Artificial intelligence a game-changer for future jobs

From complex software systems that sort through medical data, to drones that monitor crop health, South Australian industries are embracing the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and cutting edge technologies.

International AI expert Dr John Flackett says SA is well placed to adopt AI and machine learning in health care, defence and agriculture sectors, providing new job pathways for future generations.

According to Dr Flackett, an AI researcher and co-founder of start-ups koolth and AiLab, we’re ready for the transformation but need to ensure we have policy and regulation in place.

“We have a really forward thinking start-up economy in SA and we have people interested in innovation,” he says.

“There are some fine opportunities for using AI, if we look at space, agriculture, tourism and healthcare. Having doctors look at hundreds, even thousands of x-ray images to try and spot cancers or health issues, when we can train machines to do that work in a fraction of the time.

“But I think it’s really important that when we apply AI to sectors such as healthcare we don’t take the human out of the link totally. When we’re using AI tools and techniques we have to think carefully about the way we’re using the technology.”

Dr John Flackett’s Adelaide-based AiLab assists individuals, academia, industry, communities and governments worldwide on how to navigate the complex field of AI.

The gradual take-up of new-tech is slowly making its way into workplaces, with the demand for AI talent set to grow in the state as entrepreneurship and innovation become key career opportunities in the future.

A number of industries and businesses are already thriving with AI and machine learning technologies including Adelaide-based company Presagen which recently raised $4.5 million in seed funding to market its AI medical technology that improves fertility outcomes for IVF couples.

The product, Life Whisperer, uses a cloud-based analysis platform that improves the accuracy of healthy embryo selection in IVF treatments.

AI-driven technologies are also emerging in the agricultural industry, with drones carrying sensors and infrared mapping capabilities used to assess crop health and give a clearer picture of crop yield.

Dr Flackett, also a software engineer, has more than 20 years’ experience in AI, achieving a PhD in AI (machine learning and natural language processing) in 2005. Migrating to Australia from the UK around the same time, he co-founded smart web specialist company koolth before embarking on his second business venture, AiLab, with co-founder Emma Berry.

Dr Flackett regularly runs AI workshops and presents at events in the UK, Europe, the US and Australia to help demystify the world of AI and educate people on how it can empower businesses and transform how we live. The role of AiLab is to assist individuals, academia, industry, the community and government across the globe on how to navigate the complex field of AI and stay up to date with relevant progressions via education programs.

Dr Flackett says the field of AI – a term coined in the 1950s – is thriving “because humans have always wanted to automate tasks and build machines that can help”.

“AI as a field is really about that lofty goal of ‘can we build machines that are as intelligent as us?’ That’s called artificial general intelligence,” he says.

While Dr Flackett believes that the take-up of AI will be a huge disrupter to industry and workplaces, the key is to “not take the human out of it”.

AI is used in the ag-tech industry through drones that can assess crop health and give a clearer picture of crop yield.

“Personally, my approach is to embrace the advances and work with the technology. But you can’t take the human out of the process. You can’t get that personal customer experience with AI, so we need to be looking at AI to help inform our decisions, free up our time to interact with people and collaborate with others.

“The thing about automation and AI is that it drives a collaborative approach to jobs. For instance, the development of smart drones … in order to build such a system, many companies need to collaborate. If we’re producing AI-based image recognition technology we probably wouldn’t want to build the actual drone so we’d collaborate with a company that builds drones and then we’d supply the AI software skillset.

“I think that’s what we’ll start to see around future jobs, those skills sets of people being able to collaborate and communicate.”

Dr Flackett, who recently founded and organised Adelaide’s Artificial Intelligence meetup series, sponsored by AiLab and the Australian Institute for Machine Learning, says more work is to be done to encourage more investment into AI in Australia, and to develop policy and regulation.

He says SA is already ahead in nurturing talent for transforming industries as we have a highly skilled workforce that is ready to transfer its skills into emerging industries such as space and ag-tech.

Dr Flackett also explains that future employment pathways for today’s young people are likely to be varied and take more than one route.

“I refer to future jobs rather than future careers,” he says. “The career path that we’re used to is disappearing … according to the FYA (Foundation for Young Australians) people leaving school are going to have 17 different jobs, that whole career for life is virtually gone now.

“What we need to do is leverage the skills we already have, and transfer these skills to a rapidly changing workplace.”

Industry in focus: Careers of the Future

Throughout the months of May and June, future careers in South Australia will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

Embracing innovation, creativity and an understanding of building quality partnerships with technology is key to ensuring career opportunities in the future. SA is taking necessary steps to equip future generations with the skills for future careers and current workforces to transition to the future industries.

Read more Careers of the Future stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SA’s chief entrepreneur helps new talent take flight

An early career as an elite air force fighter pilot led to the state’s Chief Entrepreneur building a global defence company with 700 employees, now he is helping the state’s next generation find their wings.

“If young people want to see themselves having a high-flying career they can go and work for a really large company,” Jim Whalley says. “Or they can create their own careers and their own companies from here that hopefully will go global.”

The chair and co-founder of defence company Nova Systems believes the state is the ideal training ground for young South Australians to choose the career path that involves building their own businesses. This, he says, is a state founded on a spirit of entrepreneurship along with social and religious freedom.

“Look at the Smith brothers for example, they flew from London to Australia (in 1919) but had to find their own finance, source their own aircraft, it was entrepreneurship to get the aircraft here but also to get support for the project,” Jim says.

“I think if you look at the number of Nobel Laureates per capita in SA, if we were a country we’d sit somewhere between Sweden and Switzerland, we’re somewhere in the top 10%. This is just the sort of spirit that we want, we’ve got the capability, the technical support.”

And Jim says there is strong financial support from the State Government.

SA’s Chief Entrepreneur Jim Whalley says the state has strong support for start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovation.

Budding entrepreneurs have access to funding for start-ups, space innovation, there is an export accelerator and venture capital fund along with precincts being created across Adelaide for start-ups that help accelerate them to commercialisation.

The new Lot Fourteen precinct on the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site in the city for example is leading the way as it is transformed into a neighbourhood entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Jim says the idea is to support innovative ideas and develop a state that is resilient.

“I’m a big believer in chaos creating an opportunity, the more change there is the more opportunity for companies that can think on their feet and enforce development and change.”

He believes jobs of the future “will be unpredictable” with a strong digital focus and the next generation is likely to change their employment paths more regularly.

“Coding for example will, I think, be something everyone will need to understand, it will be part of the curriculum like other languages,” he says. “Those who think and perform well in the future will need to be comfortable with high levels of uncertainty, to be able to think disruptively and think differently and think entrepreneurially.”

His own company Nova Systems started in SA as a defence company and now also has three offices in the United Kingdom, one in Singapore, Norway and Ireland. It has contracts working on Future Submarines, the Air Warfare Destroyers, and Joint Strike Fighter project but also in other industries including oil, gas and mining projects.

Jim Whalley is a former air force fighter pilot and test pilot.

Jim says he stepped down as CEO a few years ago after asking staff member Greg Hume “do you want to have a go at running the company?”

“It sent a very clear message to the middle management team that they could be CEO one day and whilst the company was a private company you didn’t have to be a member of the family to be a senior manager. We’ve got about 700 staff members now and I would like to reach the 1000 mark in the next two to three years.”

Jim was made the state’s first Chief Entrepreneur last year, and in his role is supporting a $6.3 million pilot program for the state’s public high schools that was created by the Entrepreneurship Commercialisation and Innovation Centre at the University of Adelaide.

It involves creating five specialist entrepreneurial high schools with State Government backing and “is about kids that have a little bit of entrepreneurial spirit getting a little bit of a leg up”.

“Basically it’s about giving them a bit of freedom to start businesses through courses, experimentation, to go and write a business plan and complete some leadership courses, to have a financial understanding about the things you need to know,” he says.

“It’s about coming up with an idea and knowing how to act on it.”

Jim thinks the environment is right for the state to continue building on its commitment to a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem that will support a dynamic economy.

“We live in one of the best countries and best states in the world. We want for very little and and we have people who are more than capable of operating on a world stage,” he adds.

Industry in focus: Careers of the Future

Throughout the months of May and June, future careers in South Australia will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

Embracing innovation, creativity and an understanding of building quality partnerships with technology is key to ensuring career opportunities in the future. SA is taking necessary steps to equip future generations with the skills for future careers and current workforces to transition to the future industries.

Read more Careers of the Future stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SACE structure shaping our students for future jobs

Space, technology, creative industries, healthy ageing, all careers dominating the state’s future – but South Australia also wants its students learning to be first rate human beings.

It is a bold message from the chief executive of the hugely important SA Certificate of Education (SACE) Board, the group shaping more than 100 subjects available to Year 11 and Year 12 students.

Professor Martin Westwell says the board wants the state’s students to have access to important subjects but also to learn to be flexible, solve problems and importantly, apply their knowledge.

He quotes the esteemed director of education for the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Andre Schleicher, who was in Adelaide for a national conference for educational assessors in April.

“He warned that if we keep focusing on proficiency alone we will be developing second class robots and not first class humans,” the SACE Board CEO says. “We want to develop first class humans.”

Prof Westwell says there are high-profile industries developing in SA including world-class health research, the space industry, advanced manufacturing using high technology, and creative industries ranging from festivals to film.

More traditional industries like mining and resources, education and healthy ageing are also likely to remain strong employers, but Prof Westwell says students must be prepared for uncertainty.

“There was a Deloitte report that came out a few years ago showing the shelf life of skills is getting shorter and shorter,” he says.

That is why young people need skills to have careers rather than long-term jobs, Prof Westwell says.

“(For example) teams will become more important so we’ve got diversity, having proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) will be important. But you will also need skills to influence people, to support decision making to help people to imagine the imaginable so that it becomes (possible).”

Prof Westwell’s own career has followed unexpected paths; he was born into a long line of electricians in north-west England but turned out to be more academically suited.

SACE Board CEO Professor Martin Westwell says diversity in students education is important in preparing them for future careers. Photo by JKTP.

He studied at Wigan Mining College before winning a place at the esteemed Cambridge University to study chemistry including completing a PhD in biology chemistry before moving to Oxford University as a research fellow.

Work at a drug company spun out of the university followed, then Prof Westwell led a research project looking at how technology changes the way people think for the Research Institute for the Future of the Mind at Oxford University.

In 2007, he was lured to Flinders University after having visited SA with his wife who is a teacher, and the two deciding it was the right place for their careers and also bringing up their two sons now aged 17 and 21.

Prof Westwell was made director of the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century, working on getting research to have maximum impact on the community. One project involved improving education results in schools.

“We worked with every public school in Port Augusta, pre, primary and high school, looking at young people’s cognitive learning to improve numeracy,” he says.

“In the high school when we started they were getting just over 60% of students reaching the national minimum for proficiency and that changed to more than 90%.”

Prof Westwell was a board member of SACE for five years before taking on the role as CEO in January 2018, tasked with overseeing $10.6 million in funding to transform the SA Certificate of Education.

In this time there has been renewal on the SACE Board, the first of Year 12 electronic exams and work on subject renewal for more than 60 subjects with one major focus.

“We’ll be asking students to put their knowledge into practice,” Prof Westwell says.

“We now quote Tony Wagner from Harvard University, ‘the world no longer cares what our students know, it cares about what they can do with what they know’.”

There are also plans to involve industry in developing new future jobs subjects including cyber security. Prof Westwell wants to build a system where employers and investors can know students who study the SACE know more than the basics, “I want them to be able to really infer something about young South Australians”.

“When we have a complex and uncertain job future we need expertise, we need flexibility, diversity,” he says.

“I think professionally, SA education is world leading in many ways and the way in which we go about it in this state is unusual, it is done by partnership, there’s a real feeling that we are all in this together for the success of our students.

“I think personally, one of the key drivers for us to coming to SA is we wanted our kids to have their childhood here, it’s a fantastic place to grow up, there’s a great education system here.”

Industry in focus: Careers of the Future

Throughout the months of May and June, future careers in South Australia will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

Embracing innovation, creativity and an understanding of building quality partnerships with technology is key to ensuring career opportunities in the future. SA is taking necessary steps to equip future generations with the skills for future careers and current workforces to transition to the future industries.

Read more Careers of the Future stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Doors open for opportunities in future careers

From the defence sector and cyber security to artificial intelligence and robotics – South Australia’s future industries are the great engines of change.

It’s a serious but exciting transition away from the once-thriving auto-manufacturing sector and towards these prosperous future industries that will lead to an increase in demand for skilled workers.

SA businesses to have already found solutions and strengths in our growing future industries include Axiom Precision Manufacturing, which once specialised in automotive parts manufacturing but has now transitioned into design and manufacturing for the aerospace, defence, rail, mining and health industries.

Two former car making factories – the Mitsubishi plant (now Tonsley) in Adelaide’s south and the Holden site in Adelaide’s north – have been reawakened into innovation districts and business parks home to thriving start-ups and global giants taking their products to the world.

But as our state continues its trajectory towards a new and brighter future, we must equip our children and students with the necessary skills and tools to navigate future workplaces.

Axiom Precision Manufacturing’s operations supervisor Shannon Wride started as an apprentice in 2006 with the company that focused on work for the automotive industry. Now Axiom works for defence, aerospace, mining, rail and medical companies.

The future success of our state rests in the hands of young people and we – both now and in the future – must embrace change, innovation and entrepreneurship to allow the next generation’s workforce to thrive.

Throughout the months of May and June, Brand South Australia is exploring Careers of the Future as part of the successful I Choose SA campaign.

We’ll be exploring what SA industries could look like in 20 years’ time, what steps businesses, industry and government are taking to prepare us for the future, and what skill requirements our children need for future workplaces.

Here at Brand SA News we’ll bring you a series of news articles on Careers of the Future and share the stories of people who are leading in fields of artificial intelligence, defence, health and ageing, entrepreneurialism, STEM education, advanced manufacturing and the space industry.

First up, we’ll bring you an interview with the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) Board CEO Professor Martin Westwell, who will share his thoughts on the importance of growing and fostering future jobs through the curriculum and early STEM education.

We’ll also engage with Dr John Flackett, an expert in artificial intelligence (AI) who runs AiLab, a business assisting other businesses as well as academia, industry, community and government to navigate the complex field of AI and where it will take us in the future.

Throughout our exploration of Careers of the Future, it will become apparent how SA is preparing for the changing tides in industry and setting itself up to take on such projects as the $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Program and the Australian Space Agency’s establishment at Lot Fourteen.

An artist’s impression of innovation hub Lot Fourteen, once fully redeveloped. Photo: Renewal SA.

Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is set to strengthen, with SA the first in the nation to trial a new entrepreneur’s visa that aims to attract foreign entrepreneurs and investors to the state.

Lot Fourteen innovation district, the site of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital, will be a hotspot for future jobs and home to growing industries such as AI, cyber security, smart sensor networks, robotics, big data, defence, and the creative industries. The Australian Space Agency will also be established there, including the new co-operative research centre for smart satellite technologies.

Our future businesses are likely to be smaller and more nimble, with technologies such as blockchain, augmented reality, virtual reality and machine learning changing how they operate by making them more efficient.

A report released in 2017 by the Foundation for Young Australians revealed that a teenager today is more likely to have 17 different jobs and more than five careers in their lifetime. So how do we prepare them for this shift and for future work?

Keen to learn more? Come along to Brand South Australia’s Careers of the Future Industry Briefing on Monday May 13, 4–5.30pm, at Lot Fourteen. Guests will hear from Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni, The NeuroTech Institute founder Dr Fiona Kerr, cyber security specialist for Naval Group Nathan Morelli and Renewal SA (Lot Fourteen) director of place and marketing, Rachel Walsh. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Industry in focus: Careers of the Future

Throughout the months of May and June, future careers in South Australia will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

Embracing innovation, creativity and an understanding of building quality partnerships with technology is key to ensuring career opportunities in the future. SA is taking necessary steps to equip future generations with the skills for future careers and current workforces to transition to the future industries.

Read more Careers of the Future stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SA’s food waste solutions set to drive a new economy

Food waste is global scourge of alarming enormity – worth an estimated $1.6 trillion annually – but South Australia is placed at the forefront of finding new ecological and economic solutions.

In July 2018, the Federal Government announced the allocation of $30 million in funds to establish the Fight Food Waste Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) in Adelaide, a commitment by industry and government worth a combined $121 million over 10 years to combat Australia’s estimated $20 billion annual food waste bill.

Having completed contracts between all parties making contributions to the CRC – being a unique combination of 43 industry partners, eight universities and five state government partners – the program’s first six research and development projects were approved two weeks ago.

Dr Steven Lapidge, CEO of the Fight Food Waste CRC, based in the Wine Innovation Building at Urrbrae, says that while work on many projects will occur around the nation and have a national impact, SA was the natural home for the centre.

Split and damaged citrus bound for waste.

“From container recycling to banning plastic bags, SA has been a leader in sustainability for a long time. We also have the lowest food waste per capita,” says Steven.

“Now we take it to the next level. Driving large-scale change through innovation represents a huge opportunity in this state. Australia was lagging 10 years behind Europe, and now this CRC is the largest enterprise committed to research and development of food waste solutions in the world.

“We are in a position to play a critical leading role. We need to, because the global statistics are staggering. It’s estimated that 33% of all food produced is wasted – and 50% of all fruit and vegetables grown end up as waste, most of it becoming land fill.”

Research and development initiatives are an increasing focus of international attention. Steven spoke with Brand SA News on Stop Food Waste Day (April 24), a US-based online initiative driven by major food industry bodies, calling for people to become food waste warriors, by taking a pledge to raise community awareness about the issue.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Tim Whetsone, speaks at the CRC launch.

“What is happening in industry to combat food waste is going hand-in-hand with a zealous public awareness campaign, all designed to give the smart initiatives maximum traction,” says Steven. “They not only make environmental sense. Businesses make profits from turning their own waste products into something of value that can be sold.”

One of the CRC’s first projects will be exploring new packaging initiatives for food, which Steven says is of critical importance.

“Public sentiment is distorting the argument around food packaging. There needs to be a more balanced understanding about what can be done with smarter and more efficient packaging to help eradicate food waste through prolonging food shelf life and reducing spoilage.”

Food waste transformation projects are already in motion, led by the local potato industry. SA has the four largest producers in the country, producing about 80% of Australia’s premium potatoes.

Currently 45% go to waste, but the University of Adelaide is working with Potatoes SA to turn discarded fresh potatoes into puree, dairy-free ice cream and vodka. With potatoes being the third largest commodity in the world, these waste transformation ideas are set to have significant international traction.

Two more of the initial food waste transformation projects are with the SA-based abalone and national prawn fisheries, to prevent waste of expensive ingredients when they are being processed, to ensure greater profitability in fisheries.

Already, the SA Research and Development Institute has helped to transfer lobster processing by-products into lobster oil and dehydrated powder.

“These are the sorts of changes that turn around farming profitability,” says Steven. “It has repercussions across so many industries throughout this state, and elsewhere.”

Steven is also confident the CRC outcomes will influence widespread behavioural change to reduce food waste, especially through the CRC’s industry connection hub that extends the centre’s influence.

“Between all of the partners involved in the CRC, we have a reach of 10 million people. It’s unheard of to have an extension network this big,” says Steven. “The outcomes from this CRC will have enormous influence and pass positive messages all along the supply chain.”

The Fight Food Waste CRC team and representatives from other bodies including SARDI and PIRSA.

Steven says the Fight Food Waste CRC expects to have about half its initial research portfolio in place by the middle of this year, representing about 20 projects. This includes such bright ideas as efficient processes to convert grape marc (waste grape pulp and stalks) into grape seed extract.

None is currently produced in Australia, despite the abundance of marc produced by the local wine industry. CRC participant Swisse Wellness is encouraging this project, as it currently needs to import large quantities of grape seed extract from France for use in its products.

Other ingredients used in nutraceuticals are derived from such horticultural products as carrots, broccoli, tomatoes – which are all high-waste crops in Australia.

Successful CRC research will inspire further initiatives, and have far-reaching effect. “Reports that have focused on the Circular Economy are promising new jobs – 25,000 are possible in SA, if it all comes to fruition,” says Steven.

“The solutions and new ideas that will be implemented through the Fight Food Waste CRC will be a big step towards heading in this direction.”

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

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Why a Dutch cardiologist calls Adelaide’s health research hub home

During the first week Dr Johan Verjans arrived in Adelaide to start a new job as a cardiologist he picked up the phone to search for more work opportunities.

“I had noticed one of the best computer vision groups in the world is actually based in Adelaide,” the cardiologist says.

He rang its chief to talk through opportunities in the health space and found the group receptive to his ideas – so receptive that he has now been named its deputy director Medical Machine Learning.

“Research is exploding in the artificial intelligence space, in Adelaide we have a clear advantage, with leading groups,” Dr Verjans says.

Dr Verjans believes the new job at the Australian Institute of Machine Learning complements his existing work list. This includes being a member of the heart research team at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and a practising cardiologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The latest task is about building a bridge between clinicians and engineers in a bid to make groundbreaking discoveries to improve health. Dr Verjans believes this interest in using artificial intelligence to advance health care could have worldwide ramifications.

Cardiologist Dr Johan Verjans is also deputy director of the Australian Institute of Machine Learning, and is on the heart research team at SAHMRI. Photo by JKTP.

“I think my best achievement will be in staying optimistic and working hard to facilitate this for the whole research family,” he says with a laugh.

It has already been a busy morning when the Dutch doctor answers the phone to talk about his move to Adelaide. He has already met with a potential project collaborator for the Australian Institute of Machine Learning and held a clinic for heart patients in the morning.

Dr Verjans says the hospital’s cardiac department has a wealth of information that can be fed into projects where machine learning can then improve the care for heart patients.

He is already involved in one project to use existing data from ECG (electrocardiogram), biomarkers and artificial intelligence to see if computers can help give better feedback in deciding when a patient can be safely sent home.

The talented cardiologist says Adelaide has a lot to offer in the health research field and that he and his wife, Yvette van Eenennaam chose to move from The Netherlands for both job opportunities and the state’s lifestyle.

Yvette has also won a key role in promoting health research in the city after she was appointed as the first general manager of Adelaide BioMed City after it was launched last year.

BioMed City is a partnership between SAHMRI with its more than 600 medical researchers, the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the state’s three universities.

“It’s hard to find that whole package like it is in Adelaide in other places, with liveability, ambition and world-class research,” Dr Verjans says.

The Australian Institute of Machine Learning is one of six research units at Adelaide University and Dr Verjans is among more than 100 researchers involved.

It’s a highly specialised field, but in simple terms, machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence that enables computers and machines to autonomously learn how to do complex tasks without being overtly programmed.

Computers are fed examples of data and information so they can look for patterns and help make better future decisions.

Yvette Eenennaam and Johan Verjans chose to pursue their medical careers in Adelaide over other leading health research cities.

Adelaide’s research unit is already recognised as a frontrunner in defence, creating algorithms for driverless cars, robotics and has helped push a medical device from SA-based LBT technologies to FDA approval.

“I’m thinking it will be a job growth area in Adelaide,” Dr Verjans says. “We’re really looking for solutions and at the moment we are only scratching the surface.”

Having Dr Verjans’ input is a coup for the state. His varied career also includes being chairman of the Dutch medical students and being a member of the federal board of the Royal Dutch Medical Doctors Federation.

A few of his Dutch students have actually followed him to Adelaide to pursue new opportunities “one worked with me as a student in Utrecht and now is here in Adelaide working”, he says.

Before he left for Australia Johan was also Chairman of Young@Heart, representing Dutch Early and Mid-career Cardiovascular Researchers on behalf of the Netherlands Heart Institute and Dutch Heart Foundation.

Both Dr Verjans and Yvette believe they have made a sound decision moving to Adelaide in 2017 with their two daughters aged seven and five.

“There’s so much more potential in this city and it’s relatively unknown what the city has to offer,” he says.

“Some people choose cities and jobs for wrong reasons, when I had job offers in Amsterdam and Sydney, we chose the liveable city.”

Dr Johan Verjans is Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador.

Industry in focus: Health

Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.

Read more health stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SA’s brightest medical minds dedicate careers to saving lives

Many of South Australia’s brightest medical minds, steering global innovations that save lives, belong to those who also show the greatest compassion.

Professor Tim Hughes – Cancer Theme Leader at the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Consultant Haematologist in the Division of Haematology at SA Pathology – has dedicated his career to fighting chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), a disease that proved fatal for most people diagnosed 20 years ago.

Now, about 80% of those who are diagnosed survive.

A profound connection and sense of devotion to those suffering with CML has driven Prof Hughes to find answers that can help those he has formed intimate bonds with during their treatment journey – and the results of his research breakthroughs have been outstanding.

“In the 1990s, I could never accept that a lot of my patients were dying. They would be doing OK on treatments for five or six years, and then die. I went to a lot of funerals. If that doesn’t motivate you to find a solution, I don’t know what will,” he says.

“Now, the results have been incredible. I get to meet the children of CML patients – and the grandchildren of patients. That has been one of the great pleasures of my work.”

Prof Tim Hughes has dedicated his career to fighting chronic myeloid leukaemia.

Motivation drove Prof Hughes to unlock one of the most significant discoveries in the history of leukaemia research – the use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). Outlining his methods with TKI therapy has ensured a system that can measure affected cells in blood more accurately, enabling a more detailed analysis of specific cancer-fighting drug development.

“It’s quite a remarkable change that we’ve seen in a short period,” he says, “but there is still a way to travel to beat this disease.”

Currently, Prof Hughes estimates that 80% of patients with CML beat the disease; of these, two thirds will remain on therapeutic drugs for the rest of their lives, but most importantly about 30% of patients can finish taking drugs for therapy and remain in remission.

His lingering concern is that 20% of patients still die of CML-related causes, and that drugs used for therapy are not ideal indefinite solutions. Recently, Prof Hughes’ team based at SAMRHI has pioneered a process to get patients off their TKIs, although this has significant adverse side-effects.

“We now need to take another big step. We made early leaps in fighting CML as the result of big collaborations, but the important work now is developing next generation drugs that are even more targeted and effective in beating the cancer.”

Prof Tim Hughes is Cancer Theme Leader at SAHMRI.

CML currently affects about 3000 patients a year in Australia, but the global impact of this disease is more alarming. By 2040, there are projected to be over three million people with CML worldwide, so Prof Hughes says a concerted global effort towards finding a complete a cure is imperative.

The iCMLf (International CML Foundation, for which Prof Hughes is the chairman) is making efforts to accelerate co-ordinating pockets of international research, to forge stronger collaborations between teams across the world that are separately making significant CML research developments. However, Prof Hughes says independent funds are required to speed this process.

As a result, and to mark 10 years of the iCMLf, Prof Hughes is part of a major fundraising and promotional event in late October – an expedition of 25 people, being a combination of doctors, researchers and several CML patients (some who are still taking drugs to suppress the leukeamia), that will climb to reach the 5800m summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.

“It’s a pretty clear message that we are all working together to reach the pinnacle,” says Prof Hughes. “For the Mt Kilimanjaro climb, we’re working outside our comfort zone – and that’s an appropriate metaphor, too. Without effort and commitment, you don’t achieve your goal.”

Prof Tim Hughes trains for a fundraising expedition up Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa later this year.

Over Easter, Prof Hughes walked the Great Ocean Road in Victoria as a training exercise, and he is busy appealing for donations towards the iCMLf fundraising goal of $100,000. He says this sum will keep supporting the application of CML advances from developed countries to developing nations. He has already seen great progress in Africa and India through 10 years of the foundation and hopes new funds will accelerate the process.

In October 2017, Prof Hughes won the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence for his work on CML, but he’s far from content with having played a major role in discovering a life-saving treatment. He now wants to beat the disease completely, and believes it is within reach.

“In 1993, I came to Adelaide to work specifically on this area of cancer research because I saw what was possible,” he says. “Now the ultimate result is tantalisingly close. I believe the pinnacle is within sight.”

To find out more details about Climb For A Cure, and to pledge financial support, visit the iCMLf website.

Industry in focus: Health

Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.

Read more health stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SA an ideal model for Industry 4.0 transformation

South Australia is ripe for the challenge to progress as industry and employment enters a state of transformation. The closure of production line automotive manufacturing has signalled a new era, with a raft of local businesses swiftly embracing digital industrialisation as the Industry 4.0 technological revolution quickly gathers global momentum – and several progressive companies emerge as shining lights to lead the way.

This paints an optimistic picture for future jobs and industry opportunities in SA according to Professor John Spoehr, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research Impact) at Flinders University, and director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.

He has seen rapid change to the state’s business and employment landscape during the past three years, propelled by an understanding across local industry that it is now crucial to act swiftly. This is attracting new industry, fresh international investment, new types of employment and new opportunities to the state.

Realising that an employment vacuum could impose widespread economic damage to a city – with former automotive towns such as Detroit providing an ominous example – Prof Spoehr says Adelaide is proving itself a nimble adaptor of technological innovations to drive new industry.

Professor John Spoehr says Adelaide is adapting to technological innovations to drive new industry.

Running apace with international development levels is ensuring that more opportunities for high-skill, high-pay employment is already occurring.

“Any fears that a digitised workforce must imply a jobless future is not the reality facing SA’s workforce,” says Prof Spoehr.

“It’s a time of great possibility and progress, and SA can provide a model for successful industrial transformation in Australia.”

Prof Spoehr examines this as editor and co-writer of South Australia – State of Transformation, a new book that issues an independent assessment of SA’s current economic, social and political landscape, while also exploring options and policy needs to lay the strongest possible path ahead.

He points to the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies in manufacturing by such companies as Micro-X, based at the Tonsley Innovation District, which is manufacturing lightweight portable X-ray machines (primarily used in disaster zones and emergency situations).

It has quickly won international orders for its products, and to meet demand the company has employed and re-trained many former Holden workers, building on their skill set to quickly provide Micro-X with an experienced and capable hi-tech manufacturing workforce.

“Micro-X has been very clever to make best use of an already skilled workforce of former Holden employees, showing how to be nimble at harnessing local skills, people and resources,” says Prof Spoehr. “For a young company, it has a very bright future.”

Inside Micro-X’s manufacturing facility at Tonsley Innovation District, a former automotive factory. Photo: Micro-X.

Redarc at Lonsdale, which manufactures advanced electronics that specialise in increased towing safety for off-road and heavy vehicles, has been one of the state’s most enthusiastic adopters of Industry 4.0 manufacturing technology.

The company’s transformation during the past 18 months under chief executive Anthony Kittel has been remarkable, resulting in collaborative robots being part of a holistic manufacturing plant expansion.

“These companies are addressing technically complex problems, and as a consequence they are generating high-skill, knowledge intensive and high wage jobs,” says Prof Spoehr. “This is the form of employment that we need more of to help underpin high living standards in SA.”

SAGE Automation, a leader in systems integration, automation solutions and data services to industry, is working across a raft of different industries, including defence, mining, transportation, logistics, utilities and manufacturing. Prof Spoehr says SAGE is helping local companies to take advantage of the digital revolution.

He notes that SAGE’s location within the Tonsley Innovation District has been transformative for the company, providing great benefits through its proximity to other innovative tech companies along with Flinders University researchers and leading students, with whom it has entered numerous collaborations.

A bird’s eye view (Dec, 2017) of the former Elizabeth Holden site, which has now been transformed into Lionsgate Business Park.

“This shows that the collaborations between universities and companies should be stronger in SA, because this will help accelerate the uptake of innovations in industry – and this is the crucial step forward.”

These leading businesses are also guiding the transition from old manufacturing to dynamic new tech industries and specialist manufacturers at the Tonsley Innovation District and Lionsgate Business Park in Elizabeth, both former automotive manufacturing plants.

The success of these districts also points to a promising pathway for current development of a new hi-tech industry hub at Lot Fourteen, within the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site in Adelaide.

“It shows that strong commitment and vision can transform sites into advanced manufacturing precincts,” says Prof Spoehr.

“Manufacturing employment did grow in SA during 2018, but now there has to be double the support for emerging SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) to remain at the cutting edge of what is happening globally.

“Australia must be a champion of innovation in both our services and manufacturing sectors – and SA can play a leading role.”

Hello from SA is the global community for South Australians living, working and learning interstate and abroad.

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Chief scientist Caroline McMillen taking SA research to the world

Six months into her three-year tenure as South Australia’s Chief Scientist and Professor Caroline McMillen is working towards her aim of taking the state’s health and science capabilities to the world.

Lured back to SA in 2018 after spending seven years in NSW, biomedical expert Prof McMillen is confident SA’s health research outcomes and infrastructure are “well above world-class” and our transforming industries capable of attracting international interest.

“I know from the work I do and access to detailed analyses that exist, that SA’s research is well above world standard,” she says. “The translation of that research delivers value to the state, it’s what brings people into SA, it builds new opportunities for business and industry and it’s what builds a global footprint to put SA on the map.”

“World-class, high-quality research, when it includes collaboration and engagement with industry and government, drives and delivers real impact for our economy, our health and our environment.”

Prof McMillen draws attention to the work required to attract over $100 million in funding for a co-operative research centre focused on SA satellites, an example of how great research, collaboration and investment can build a new space industry sector right here in the state.

Succeeding former Chief Scientist Leanna Read, Prof McMillen gives independent advice to the State Government, education institutions and industry on matters of science, research, technology and innovation.

SA’s chief scientist Caroline McMillen returned to SA after seven years as vice chancellor at the University of Newcastle. She is pictured at SAHMRI. Photo by JKTP.

Prof McMillen’s own research is internationally recognised, in particular, her research into the impact of the nutritional environment in early development on cardiovascular health and metabolic disease later in life.

Born in Northern Ireland and growing up in England, Prof McMillen went on to attend Oxford University, where she completed a BA (Honours) and a Doctor of Philosophy. She also completed her medical training, graduating with a MB, BChir from the University of Cambridge.

Moving to Australia in the early 1990s, Prof McMillen launched a career at Victoria’s Monash University in academic leadership roles before a call came for her to head to SA to lead the University of Adelaide’s Department of Physiology.

Prof McMillen’s family has been based in SA ever since, with her three children raised here and her husband still working as a doctor in a busy general practice at Christie’s Beach.

In 2011, she left SA to become the University of Newcastle’s vice chancellor and was instrumental in driving collaboration between industry, researchers, start-ups and investors, leading the institution towards its ranking in the top 1% of universities worldwide.

During her time in Newcastle, Prof McMillen travelled regularly back to SA to be with family. However, it wasn’t until she made the move back permanently last year that she was able to appreciate the full extent of Adelaide’s rejuvenation, both from a lifestyle perspective – small bars, laneways, and affordable living – and from an industry and economic perspective.

“There is a literature on ‘magnet cities’, cities that have gone through a period of decline and then transition to blossom,” Prof McMillen says.

“At the heart of that transition are creative, young professionals. Whether it’s Pittsburg or Barcelona, across the world you can chart journeys of these cities from decline to success. I think the creative industries in Adelaide and the strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) base provides the city with a real buzz and sets Adelaide on a clear upward trajectory.”

Settling into her role as Chief Scientist, Prof McMillen is engaging with businesses, government departments and key industry stakeholders in a range of STEM fields and is currently working on The State of Science Plan with government agencies to determine future priorities and strategies to build SA as ‘The State of Science’.

She also meets with start-ups, university students and faculty members, as well as school students to discuss pathways into STEM careers and engage with the next generation of researchers.

SA chief scientist Professor Caroline McMillen is a champion for science education and gender equality in STEM. Photo by JKTP.

Prof McMillen is a champion for gender equality in STEM and highlighting issues that are still prevalent in the sector, including the gender pay gap.

A study conducted by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel showed in 2011 that only 16% of people with a STEM qualification were female.

“When I became a scientist many years ago at Oxford I was pretty sure that we’d have any gender issues sorted in a few years, but it turns out I was wrong,” Prof McMillen says. “I’ll be more than 100 years old before 50% of our professors in science are women and frankly I don’t think we should have to wait that long!”

As part of her role, she continues to champion women at all stages of their careers in STEM and is determined that SA can lead the change towards gender equity in science careers.

“I’m keen to be able to do that and make sure we’re having the outcomes that will set the stage for success for girls and women in STEM,” Prof McMillen says.

“SA has reached many gender equality milestones, we were the first in the world to run for parliament, so if there’s any state that can do it, it’s us.”

Prof Caroline McMillen is Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador for the health industry.

Industry in focus: Health

Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.

Read more health stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Largest indigenous health program based in SA

Adelaide’s renowned health precinct is home to some of the nation’s best researchers fighting shocking statistics showing indigenous Australians have a 10 year lower life expectancy.

The precinct’s Aboriginal Health Research Unit is now the largest dedicated indigenous health program in Australia – and possibly the world.

“This is extremely unusual, all of our work is focused on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people and we focus our work on things most important to their communities,” says Professor Alex Brown.

When Prof Brown was appointed to lead the unit at the new world-class South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) in 2012 there was only one another staff member. Now it has 58 staff with half of the team indigenous.

“Identifying and supporting people to develop career opportunities in research is part of our core foundation,” Prof Brown says. “It makes us better, it makes it more real, more translatable in terms of policy and practice and keeps us accountable to what communities want us to deliver.”

When Prof Brown was first approached about the job seven years ago, he saw a rare opportunity to establish this unique Aboriginal response in the heart of the precinct near the River Torrens. Most research in this vital area was usually retrofitted at an existing institution.

Professor Alex Brown leads the Aboriginal Health Research Unit, one of the e largest programs of its kind in Australia.

“We went from one staff to 50 staff fairly quickly and all because people have realised how unique an opportunity this is to make a substantial difference in Aboriginal health,” he says. “We started with asking the community what their research priorities were.”

The Wardliparingga team in the unit, named after a Kaurna term meaning ‘house river place’, has particularly focused on finding ways to reduce the impact and incidence of chronic disease along with understanding psychosocial determinants of illness and health.

It has also focused on determining how disparities in access to quality treatments and services can be improved to drive better health outcomes.

The disparity in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is still significant, not just in terms of life expectancy, but generally in rates of heart and kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and depression.

Prof Brown says the unit is currently running about 40 different research projects and “we would be in the top group of researchers in terms of Aboriginal health across the country in what we do, and the sheer size of us as a group, we’re one of the best”.

He has been at the forefront in tackling the issue since he first trained in medicine in New South Wales consistently working to engage governments and agencies in making change.

Professor Alex Brown addresses media.

Prof Brown completed a Masters of Public Health and worked in Alice Springs managing the local Centre for Disease Control before starting in research, earning a PhD exploring the links between psychosocial stress, depression and heart disease in indigenous men. He is now also a professor of Aboriginal Health at the University of Adelaide.

At SAHMRI, Prof Brown is proud of the work the unit has achieved in policy recommendations and “we’ve trained a whole generation of young Aboriginal people to pursue careers in research”.

He is likely to have further impact on national change after being named as co-chair of a new advisory board overseeing the allocation of $160 million in national funding for indigenous health research announced in February by the Federal Government.

As part of the funding, $35 million was earmarked to develop a vaccine to eliminate Rheumatic heart disease, a complication of bacterial infections of the throat and skin. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 64 times more likely to develop the disease than non-indigenous people.

Prof Brown also sits on a range of national committees, including the Heart Foundation and the Cardiac Society Indigenous Cardiovascular Council and was previously a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council. Yet his core work is still firmly in SA.

“This is exactly the right place for us to be, we’re in the middle of the country, we can commute anywhere, we can access metropolitan, regional and remote communities we want to work across,” he says.

“There’s a single health system, single administrative structure and we’re in the heart of the medical research precinct…. Aboriginal health is right in the heart of it, it couldn’t be in a better place.”

Industry in focus: Health

Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.

Read more health stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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