Power of collaboration: NSW Smart Sensing Network celebrates fifth anniversary

15 Jul 2021
NSW Smart Sensing Network celebrates fifth anniversary

July 2021 marks the fifth anniversary of the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN). The first of the three NSW Innovation Networks, the NSSN was founded by UNSW Sydney and the University of Sydney with funding from the NSW State Government in 2016.

Smart sensors are intricate and compact devices that translate physical information into a digital form. They are found in the most basic technology in our homes, offices and cars. They detect, diagnose, and monitor the world around them, allowing predictive responses in various settings.

Led by the founding co-directors, UNSW Sydney Scientia Professor Justin Gooding and University of Sydney Nano Institute Director Professor Benjamin Eggleton, the NSSN brings together academia with industry and government to translate world-class research in smart sensing 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.

“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 Gooding and Professor Eggleton in a joint statement.

“The NSSN is totally stakeholder focussed 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.”

In addition to its founding universities, the NSSN membership has grown over the past five years to include The Australian National University (ANU), University of Canberra, Macquarie University, University of Newcastle, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and Western Sydney University.

The Network has delivered impact for its members by activating and leading several multimillion dollar collaborative research and development (R&D) programs to success.

Researchers from UNSW, ANU, 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. 

The collaboration succeeded in significantly raising the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of a range of innovations applicable to the water industry, with Sydney Water estimating savings of over $3 million per year directly attributable to the program.

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 research and development projects and avenues to receiving funding. 

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 UTS 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.

Under the first round of the NSSN Grand Challenges Fund, three research teams have received over $200,000 in funding to work with InteliCare, 3 Aim Solutions and the NSW Department of Industry, Environment, and Planning (DPIE) to deliver impactful solutions to the NSSN Grand Challenges in water and ageing.

The NSSN has developed a matchmaking platform to enable industry and government partners to browse through NSSN capabilities. The database serves as a comprehensive repository on researchers with expertise in smart sensing technologies from across NSSN member universities.

“The value of the Network to the academic community is the opportunity to work on impactful projects,” noted Professor Gooding and Professor Eggleton.

“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 a celebration that marks the success of a pioneering organisation that embodies the triple-helix model of innovation.

We 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 that make sure we deliver on our promise. The NSSN fifth anniversary is also an opportunity to say thank you and farewell to one of our founding co-directors, Professor Justin Gooding, who leaves the Network in July 2021.

Join us on our journey to make NSW a recognised global leader in smart sensing.