Cross-faculty industry partnership nabs research award

18 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 benefited 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 (EAIT) and Business, Economics and Law (BEL) with Queensland’s premier multi-cargo port.

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 said their task was to work with the Port to ‘push the envelope’.

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

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.

Over 50 researchers and students have already 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 areas, 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."

Major outcomes of the project, so far, 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 to the tune of $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.

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 from The Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology include:

The School of Civil Engineering's Professor Tom Baldock, who received one of the four awards on offer for Excellence in Higher Degree by Research Supervision

Dr Jianhua Guo from the Advanced Water Management Centre with a Foundation Research Excellence Award (FREA)

Professor Zhiguo Yuan, Dr Shihu Hu, Professor Jurg Keller, Professor Damien Batstone and Dr Maxime Rattier, and Queensland Urban Utilities Innovation Research and Development Manager Colin Chapman, who took home a Partners in Research Excellence Awards (PIREA) for the field of Engineering, Materials and Information and Communications Technology.