Learning together

AUT University has always had a strong focus on innovation and preparing students for the changing world. It’s not surprising then, that AUT was attracted to an initiative designed to solve human problems, ignite creativity, and remove roadblocks to optimising the innovation chain.

AUT is the first university to join ng Connect, a global programme created by Alcatel- Lucent to maximise the opportunities from ultra-fast broadband (UFB). Ng Connect now has more than 250 members worldwide, all working to devise business and economic solutions to drive the next generation of online user experience.

Richard Fraser, Alcatel-Lucent’s Australasian director of emerging technology and commercialisation, says the university was a natural fit for ng Connect.

“AUT offers a depth of sector-specific expertise and can provide research, both in terms of business and economic insight, but also technical knowledge around certain subject areas such as ‘smart cities’ and the role of fibre in New Zealand business,” says Fraser.

AUT University Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack says Alcatel- Lucent is a company keen on encouraging innovation and the innovative use of new technology, and it shares many of AUT’s goals.

“As a university, innovation is at the heart of what we do, and developing closer relationships with industry and business so we can engage in knowledge-exchange partnerships is key to generating new enterprise.

“Ng Connect provides another opportunity for AUT to participate in this way and to add our expertise.”

McCormack says AUT’s thought leaders and researchers could benefit from and contribute to the kinds of approaches the ng Connect programme provides.

“We have people involved in neuro computing, design engineering, sports science, health developments, biomedical devices, supply chain management – the list goes on.

“Just about every area of the university could be involved, and possibly benefit from, UFB.”

McCormack believes the collaborative, cross-sector environment that ng Connect provides is perfect for AUT and its positioning as the university for the changing world.

“The world is changing rapidly and universities need to participate in that change and respond to it, so they can contribute that understanding to students and anyone relying on their services,” McCormack says.

“It’s clear that ng Connect will become a forum where deeper conversations and engagement with industry can occur.”

From a research and innovation perspective, any projects involving ‘big data’ or the need to move data quickly, will benefit from the innovation initiatives that may come out of ng Connect.

AUT academics and students are undertaking research and working with companies in many areas that rely on telecommunications infrastructure and UFB, says Dr Luke Krieg, AUT’s manager of commercial research.

“Colab, our interdisciplinary research institute, is a high-tech facility that’s open to students and collaboration with business and industry,” Dr Krieg says.

“Some of the work Colab is looking at – such as creative technologies and content, with applications for film, mobile, gaming and computer animation – is extremely data-hungry, particularly when we’re collaborating live with others around New Zealand and overseas.

“Our radio astronomy research and participation in the Square Kilometre Array is also limited by the broadband link across the Tasman. We have all the right conditions with our clear and radio-quiet Southern Hemisphere skies but we just don’t yet have the connectivity we need.”

AUT University students and researchers recently had the chance to collaborate with industry at the first New Zealand ng Connect ideation session. These two-day structured creativity sessions are designed to foster deliberate and continuous innovation, says Richard Fraser.

In August, Alcatel-Lucent, together with Chorus, hosted 60 people from 18 companies, including representatives from AUT. Together they looked at the challenges and opportunities, and the new business and service-delivery models that will be possible by leveraging UFB.

“The aim was to discuss the impact of technology – particularly UFB – on various sectors across the New Zealand economy, including agriculture, transport, media, automotive and public services,” says Fraser. “The session resulted in three new service concept ideas, which we’re now working on developing into application concepts.”

McCormack and Dr Krieg believe the conversations and market insights gained in these sessions are likely to reveal future R&D opportunities for AUT.

“Clearly ng Connect is a great platform for us to engage with industry via an interdisciplinary approach where our researchers from different fields can look at ways of solving future industry problems or generic challenges,” says Dr Krieg.

“Being part of ng Connect allows our students and researchers to work closely with both new and existing commercial partners.

“We feel very privileged to be the first New Zealand university involved in ng Connect – it’s perhaps an indication of the flexibility AUT can bring to the table, and it’s an ideal forum for us to showcase the work we’re doing.”

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