Cross-faculty industry partnership nabs research award

15 Sep 2017

An innovative research partnership between The University of Queensland and the Port of Brisbane has been honoured with a 2017 UQ Partners in Research Excellence Award (PIREA).

The PIREA is one of three categories at UQ’s annual Research Week Awards. The award highlights outstanding industry-UQ collaborations that have benefitted industry and the community.

Established in early 2015, the Developing Port Growth partnership connects researchers from UQ’s Faculties of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology and Business, Economics and Law with Queensland’s premier multi-cargo port.

Dr Alistair Grinham (back left), Professor Carlo Prato (second row middle) and Dr Peggy Schrobback (front row middle)
Dr Alistair Grinham (back left), Professor Carlo Prato (second row middle) and Dr Peggy Schrobback (front row middle) receive their Partners in Research Excellence Award 

Led by Professor Carlo Prato and Dr Alistair Grinham from the School of Civil Engineering and Dr Peggy Schrobback from the School of Economics, the partnership has dual aims: to future-proof Port growth in an increasingly competitive global trade environment, and to stimulate the Queensland economy.

Professor Prato – who came on board in 2016 to co-manage the partnership and supervise several postdoctoral fellows and PhD students – said their task was to work with the Port to ‘push the envelope’.

“From my understanding, the Port wanted a different perspective,” he said.

“When they joined forces with UQ, our researchers were able to bring something to the table that was forward thinking and cutting-edge.”

Dr Schrobback said the partnership had to meet a range of business, transport and environmental targets – a huge task for such a large operation.

“We have created a multi-faculty approach, with UQ research teams developing highly innovative business and environmental solutions and port-related technologies,” she said.

So far, over 50 researchers and students have received a hands-on educational experience at the Port facility, exposing them to the challenges faced both regionally and globally.

Environmental management expert Dr Grinham said there was a “natural fit” for both EAIT and BEL teams.  

“The Port is about more than just ships coming in,” he said.

“Everything is constantly changing, and there are numerous, amazing issues to work on in fields including transport and coastal engineering, geotechnical and environmental sciences, and economics.”

Robert Nave, General Manager of Infrastructure and Environment at the Port of Brisbane, said the UQ research team was at the forefront of delivering high-quality research outcomes.

“From our perspective, the Developing Port Growth partnership helps us maintain our competitive edge,” he said.

“The research spans a number of disciplines, including economic analysis, dredge and dredge material management, air quality management, land reclamation and storm water management.

“UQ’s research teams are committed to communicating and applying this research to produce tangible benefits for society, such as improved economic, social and environmental reporting, reuse of dredge material, enhanced sediment and storm water management, the identification of economically efficient ways to reduce air pollution, and optimised supply and logistic chains.

“This partnership has benefited not only the Port, but also students and researchers across a number of disciplines, and the local and larger economies.

“It is healthy and robust and continues to grow in scope.”

Major outcomes to date include optimising navigation channels to accommodate larger container vessels, developing strategies to manage sediment transport into Moreton Bay, and implementing an advanced monitoring program to inform the Port’s multi-million dollar catchment rehabilitation program.

Funded by UQ and the Port of Brisbane for $2 million over three years, the partnership has subsequently generated over $6 million in research income, including ARC Linkage and Australian Renewable Energy Agency funding.

It has been showcased at several international conferences and was also presented as a case study by UQ Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj, at the Universitas 21 Presidents’ Forum, held at The University of Nottingham, UK.

The partnership was one of four winners from the UQ Research Week Awards PIREA category, and the only cross-faculty winner.

Other Research Week Award honourees included UQ Business School’s Professor Sara Dolnicar, who received one of the four awards on offer for Excellence in Higher Degree by Research Supervision.

Developing Port Growth - Partners in Research Excellence Award

Professor Sara Dolnicar - Excellence in Higher Degree by Research Supervision