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A relationship that’s going places

01 December 2015

Advisian continues support for Professor for Transport Innovation Chair

In November 2015, Advisian formally expressed their high level of satisfaction with Professor Travis Waller and his team at the Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI), by signing up to support the Advisian Professor for Transport Innovation Chair into the future.

Advisian Principal, Ian McIntyre says the decision to continue to support the position was easy. “In just four short years, Travis and his team have managed to successfully establish a thriving research group from scratch – that’s no mean feat!”

The energetic and rapidly-growing four year-old rCITI, was established to pursue high level, integrated, interdisciplinary transport solutions and was a joint initiative of UNSW, NICTA (the national ICT lab) and Advisian. A global headhunt for a suitable Centre Director lured the highly-esteemed Professor Waller to Australia from his homeland in the United States, and funding from the Australian Research Council and Transport for NSW swiftly followed.

From the humble beginnings of one academic, one PhD student and no external funding whatsoever, the Centre has grown to 10 teaching and research staff, 23 PhD students, and more than $5 million in external funding. No mean feat indeed!

The Centre is in the vanguard of a global movement to more closely align academic research with real-world problems and has formed close partnerships with companies in industry, government agencies and non-profits.

In the early days, Professor Waller spent considerable time visiting potential partners to build the Centre’s profile, but is gratified now to see the tables turning and organisations seeking out their services directly. “That’s part of the importance of having a Centre. As you begin doing things out in the real world then people start to realise you have the capability and then…success begets success!” he says.

“Our largest sponsor has been Transport for NSW. We have developed a series of analytical tools to help them anticipate and deal with disruptions, and make real-time decisions; like when to change the lanes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.”

Pairing academia with industry is not new, but with the results so often win-win, it is rapidly gaining momentum as a global trend. For Advisian, knowledge-sharing is the most beneficial aspect of the collaboration. “Advisian has a proud history of developing innovative and novel approaches to many of our clients’ challenges. As such, we’re always keen to be involved in activities that can move the ‘knowledge frontier’ forward,” McIntyre says. “With the help of academia, we hope to improve the standard of conversation about transportation and urban planning in government, business, the press and the general public.”

Transportation is as critical today as it ever has been and Advisian is looking forward to leveraging the research being done by the team on projects ranging from the impact of autonomous vehicles and road pricing structures, through to the development of analytical tools that can help shape future thinking in this area.

“We’re also looking forward to working with Travis on co-authoring thought leadership pieces in the ‘new energy and transport’ area,” McIntyre says.

Professor Waller is thrilled that the relationship with Advisian continues to flourish and that, with their help, rCITI’s research will continue to be used in a highly practical sense. “In my opinion, engineering research is only engineering research if it makes an impact out in the world,” he says. “We need to be solving a problem. We need to be tackling some issue. Otherwise what are we doing it for?”

This article first appeared on www.engineering.unsw.edu.au

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