. The retail team also looked at using NFC to hail taxis at taxi ranks, by tapping with your phone.

NFC “needs to find its niche”, he said. “One of the things our student teams struggled with was what can you do with an NFC tag that you can’t already do with a QR code or with RFID or with something else? What is NFC uniquely good for? There are examples of that — obviously location-based applications and services; the convenience (people often don’t use QR codes because of the difficulty of getting your phone out and finding the right app and scanning it.

“I think it’s about finding the niche of applications, finding the killer application for NFC where NFC is the ideal technology as opposed to using something else.”

via cio.com.au

Ring in the new innovations


Who’s at the cutting edge when it comes to R&D? Experts in various fields, from art to astronomy, medicine to motoring, nominate the breakthroughs that are changing the way we live. Bees buzzing with new navigation possibilities, carbon emissions gobbled up by algae, cars that can’t crash – we venture into the innovation hothouses.


Joanne Jakovich, director of u.lab, University of Technology Sydney

Beauty in architecture lies in the detail. Today’s nanotechnology materials already enable self-cleaning and smog-eating facades through the rational organisation of molecules. Recent developments in nano-membranes mean buildings might also begin to harvest fresh water and clean air for us, bringing a whole new level to multisensory design.

Professor Andre Geim and his team at the University of Manchester, UK, have developed a membrane that is completely impermeable to pathogens, toxins, vapours and gases, but allows water to pass through it unimpeded. The membrane, less than one-thousandth of a millimetre thick, is made of graphene, Geim’s Nobel Prize-winning nano-material.

Graphene is strong and flexible, only one molecule thick and notable for its ability to conduct electricity and hold light. New luminous films could produce lightweight materials to replace complex LED media facades on buildings, as well as to create paper-thin screens for flexible mobile devices. Speaking of which, mobile devices provide the platform to socially transform views of the city, via Augmented Reality (AR) facades. A typical application for AR in architecture is virtual signage overlaid on the physical city; a life-sized equivalent of the Viewa app being used to bring new life to magazines.
Sebastian Boring of the University of Calgary is designing Augmented Reality applications that allow multiple users to interact with media-enriched facades. Boring’s augmented layers enable players to enjoy games or create new designs over an already animate building surface.

If nanoparticles and virtual games appear too intangible, “jamming” – adhering sand-sized particles – could offer a new method of building fabrication. Marta Malé-Alemany of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Spain is developing robots that can dynamically create geometric forms from granulated materials.

Whereas prefab structures are a composition of elements, granular formation involves fabrication machines, (Fab)Bots, that are able to create stone-hard structures on-site, by the programmed spraying of aggregate material with a binding agent. New materials, including granulated PET bottles, are now being tested. Discovering how to mould molecules is the future of architecture.



Dr Maryanne Demasi, medical scientist, reporter for ABC TV’s Catalyst

The mosquito responsible for spreading dengue fever originated in Africa, but infests more than 100 countries, endangering at least 2.5 billion people. The 30-year battle against the disease has new impetus in bacterial experiments headed by Professor Scott O’Neill from Monash University in Melbourne.

A wild population of mosquitoes was infected with a common reproductive parasite, Wolbachia, which prevents the transmission of the dengue virus to humans. The true breakthrough, however, is that the offspring of these mosquitoes are born carrying Wolbachia, which potentially reduces the spread of the disease. Large-scale trials are now commencing in countries such as Vietnam, Brazil and Indonesia.

Smaller yet, nano-sized robots (nanobots) hold the promise to heal our bodies from within, working with unimagined precision at a molecular level. Dr Ralph Merkle from the Institute of Molecular Manufacturing in California foresees a heart patient ingesting nanobots in a pill and the laser- or electromagnetically-controlled nanobots performing their surgery before ultimately being excreted normally from the body. Similarly, carbon nanobombs – atoms of carbon arranged in liquid-filled tubes – could be detonated by laser to kill surrounding cancer cells. 

The new Cell and Molecular Therapies Laboratories at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, which opened last year, are hosting pioneering research in genetic therapies. Scientists dressed in protective suits work in a secured clean-room facility with air that is up to 1000 times more pure than ambient; it’s a totally dust-free, lint-free, bug-free environment.

Under haematology expert Professor John Rasko, the team is experimenting with blood stem-cell therapies that may hold cures for particular cancers, heart disease, diabetes, leukaemia and HIV. The laboratory itself is a multimillion-dollar engineering feat, achieved with backing from government and philanthropy. 

Industrial design

Brandon Gien, managing director Good Design Australia

Industrial designers are increasingly stepping outside pure product design and collaborating with scientists, researchers, engineers, business leaders and governments to design better services, systems and business processes. Design-led thinking is thereby expanding its influence on business, the environment and society at large.  

Industrial designers continually look at materials innovation, technology and processes to wrap around their next design, be it a mobile phone, car or electric toaster. If the buzz around carbon-based solar cells is anything to go by, the future’s looking bright. Researchers at Stanford University have followed up on the nano-material graphene (see Architecture) by developing a flexible solar-cell film. Carbon-based, it’s vastly cheaper than current solar cells, which use exotic metals. If commercialised, the material will allow designers to incorporate a flexible, energy-gathering coating to enable buildings, cars, appliances and even clothing to generate electricity.

For many years, 3D printing (also called rapid prototyping) has allowed designers and manufacturers to develop and test products and parts without the expense of handmade prototypes. Today, the plummeting cost of 3D printing technology is allowing designers to make products themselves; a radically new approach to the traditional mass-manufacturing model.

The technology enables on-demand, low-volume production of anything from car parts to jewellery, from materials including starches, metal, rubber and even chocolate.

Equally in the future frame is biomimicry, a discipline that emulates design principles from nature (a famous example is Velcro). Janine Benyus, biologist, innovation consultant and co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, is helping to direct the outcomes of this research into the design of shoes, carpets, furniture and even aircraft, leading to more efficient and environmentally sustainable outcomes. If imitation is the best form of flattery then nature, perhaps unsurprisingly, could hold the key to the future of design.

Digital technology

Karla Courtney, Bauer Custom Media digital strategy director

The internet is now truly mobile and it’s easy to associate the smartphone boom with consumer brand names such as Apple and BlackBerry. However, it’s the names working behind the scenes that are shrinking our devices and increasing our content-consumption habits exponentially.

As processors – the little chips in our devices that basically tell them what to do – become smaller and more powerful, so do our phones and tablets. ARM, the British developer of processors used in most mobile phones, recently announced a 64-bit processor to be released in 2014.

ARM claims the 64-bit technology will be three times as powerful as a 2012 smartphone, but with five times the efficiency. ARM has forecast CO2 output from data centres will soon surpass that of aeroplanes.

Another advance affecting the size and shape of devices is the screen. Lighter, more durable glass allows for lighter, more durable devices. Corning has developed a thin, flexible glass that, among many other applications, will be used to advance our small-screen technology. This has the potential to add a third dimension to our touchscreen interfaces. 

Devices are just glass, metal and microchips without the app and publishing technology to fill them. On the content side, some of the greatest innovations are taking place at the intersection of creative arts and technology. TedEd (ed.ted.com), for example, is a platform for the world’s best educators and animators to bring school lessons to life in innovative and engaging ways.

Codeacademy is an online learning platform designed to teach anyone how to code in a creative, engaging and social way. As ways to merge creativity and technology continue to become more accessible, the quality and capacity of mobile applications, websites and web content will flourish.


Giles Parkinson, editor, RenewEconomy.com.au
Australians’ love of air-conditioning has played a significant role in recent jumps in electricity bills. The culprit – blazing sunshine – might also provide the cure, in the form of solar cooling. Paolo Corrada, a PhD student in Queensland University of Technology’s science and engineering faculty, says heating and cooling account for about two-thirds of our energy use. By using solar power to drive an absorption chiller, Corrada says energy use could be cut by 90 per cent; the addition of energy storage could remove it from the power grid completely.

The CSIRO has a slightly different idea, turning the concept of intermittent renewable energy sources upside down using technology similar to solar hot-water systems. Heat energy can be stored and then transformed, on cue, into cool air when demand increases.

Greenhouse emissions are another big problem for Australia, with higher emissions-per-person than any other developed country. There’s talk of geosequestration – burying liquid CO2 – but this technology seems decades away. What if the emissions could be sequestered and re-used? Three different companies – MBD Energy, Algae.Tec and Aurora Algae – are testing different methods to capture CO2 and use it as feedstock for algae, which can, in turn, be used to make pharmaceuticals, omega-3 products, animal feed, biomass for energy, even jet fuel.

On the subject of transport, more than six billion timber shipping pallets are used each year; many only once before becoming landfill. The Biofiba company based in Gosford, NSW, has come up with a biodegradable pallet that uses organic starches, non-food crops such as hemp, and no chemicals. Managing director Laurence Dummett says the Biopallet will cost no more than conventional timber types, and will biodegrade into garden mulch within about six months.


John Carey, motoring writer Wheels magazine & Qantas The Australian Way

For at least three years, Google has been working to combine digital mapping, Street View images, advanced sensors and artificial intelligence technology as the basis of a self-driving car.

The idea of a car smart enough to drive itself has naturally attracted plenty of media attention. A truly autonomous automobile is still a long way from commercial viability, but car makers are working to combine a set of simpler technologies that could create super-safe, semi-autonomous cars much sooner.

Using data from sensors that monitor the car and its immediate surrounds, combined with the right software and hardware, a handful of luxury brands have already introduced systems that gently ??? correct an inattentive driver straying from his or her lane, or slam on the brakes should a pedestrian run onto the road ahead.

Currently, however, these cars can’t share what they know about their driving environment. Imagine a car that automatically braked when warned of a deadly hazard by another car, even before its driver saw the danger. Extending the telematic horizon, as it’s called, could make cars practically impossible to crash.

There are two major trials now underway to test the effectiveness of vehicle networking. The larger is a US Department of Transportation-led initiative that will connect nearly 3000 cars, trucks and buses in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan, using a radio frequency specially reserved for V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure). An Australian company, Cohda Wireless, is a key provider of the specialised radio technology being used.  

In Europe the smaller simTD (safe intelligent mobility field test Germany) project is relying on existing high-speed WLAN frequencies to link 120 vehicles being used in the area around Frankfurt. German car and car component makers, telecoms companies, research institutes, universities and government agencies are also involved. The project is being coordinated by Daimler’s Dr Christian Weiss, head of the cooperating systems team in the company’s research and advance development department. “We are convinced that Car-to-X communication represents an important step on the way to accident-free driving,” he says.


Darren Osborne, news editor ABC Science Online

It’s been more than 100 years since humankind took to flying like the birds. Now, new frontiers of flight are being revealed by the bees.

Professor Mandyam Srinivasan of the University of Queensland is leading a team of researchers studying the behaviour of bees, and how they navigate by optic flow: gauging distance by the speed of passing objects.

Srinivasan says that despite having a brain the size of a pin head, bees have excellent vision and memory. “You don’t need a lot of processing power, just the right type of processing.” 

The researchers are applying their knowledge to develop vision systems for drone aircraft which, Srinivasan says, “are almost entirely autonomous, using their own vision to control flight, including take-off and landing”.

University of Sydney associate professor Kathy Belov leads the Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group. For more than five years she has been investigating Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease, which is pushing the animal to the brink of extinction. Belov and her team have used genetic sequencing to show that devils have a low level of diversity in genes, which may be why the cancer is so contagious. More recently, they found that different tumours might have different genes switched on or off, affecting the behaviour of the tumour. A captive breeding program involving 22 zoos across Australia has also been set up, which Belov says is “our best bet to save the species”. The research could help in the preservation of other species worldwide.

The Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, led by Professor Gordon Wallace at the University of Wollongong, is using polymers to control the behaviour of cells in the body. For example, Wallace says they are looking at materials in the cochlear ear implant that interact more effectively with nerve cells.

The team is also working on a brain implant that could detect and control epilepsy. “We’re starting to imagine applications that you just wouldn’t have thought possible five years ago,” he says.

Information technology

Jez Ford, technology writer Qantas The Australian Way

Satellites have been gathering and transmitting information since Sputnik I was launched in 1957; with technological innovation they are becoming smaller and more accessible. NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative encourages universities to create CubeSat nanosatellites, cubes of about 10cm formed from multiple units.

CubeSat has enabled Romania, Poland and Switzerland to have their own satellites. Dr Steven Tsitas at the University of New South Wales hopes to develop a larger version with commercial applications. “The smallest CubeSats are mostly educational,” Tsitas says. “I see a sweet spot at a 6U [six-unit] CubeSat – large enough to undertake some missions that currently require a microsatellite.”

Back on Earth, our televisions are delivering information and entertainment on an ever larger scale. The next wave will be a revolution in resolution. The Full HD of current flat-screens has been exposed as less than full, with the first Ultra HD TVs offering four times the definition in 3840 x 2160 pixels. 

Japanese broadcaster NHK is working with Britain’s BBC, among others, to realise Super Hi-Vision. Definition will increase a further fourfold, to 7680 x 4320 pixels. A doubling of current frame rates and digital audio recorded with 22.2 channels of sound will demand new methods of delivering and storing so much information.

One solution might emerge from quantum computing. Late last year, a team led by researchers from the Australian Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computing and Communication Technology announced the successful reading to, and writing from, a quantum bit, or qubit. This refers to the spin of an electron around a single phosphorus atom embedded in a silicon chip, with electrodes one three-thousandth the width of a human hair. 

The team’s next step will be to combine pairs of qubits in entangled states, so their storage and processing power increase exponentially. Potentially, 300 entangled qubits could perform more concurrent operations than there are atoms present in the universe.

Visual arts

Patricia Anderson, editor, Australian Art Review

Today, the pixel often replaces the brushstroke, presenting painters with a new set of challenges. Sydney artist Brett East’s giant, hyper-real paintings of bright pigments spurting from paint tubes so closely resembled photographs, East decided to document them and issue the giant photographs as limited-edition art works. This demanded considerable fine tuning, because modern digital printers are yet to match the human eye in apprehending fine distinctions. 

Among sculptors, chrome, polyurethane, industrial enamels and acrylics have expanded the more traditional media of wood, stone and bronze. Sydney’s Suzie Idiens creates minimalist sculptural paintings by coating medium-density fibreboard with glass-like layers of 
polyurethane. Brisbane’s Gemma Smith is pioneering hollow radiant constructions with sheets of reflective plexiglass, resembling diamond-faceted boulders. The light is trapped internally and reflected, prism-like, from each facet.

Some of the most interesting explorations of technological offerings can be found among jewellers. Professor Robert Baines, director of research and innovation at the RMIT School of Art, is a goldsmith and archaeo-metallurgist, and an expert on ancient Greek and Etruscan metalwork techniques. Baines finishes his delicately wrought constructions – both architectural and organic – in multiple bright colours, using the industrial process of electrostatic powder coating. He also incorporates miniature metal cars and fragments of plastic reflectors, trapped in his pieces such as the legendary Mesopotamian Ram In A Thicket. 

“I can build structures that are abstractions, and structures that have associations with other structures,” Baines says.

Source Qantas The Australian Way February 2013

Michael Stahl


Entrepreneurship Lab 2013

Ever wanted to be an entrepreneur? Or maybe you already are? Do you want to better understand the creative processes that drive innovation? Take your ideas and turn them into prototypes? Work with people who think differently than you? Explore and enhance your own creativity? Change the world…?

The Entrepreneurship Lab is the flagship innovation course of the u.lab open to all Masters level students at UTS. It is an interdisciplinary design thinking subject within which students leverage their own discipline knowledge to innovate new approaches for solving components of a big picture problem. Students work collaboratively in mixed teams to apply skills of Design Thinking and Creative Enterprise to develop solutions that catalyze social purpose into the real world of business.

The subject establishes interdisciplinary entrepreneurial collaboration through participation between the faculties of DAB, Business, and FEIT and cooperation with local entrepreneurs and design thinkers, who form part of an embedded mentoring program set up to support the entrepreneurial proposals.

This semester’s Entrepreneurship Lab will focus on innovations in the realm of spatial and creative technologies. Using experience ethnography, design thinking, and ongoing prototyping, you will develop ideas for how to revolutionise the interactions between people, space and technology to achieve more creative environments.

Applications are due 5pm Friday 22nd of February 2013. Send all inquiries to Apply@ulab.org.au

Download the information Pdf here.