La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia) is spearheading a major research initiative valued at around AUD $13.5 million (over Rs 65 crore), along with two leading universities in India, to address the growing challenges of urbanisation.
The Asian Smart Cities Research and Innovation Network (ASCRIN), developed by La Trobe along with partners—the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT Kanpur) and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS Pilani)—was announced during a visit to India by La Trobe’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar.
The aim of the large-scale initiative is to build a critical mass of resources, know-how and targeted research strength from the three universities, along with close engagement with industry and local government, to deliver impact for the sustainability, livability and efficiency of cities across Asia.
The research network will include La Trobe—IIT Kanpur Research Academy and a joint PhD and research framework with BITS Pilani, supported and guided by a network of “Industry Champions.” The Industry Champions will comprise senior leaders from corporates, consulting houses, small and medium businesses and Government.
Key themes for research and industry collaboration are around infrastructure and technology; economic development; mobility and transport; health and well-being; education; urban planning; governance and engagement; security and safety; culture and heritage; and energy, water and waste.
Professor Dewar said the Asian Smart Cities Research Hub draws upon La Trobe’s proven research and innovation strengths in Australia—adapting and applying them to Asian cities.
“At La Trobe we are committed to solving global issues and improving the welfare of people and communities,” Professor Dewar said. “For over a decade, our Centre for Technology Infusion has been delivering field-ready, Smart City projects with Government and industry in multi-disciplinary areas such as transport safety and mobility, energy and infrastructure management, digital supply chains, and smart farming.”
More than 70 academics from the three universities have already joined the research and innovation network, with the aim of creating new joint research professorships and a joint PhD program with more than 50 PhD scholarships offered.
Director of IIT Kanpur, Professor Abhay Karandikar, said the Institute specialises in smart energy grids which are the backbone of any Smart City.
“We are not only conducting state-of-the-art research in this area but have also put our work into practice by implementing a smart energy grid in our very own campus,” Professor Karandikar said.
“Combining our expertise in this this area with the research strengths of La Trobe University will, I am sure, bring us cutting-edge results for the benefit of rapidly urbanising Asian cities. With our combined research capabilities, I am sure we can successfully find solutions for some of the pressing global problems of today.”
Vice-Chancellor of BITS Pilani, Professor Souvik Bhattacharyya, said the university is collaborating with La Trobe on various Smart Cities themes.
“We want to take our long-standing collaboration with La Trobe to the next level, introducing a joint doctoral program,” Professor Bhattacharyya said. “We are complementing and combining our expertise to address existing and new challenges in Smart Cities. This covers many areas, from mobility and transport to sanitation and waste management, using disruptive technologies such as IoT, AI, Machine Learning, blockchain and real-time data analytics.”
In 2018 La Trobe also launched an innovation competition called Technology Infusion Grand Challenge where undergraduate students apply skills gained in their studies to solve some of today’s pressing societal or industry problems in Smart Cities. Entries to the second year of this annual competition are now open.