Converting pure research into real world outcomes is undergoing a major transformation as new technology allows a freer approach for researchers to find the solutions needed to aid society, business and global sustainability.
However, before solutions can be implemented there needs to be robust research, says Griffith University Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Ned Pankhurst.
“In terms of the research investment, which is substantial for many institutions including Griffith, we spend at least a quarter of our total income on research activities,” he says.
“Building a base of intellectual capital through pure research and basic knowledge is crucial to finding solutions. It is that intellectual capital that is actually the wellspring that you use for the development of outcomes. Griffith’s research trajectory over the last 10 years, the improvement in research performance has just been spectacular.”
The telling of the story of research success is also important for Griffith’s future.
“It’s important for attracting students, for attracting business partners, for attracting philanthropic support, for attracting government attention,” says Professor Pankhurst.
“A very substantial contribution that should not get lost in this is the value that we contribute to the graduates themselves. In terms of the products coming out the door the most important thing we contribute to is graduates coming into the workforce and living their lives with the benefit of training and experience from universities.
“It’s incredibly important for all universities to have a very clear understanding of the value proposition that they represent for their students, for their staff and for society at large.
“One of the ways that we do is that is find the translation of research outcomes into products, services, policies—things that actually change the way that we live, hopefully for the better.”
The growth of Griffith University over the past four decades has seen it mature in research, reputation, quality of teaching and quality of graduates.
“In earlier times we have told our story well in parts, but I don’t think we have been assertive enough about both the scale and the quality of research that is occurring at Griffith,” says Professor Pankhurst.
As part of the Griffith 2020 project the university has allocated a $20 million investment over three years to lift its research performance higher and enhance Griffith’s reputation as a university of research excellence.
An analysis of Excellence in Research for Australia 2015 found 98% of Griffith University’s research outputs were rated at world standard or above.
Griffith has more than 20 dedicated research centres and research institutes. Griffith researchers are also collaborating with over 5,000 national partners and over 200 international research agreements.
What is important is the translation of research outcomes into products, services, policies—things that actually change the way that we live, hopefully for the better.
Professor Ned Pankhurst
Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor
Multi-domain approach is crucial to solving the biggest problems
The increasing complexity of problems, which researchers are facing, requires a multi-domain approach for solutions, says Professor Pankhurst.
“None of the so-called wicked problems will succumb to a single domain, single research or silver bullet.
“The more complex, the more challenging the problem the greater the range of expertise that needs to be applied in solving it. Once you start people thinking in those directions then all sorts of interesting and wonderful things happen.”
Griffith’s industrial design program is an example of that—bringing engineering and creative arts together.
“We’ve just recently celebrated the opening of our refurbished QCA design facilities on the Gold Coast. That’s a marriage between creative arts and technology and the major beneficiaries of that are Australian industry.
“Probably 10 years ago people would have scratched their head in confusion as to how does that work. It’s people repositioning themselves around new technologies that allow them to play with different parts.
“Advances in nano-technology, advances in additive manufacturing are absolute game changers.
“Additive manufacturing is an example that frees us in design terms, frees us from looking at things in a particular way because of the way they are made.
“Everything is a prototype. So you can use it as a research development base for very rapid advancement of design thinking, which you may then actually construct in a standard manufacturing process.
“That’s where university activity comes. We’re not going to set ourselves up for large-scale manufacturing but we can be that point of engagement for material scientists, designers, structural engineers, clinicians, cell biologists that bring together these solutions in very exciting and novel ways because people are freed from the constraints of old technologies.
“To me, that is a really nice technology-driven example of how you bring high-quality thought and research experience together around real world problems and you do it in teams.”