Strong leadership is clearly identifying Flinders as a centre of progress and innovation, illustrated by the launch in February of the Tonsley Manufacturing Innovation (TMI) Hub, a world-class collaborative facility that provides access to cutting-edge technology. Facilitated by a $490,000 investment from the State Government to purchase a state-of-the-art Festo i4.0 Cyber Physical Factory, the TMI Hub will support research and education around the Industry 4.0 agenda. This will provide practical training and real-world research opportunities for students, researchers and businesses wanting to embrace automation, advanced robotics and the Internet of Things.
Innovative thinking continues to be fostered by Flinders’ New Venture Institute which was named best university incubator in the Asia-Pacific by the UBI World Benchmark Study, beating some 1,300 other business incubators from 53 countries. The accolade recognises the success of the New Venture Institute in incubating some 230 start-ups and educating more than 2,000 people in the skills required for success in innovation and enterprise. Support grants from the federal government’s Entrepreneur Program within the National Innovation and Science Agenda also enabled the establishment of the eNVIsion Limestone Coast incubator for south-eastern South Australia, with a focus on job creation and exports that will be supported by the Mount Gambier Council and the Government of South Australia.
Innovation and innovative technology permeates all that we do – and is embedded in Flinders’ commitment to sustainability. Our Bedford Park campus is being transformed through the installation of one of Adelaide’s largest rooftop solar arrays, comprising a solar car-port featuring 4,136 solar panels, and a further 1,681 solar panels across six campus buildings, generating some 20 per cent of Flinders’ core campus electricity needs. The 1.8MW system will generate an estimated 2,700MWh per annum and is expected to pay for itself within five years. Flinders aims to reduce campus electricity demand by 30 per cent (from a 2015 baseline) through renewable energy generation and storage, in our quest to achieve zero net emissions from electricity by 2020.
The University’s international reach is also expanding. In a ceremony witnessed by Prime Minister Turnbull and French President Macron, Flinders University signed important new research agreements with prestigious French Grandes Écoles Centrale Nantes and ENSTA Bretagne. Centrale Nantes researchers will work with the Flinders Centre for Nanoscale Science and Technology, and Centre for Maritime Engineering, Control and Imaging, on two key themes: additive manufacturing, and naval hydrodynamics and simulator development. In the other partnership, Flinders will partner with Thales Australia and ENSTA Bretagne on advanced sonar and marine robotics technologies.
Research strengths have also been recognised through almost $7 million in grants from the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), to find much- needed solutions to chronic pain, bowel cancer, drug delivery and improved childhood vaccinations, among many other projects. Flinders researchers also were awarded more than $9.5 million from the Australian Research Council to address student learning capacities, better gut health, and water resources management, through to improving health services in remote Indigenous communities. The highlight of the Australian Research Council support was the awarding of two prestigious Future Fellowships to high performing academics — Professor Karin Nordstrom and Professor Saulo Martelli.
Flinders digital psychiatry experts joined the national $200 million Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre. It will deliver cutting-edge, high-tech solutions to improve health outcomes and reduce pressure on Australia’s $170 billion-plus health budget, which faces dual burdens from an ageing population and chronic disease. Associate Professor Niranjan Bidargaddi from the College of Medicine and Public Health will work with tech companies such as RITEQ and goAct Pty Ltd to develop new software and mental health diagnostic tools.
The sum of this work has generated greater recognition for the University, underlined by our Times Higher Education ranking increasing from the 301-350 band into the 250-300 band. Flinders was ranked as a five-star university by the Good Universities Guide 2018 for student-teacher ratio, learning resources and skills development, placing us in the top tier of Australian universities in these crucial categories. Students rated their undergraduate experience at Flinders University above the national average on every measure in the 2018 Student Experience Survey, published on the federal government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching website. These positive results reflect the contributions of outstanding people at the core of this University.
It is also appropriate to applaud University staff who inspire our students, such as Professor Mark Shephard, who has created the largest point-of-care testing network for diabetes in Australia, and subsequently established an international centre that is helping people in 35 communities around the world. Gastroenterologist Professor Graeme Young won the Australian Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research for his innovative blood test for bowel cancer. Dr Sam Elliott won the inaugural Champion of Inclusion Award at the National Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Conference. Psychology Professor Tracey Wade has pioneered research that identifies genes and mechanisms for predicting and protecting against eating disorders. Professor Claire Smith was honoured with the 2018 Lucy Mair Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland for her research that has advanced the dignity of Indigenous people.
Such achievements represent the highest standards that this University cherishes and strives to uphold. It is most pleasing that all members of the Flinders University community are devoting their talents and energies towards ever-improving outcomes, which are driving us further along the path towards being within the top 1% of universities in the world.
Professor Colin J Stirling
President and Vice-Chancellor