Embracing the new technological frontier starts in SA

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the great engines of change driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0, as it is commonly called – and Adelaide has quickly positioned itself as an important hub for helping businesses implement the great challenge to adapt and innovate.

This has resulted in local companies automating tasks from screening for urinary tract infections to monitoring pests inside horticultural greenhouses, using innovative computer programs and machines that have been invented locally.

The Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), located on North Terrace but soon to be relocated within the Lot Fourteen innovation hub (the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site), offers South Australian businesses the chance to be early machine learning adaptors.

Having emerged in early 2018 from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Visual Technologies (ACTV), led by global expert in video semantics Professor Anton van den Hengel, the AIML has received $7.1 million funding from the State Government (in addition to $5 million invested by the University of Adelaide) to work on such programs as improving traffic flow, defence projects and assisting the progression of emerging small and medium-sized enterprises.

The AIML is ranked third in the world in computer vision research. Its work is also focused on applying research outcomes to industry.

The institute’s impact and influence is growing rapidly. In the decade since ACTV began and morphed into AIML, the team has grown from five people to more than 100, including the brightest minds emerging from the university’s mathematics and computer science courses.

While a third of AIML’s work pursues pure research, which has it currently ranked third in the world in computer vision, it also focuses on applying research outcomes to industry needs.

“This research is keeping us ahead of the curve. Technology has a six-month cycle before it takes the next leap – it truly is moving that quickly,” explains AIML business development manager Paul Dalby. “Most organisations can’t afford to staff this, so we have the pool of talent they can draw upon.”

AIML researchers and technicians are trying to teach machines new ways of solving complex manufacturing and industrial problems, training computers how to do tasks on their own through deep learning programs, and implement faster ways of completing tasks.

LBT Innovations was among the first SA-based businesses to achieve commercial outcomes from working with AIML. The company, which focuses on clinical microbiology, initially went to ACVT in 2010 with the idea of automating the reading of inoculated petri dishes while screening for urinary tract infections.

CEO of LBT Innovations Brent Barnes.

This is a time-consuming task for scientific specialists that mostly registered negative readings, and after extensive research, testing and trials, LBT had its own patented machine (the Automated Plate Assessment System) ready for international sale by the end of 2018.

“It’s not a speedy process to develop an original idea – creating and testing something that is not an off-the-shelf algorithm – but now we have arrived first in this part of the global healthcare market,” says Brent Barnes, CEO of LBT Innovations. “It’s great that we have been able to initiate this world first from Adelaide.”

Machine Learning can also take effect at more simplistic levels for businesses. AIML has supported graduate Jordan Yeomans to launch his company Advanced Innovations, which is helping farmers growing vegetables in greenhouses at Virginia, just north of Adelaide.

He has switched their pest monitoring from a manual to automated system, using smartphone links to custom-designed AI computer software.

The success of this process – which Jordan estimates saves about 20 hours of manual labor a week – will provide the springboard for Advanced Innovations to work with greenhouses around Australia.

Other early adopters taking advantage of this homegrown expertise include Maptek, Sydac and Signostics. AIML will also reinforce and improve leading SA organisations from SAHMRI to the renewable energy sector, ensuring they remain at the forefront of global attention and success.

However, beyond these success stories, more needs to be done and with urgency – 80% of small and medium-sized businesses in Australia are delaying adaptation of machine learning, while overseas comparisons show that the rush to make sustained investments in AI and machine learning has commenced in earnest.

“What AIML offers is a huge leg-up for SA business,” says Paul Dalby, “but at the moment, not enough are taking up this opportunity. We are doing more work with companies in Sydney and Melbourne, so we need more mid-sized companies to get on board and build now.”

AIML is offering training programs for company CEOs to be introduced to machine learning concepts and possibilities.

The first free event for this year is being held on April 10 at the University of Adelaide’s Nexus Building on Pulteney Street. (Register here).

“We want to initiate the conversation with SA business leaders to discuss what is possible, and what steps can be taken for their enterprises to move beyond existing boundaries,” says Paul.

“This is very important, because if some companies don’t take swift action in this very dynamic era of change, their business models could very quickly become obsolete.”

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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International education one of SA’s top export earners

The value of international students to the South Australian economy continues to grow – last financial year generating $1.62 billion and positioning international education as one of the state’s top export earners.

Almost 38,000 international students were enrolled in SA universities, education institutions and schools in the 12 months to November last year, and with universities opening their lecture theatres for the new semester later this month, thousands more students are set to arrive.

Karyn Kent, CEO of StudyAdelaide, the main organisation marketing Adelaide as the learning city, says Adelaide has always had a solid reputation as an education city, but the number of enrolments and the value of the sector are on the rise.

She says international student enrolments have been climbing by about 6% since 2014, with the majority of students coming from China and Hong Kong, followed by India, Nepal, Malaysia, Korea and Kenya.

“The value of the sector has been growing by about 10% (each year),” she says. “It’s estimated by Deloitte that around 43% of that ($1.62 billion) is spent on education fees, and the other 57% is spent on living expenses, housing, food, entertainment and things like that.

“That’s the ongoing daily impact that international students are having on our economy. It’s certainly generated some big investments. We’re about to do some research with city businesses to try and get a feel for the retail sector in the CBD and whether they’re noticing it as well.”

Karyn says a large proportion of SA’s international students in the vocational and higher end education sectors study business, accounting and finance degrees, while engineering, health and IT are other main areas of study, followed by hospitality and education.

Adelaide’s three main universities, the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia and Flinders University, have various campuses across the city and regional SA. The University of Adelaide is the oldest, established in 1874.

Adelaide is home to dozens of other education institutions including TAFE SA and campuses of Carnegie Mellon University and Torrens University Australia.

So what makes Adelaide attractive to international students?

“Lifestyle is definitely one of the key benefits,” Karyn says. “International students can afford to live close to their campus here in Adelaide, we have a really diverse and welcoming environment and I think we give the impression that we’re a team and a family here.

“But if you look at other drivers of destination choice it’s ‘does the city have the course I want to study?’, ‘is it a nice place to live?’ and employability opportunities are all really important.”

SA is already home to a number of international student success stories, people who have gone on to stay in SA and pursue business ventures.

Web design and app development studio PixelForce was born from a university assignment that became one of SA’s fastest growing businesses. One of its most high profile clients is fitness guru Kayla Itsines, who tasked PixelForce with generating her Sweat app.

Another success story is Harbour Bottling, a wine bottling plant exporting up to 400 shipping containers of locally produced wine a year, mostly to China. Both these companies were established by international students who now call SA home.

It is unknown exactly how many international students end up calling SA home, but a 2018 report released by the Australian Treasury and Department of Home Affairs called Shaping a Nation estimated that 16% of international students in Australia eventually transitioned to permanent residency.

“The SA Premier (Steven Marshall) has been very upfront about migration as a way to address low population growth and international students are a big part of that story,” Karyn says.

“If we get the settings right, it makes it more attractive and easier for international students to stay.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway says the State Government has demonstrated its commitment to growing international student numbers by increasing StudyAdelaide funding to $2.5 million.

A Ministerial Advisory Committee for International Education has also been established, bringing together education institutions, peak bodies, government and private providers to develop a strategy to sustain further growth in the sector.

“International students make an enormous contribution to the state, not only economically, but also socially and culturally and become invaluable tourism ambassadors for SA among their friends and family back home,” Mr Ridgway says.

“Graduating international students become young professionals with a global outlook and we have seen countless examples of them joining or creating local businesses to help drive economic growth across industries in our state.”

Industry in focus: Trade and Investment

Throughout the months of January and February, the state’s trade and investment industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is in a prime position for trade and investment opportunities as we have a 24-hour connection to international markets and a prime reputation for our premium products and services.  Read more trade and investment 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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New theatre course is music to ears of Mamma Mia stars

A new musical theatre course recently announced by the University of Adelaide is attracting great interest not just locally, but from interstate and international students.

The new Bachelor of Music Theatre kicks off in 2019 at the University’s Elder Conservatorium and will be run by renowned music theatre expert and educator George Torbay.

He says the benefits of such a course are not just that aspiring musical theatre stars no longer need to study interstate, but there will also be flow on effects for the South Australian arts scene more broadly.

“The whole point of a course like this here is to add to the cultural scene in this state,” George says. “However, more than just keeping young artists here, the course is already attracting applicants from all over Australia and even international applicants.

“SA has been crying out for a degree like this. Music theatre is a rapidly growing art form and incredibly popular across Australia.”

The course will include singing lessons and song coaching, classes in acting, voice and speech, song repertoire and audition technique, ballet, pas de deux, tap and jazz. Students will also have the opportunity to connect with current writers and explore new works as well as gain professional-level experience working within Adelaide’s thriving festival scene.

Zoe Komazec is now living in SA and will teach dance as part of the University of Adelaide’s new musical theatre course.

Musical theatre star Zoe Komazec, who grew up in Adelaide and is currently starring in the hit production Mamma Mia! The Musical which begun this week, is particularly excited about the announcement as she and fiancé Matt Geronimi will be teaching dance as part of the new course.

“When I was contacted about the course I thought it was one of the most exciting things to happen,” says Zoe, who has been based in Sydney for the past five years but is now living in SA.

“Adelaide has produced so many incredibly talented people in various industries, particularly musical theatre. You’d be surprised how many times I mention I am from Adelaide and at least five people are also born and bred Radelaidians.

“Not having to leave this wonderful state straight away is such a bonus, I think it will allow more aspiring young South Aussies an avenue that they thought wasn’t an option.”

Zoe began dancing at age two at her mum’s studio Barbara Jayne Dance Centre in Norwood, seeing her first musical at age eight – The Sound of Music.

Annie Chiswell.

Annie Chiswell is another local musical theatre performer who trained here, at the Adelaide College of the Arts. She too is starring in Mamma Mia! The Musical, which will be her first major production appearance in front of a hometown crowd.

She agrees Adelaide is a breeding ground for great musical theatre talent, although she says time spent interstate can be of benefit.

“For me personally, I believe in any career it is important to take risks and break out of your comfort zone,” says Annie, who saw her first musical The Lion King, in Melbourne at age 10.

“I felt for my career that Melbourne was calling my name, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I know Adelaide is up and coming in musical theatre training and so hopefully there will be more opportunities to study here.

“I’m also a huge believer in it’s not where you study, but how. I will always be thankful for the artist foundation that SA gave me, and cannot wait to come home and perform.”

Phillip Lowe is yet another Mamma Mia! The Musical star who grew up in SA.

Phillip, who plays Harry Bright in the hit Abba musical, grew up in Jamestown and had no idea as a kid that people were paid to perform as a job.

Jamestown-raised actor Phillip Lowe is back in Adelaide for Mamma Mia! The Musical.

His mother was the piano player for the local production of Pirates of Penzance when Phillip was four years old and he remembers turning the pages for her and singing along as she practiced.

It wasn’t until his brother went to study at WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAPPA) that Phillip realised musical theatre was an actual career path.

However, he didn’t follow his dreams into musical theatrical when he finished school – first, he got a job at a bank and dabbled in amateur theatre.

“I thought I had to have a ‘real’ job. However, one day we got held up by two guys with shotguns so I decided that I was done with real jobs and I auditioned for drama school. I never looked back after that,” says Phillip, who also went on to study at WAPPA and has maintained a stellar career over the past 25 years, appearing in Crazy for You, The Producers, Dusty, Mary Poppins and many more.

Phillip has been based in Sydney for the past 23 years and Mamma Mia! The Musical will be his first time on the Adelaide Festival Theatre stage.

“I cannot wait. It’s a lifelong dream come true,” he adds.

Mama Mia! The Musical is on at the Adelaide Festival Centre until November 18. Click here for tickets.

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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Adelaide University scientist to build world’s fastest charging battery

A University of Adelaide scientist is powering ahead with a plan to build the world’s first quantum battery, which could be charged in less than a second and provide opportunities for the renewable energy sector.

The university’s newest Ramsey fellow and expert in quantum physics, Dr James Quach, will be working within the Precision Management Group in the university’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.

Once built, the quantum battery could replace conventional batteries used in small electronic devices such as watches, phones, iPads, computers or other products that rely on stored energy.

Once developed, the university says it hopes larger quantum batteries could lead the way for opportunities in renewable energy.

Dr Quach says the invention is based on the theory that the more quantum batteries you have, the faster they charge, unlike ordinary batteries which take some time to charge irregardless of the number.

“If one quantum battery takes one hour to charge, two would take 30 minutes, three would take 20 minutes, and so on,” he says.

“If you had 10 thousand batteries, they would all charge in less than a second.”

The fastest charging battery would be possible due to a feature of quantum mechanics known as entanglement.

The University of Adelaide’s newest Ramsey fellow Dr James Quach.

“Quantum mechanics deals with interactions at the very smallest of scales, at the levels of atoms and molecules – at this level you get very special properties that violate the conventional laws of physics,” Dr Quach says.

“One of those properties is entanglement. When two objects are entangled it means that their individual properties are always shared – they somehow lose their sense of individuality.

“It’s because of engagement that it becomes possible to speed up the battery charging process.”

Dr Quach says he intends to “take the theory from the blackboard to the lab” with the idea of a quantum battery first discussed in a research paper in 2013.

“Entanglement is incredibly delicate, it requires very specific conditions – low temperatures and an isolated system – and when those conditions change the entanglement disappears,” he says.

“… I aim to extend the theory of the quantum battery, construct a lab conducive to the conditions needed for entanglement, and then build the first quantum battery.”

Dr Quach says the the quantum battery could support renewable energy technologies by allowing for a continuous energy supply no matter the weather conditions.

He is undertaking the four-year Ramsey Fellowship at the University of Adelaide’s School of Physical Science.

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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Adelaide University launches new home for innovative start-ups

By Melissa Keogh

A new innovation hub aimed at giving local start-ups a boost has been launched by the University of Adelaide.

ThincLab Adelaide will provide a supportive business environment and drive entrepreneurship opportunities for students, staff and community members.

This month 50 new ventures are expected to move into the ThincLab headquarters which the university says will help foster innovation for the State.

ThincLab is located next to the University of Adelaide’s Business School and its Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC).

Tenants will be from a range of industries, including health, agriculture, aerospace and automotive engineering, environment, energy, digital gaming, science communications, and food and drink.

Premier Jay Weatherill officially launches ThincLab at the University of Adelaide. Photo courtesy ThincLab, University of Adelaide.

Premier Jay Weatherill officially launches ThincLab at the University of Adelaide. Photo courtesy ThincLab, University of Adelaide.

ThincLab, officially opened by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill earlier this month, will offer start-ups a space to access tools and resources while also allowing them to network with academics and business mentors.

It will house a state-of-the-art prototyping lab and design studio with the latest 3D printers and technology.

University of Adelaide’s interim vice-chancellor Professor Mike Brooks says ThincLab Adelaide is an exciting initiative not only for the university but the State in general.

“ThincLab represents a boosted commitment to commercialisation and entrepreneurship in SA,” he says.

“It reinforces our leadership nationwide of entrepreneurship, and in education and outreach programs aimed at fostering innovation, a leadership position the University of Adelaide has held for many years.”

Professor Mike Brooks

The University of Adelaide’s interim vice-chancellor Professor Mike Brooks at the ThincLab launch. Photo courtesy of ThincLab, University of Adelaide.

The value of forward thinkers has been a hot topic in Adelaide recently, with Entrepreneurs Week attracting big-name entrepreneurs, including Texan Suzi Sosa, to the city from July 3–7.

The nearby ECIC runs Australia’s biggest investor-ready program, the Australian eChallenge, which stimulates innovation and business ideas among local entrepreneurs.

Over the past six months, last year’s Australian eChallenge finalists secured more than $5m in funding for their start-up ventures.

Professor Noel Lindsay, pro vice-chancellor entrepreneurship at the University of Adelaide and ECIC director, says ThincLab builds on the years of success achieved with the Australian eChallenge.

“We see ThincLab as a place where unconventional thinkers can give their ideas an unfair advantage,” he says.

“It’s home to creative thinkers, to disrupters, people who are willing to challenge the norm and give new ideas a go.”

“Entrepreneurship is about creating new jobs in industries that might not yet exist.”