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Collaboration Brings UWA and Industry Ideas Together

A Memorandum of Understanding between Perth-based industrial robotics solution provider Nexxis and the University of Western Australia is likely to lead to a new evolution in the way automation and testing is used across many sectors.

That is according to Dr Sue Robson, Manager – Industry Engagement with UWA’s Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

The new business unit was established to forge collaborative partnerships between industry and the university’s researchers and students.

“There’s always been a collaboration between universities and industry, but it has often involved an ad hoc approach,” Dr Robson said.

“We’ve formalised it by creating the innovation and Industry Engagement department to help drive three core areas.

“The first is to provide benefits to the industry by providing access to researchers who can help solve real-world problems.

“Second is to help researchers to create a bridge between their ideas and the ways they can assist the industry, and the third is to give students access to opportunities in the industry so they can gain real, practical experience.”

Nexxis specialises in providing robotic inspection and testing technology and services to clients across multiple sectors including oil and gas, mining and infrastructure services.

Dr Robson said the company was a prime example of Australia’s innovative and world-leading approach to using technology in remote areas and across big distances.

“When it comes to robotic inspection and testing for remote locations, the next big evolution is likely to see a move to zero entry applications where robotic technology is not just identifying what needs to be done but carrying out the required maintenance and repair tasks,” she said.

“The sort of innovation we’re seeing in those resources industries could also be utilised across many other sectors, such as space exploration, and Australia’s remoteness provides an ideal testing ground.”

Nexxis founding director Jason De Silveira said partnering with universities provided the company with access to significant resources and new ideas.

“There’s a lot of innovative thinking and significant research being undertaken by universities, and the same can be said for operators and service providers responding to specific industry needs, but the two have often been carried out in isolation from one another,” Mr De Silveira said.

“Taking a more structured approach to bring education, research and industry together address a whole range of challenges.

“Apart from giving us access to valuable additional resources and equipment, it means the next generation of graduates will be well prepared to enter the workforce with industry knowledge and practical experience.”

Dr Robson said understanding the requirements of the industry was also leading to changes in the way universities were structuring learning.

“We’re seeing more and more collaborative work across different faculties,” she said.

“As an example, engineering students are increasingly combining their core studies with some subjects like business, psychology and even creative writing because the changing nature of work is requiring far greater breadth of skills.”

Mr De Silveira expects that the MoU could see Nexxis and UWA collaborating in multiple areas, from programming and data analysis, to fast prototyping of custom components.

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