Engagement and collaboration for a smart economy

Professor Guy Littlefair, Dean of Engineering in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment at Deakin University, was a guest speaker at the Manufacturers Pavilion at Austech 2015. The event was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in May, in conjunction with National Manufacturing Week.

 The title of Professor Littlefair’s presentation was ‘The role of universities in the advancement of manufacturing and design as a feature of the future Australian economy’. The key message was to encourage more engagement and collaboration between industry and universities in order to produce more innovative smart products and create better intellectual property.

With the current climate calling for a transformation from a commodity economy to a smart economy and for improving Australia’s competitiveness in global markets, Professor Littlefair said universities should be playing more of a leading role. To meet these opportunities and challenges, he believes universities and industry have to work together more directly to develop, create, invent and design smart products and technologies.

In this proposition, Professor Littlefair suggested that universities should form the R&D hub for industry of all sectors: food processing, agriculture biotechnologies, advanced manufacturing, material processing, medical, pharmaceutical and sports technology.

Moreover, universities hold an enormous amount of applied knowledge and technologies that can be transferred to industry. This knowledge transformation process can be supplemented by access to cutting edge resources and facilities, such as higher analytical tools and methods, testing instrumentations, and simulation systems. Having these resources in hand will assist the development of smarter products, solid intellectual property and longer shelf life/sustainability in the market.

In his conclusion, Professor Littlefair discussed his recently developed “sustainable business triangle model” of the nexus between Industrial Technology, Industrial Engineering and Industrial Design and the need for all three of these disciplines to be connected in order to have smarter products and technology and help secure a sustainable economy for Australia. He observed that currently Australia is very good in Industrial Technology but more limited in Industrial Engineering, with more focus being required to strengthen the Industrial Design component in the Australian market.

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