This month marks the fifth anniversary of the NSW Smart Sensing Network, which was founded by the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales in 2016 with the financial backing of the NSW Government.
The NSSN brings together academia, industry and government to translate world-class smart-sensing research into compelling solutions. The network has been recognised in the NSW Government’s recent Accelerating R&D in NSW Action Plan as an exemplar of enabling innovation by collaboration.
Led by the founding co-directors, the University of Sydney Nano Institute Director Professor Benjamin Eggleton and UNSW Scientia Professor Justin Gooding, the NSSN is one of three NSW Innovation Networks.
“Across its first five years, the NSSN has demonstrated the power of collaboration by delivering impactful smart-sensing solutions across industries ranging from water utilities to defence,” said NSSN co-directors Professor Eggleton and Professor Gooding in a joint statement.
“The NSSN is totally stakeholder focused and has harnessed the state’s smart-sensing research expertise to not only deliver real-world market innovation and value, but contribute innovative solutions to some of the greatest global challenges.”
The NSSN operates across seven thematic areas, including the built environment, data analytics, environment and AgTech, manufacturing, MedTech, resources and energy, and space and aviation. The areas are led by NSSN Theme Leaders, who are experts in their respective fields and provide consultations to research and industry partners on various topics such as collaborative R&D projects and avenues to receiving funding.
In addition to its founding universities, the NSSN membership has grown over the past five years to include the Australian National University, the University of Canberra, Macquarie University, the University of Newcastle, University of Technology Sydney, and Western Sydney University.
The network has delivered impact for its members by activating and leading several multimillion-dollar collaborative R&D programs to success.
At the University of Sydney, the NSSN is building on more than a decade of research in photonics and lasers established through CUDOS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, which was hosted by the School of Physics until 2017.
Capabilities developed at CUDOS are the basis for the RAAF-sponsored Jericho Smart Sensing Laboratory, based at the University of Sydney Nano Institute.
Sydney Nano Director Professor Eggleton said: “NSSN has highlighted the broader opportunity for smart-sensor technology to play an important role in addressing many of the practical challenges ahead.
“For example, at Sydney Nano we are developing a roadmap for using sensors to detect COVID-19 and its transmissibility, recently publishing research priorities in this area in Nature Biotechnology.
Professor Eggleton said: “Collaboration through the NSSN is vital if we want to succeed in solving urgent challenges in healthcare, engineering, signals technology, quantum sensing and photonic science.”
Researchers from UNSW, ANU, the University of Canberra, UTS and the University of Newcastle collaborated with Sydney Water and nine other water utilities on NSSN’s flagship $3.4 million project, Advanced Sensing to Reduce Leaks & Breaks.
The program consisted of five projects drawing on Acoustic Sensing, Data Analytics, Distributed Acoustic Sensing, LiDAR Sensing and Quantum Sensing to predict and detect leaks and breaks in urban water networks.
A successful recipient of the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRCP) Grants, NSSN’s $1.5 million Increased Recycling of Plastics by Sensing and Treating Label Contamination program has convened scientists and major Australian businesses to boost Australia’s recycling capability.
Researchers from the University of Sydney, UNSW and University of Technology Sydney have come together with PEGRAS Asia Pacific, Labelmakers Group and a range of dairy companies to utilise sensing to remove label contaminants from HDPE milk bottles. The in-progress project has led to the development of world-first technologies and several academic publications.
Exclusive access to direct funding is available to NSSN members via the annual NSSN Grand Challenges Fund. The fund was established in 2021 to support collaborative R&D projects that respond to NSSN Grand Challenges: bushfires, water, COVID-19, and ageing.
“The value of the network to the academic community is the opportunity to work on impactful projects,” said Professor Eggleton and Professor Gooding in their statement.
“The NSSN’s mission exemplifies the role that universities play in translating research into breakthough products and solutions that generate prosperity and economic growth.
“Academics’ superior ability to deliver pragmatic solutions comes from the fundamental knowledge base they have built over their careers. This is an important point that should be recognised in the current debate on universities and translational research.”
The fifth anniversary of the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) is an opportunity to celebrate the hard work and contribution of each member of the NSSN, from PhD students and senior researchers that solve our "impossible" challenges, to NSSN staff and leadership.
It is also an opportunity to farewell and thank one of the network’s founding co-directors, Professor Justin Gooding, who leaves the NSSN this month.
As a founding partner of the network, the University of Sydney urges industry and government partners to join with the network on its journey to make NSW a global leader in smart sensing.