Perfect Partners

16 May 2016

Click the icons throughout this article to read more about UQ's partnerships and collaborations.

A long history of industry, government and university collaborations has placed UQ at the forefront of global research and innovation.

The impact of UQ’s innovations on a global scale is impressive: a cervical cancer vaccine that has seen more than 144 million doses distributed to more than 100 countries since 2006 (Gardasil®); a parenting program to help more than four million children and their families (Triple P); and technology that drives the majority of the world’s magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said these examples were “the tip of the iceberg” of UQ innovations that have made a global impact.

“These contributions to global society, and many more, were made possible by collaborations and partnerships with people in industry, government, philanthropy, education and research,” Professor Høj said.

“Excellence underpins the positive impact of our research and the value to society of our commercialised research. Global organisations increasingly understand the relationship between excellence and impact, and identify the benefits of partnering with a university where 100 per cent of research is well above, above or at world standard, as rated by Excellence in Research for Australia.”

The next phase is to expand the quality and scale of global research by striving for the “excellence-plus” factor, with 30 top research strengths identified that are of particular value to industry.

The scope of partnerships at UQ is broad and includes joint research and development centres, licensing deals, scholarships, internships, graduate and employment programs, and philanthropic support.

An example of one of the many key existing partnerships with global impact is UQ’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation has provided almost $20 million in research funding since 2010, with a focus on extending research to the developing world in areas such as health, sanitation, access to education, and employment.

Projects include improving the productivity of sorghum, a staple food for millions; developing a portable tool to detect mosquitoes carrying dengue fever; finding ways to control global banana disease; and diagnosing respiratory conditions such as pneumonia and asthma using smartphone technology.

In 2008, the foundation funded a project to improve the delivery of malaria vaccines using NanopatchTM, a revolutionary needle-free vaccine delivery system developed by Professor Mark Kendall at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Kendall said one of the major advantages of Nanopatch was that it did not need refrigeration, making transport much cheaper and easier for developing nations around the world.

The success of the malaria trial led to a collaboration between the foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), Vaxxas (a UQ start-up biotechnology company established to commercialise Kendall’s Nanopatch technology) and Kendall’s UQ team to improve polio vaccines using the Nanopatch technology.

Kendall said Nanopatch had the potential to transform vaccine delivery for patients around the world.

Historically, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has also contributed funds to extend the reach of the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, to developing countries. The vaccine was co-created by the late Dr Jian Zhou and 2006 Australian of the Year, UQ’s Professor Ian Frazer AC.

One of UQ’s longest partnerships is with Mater. Mater and UQ started their collaboration in 1945 with medical and science students attending classes at the hospital.

UQ and Mater Research formed the Mater Research Institute – University of Queensland (MRI–UQ) in 2013, with funding from UQ and Mater Foundation.

UQ’s Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Advancement) Patricia Danver said it was no accident philanthropic organisations provided research funds to UQ.

“Philanthropic organisations like these lend support to UQ to further larger goals to solve pressing global issues. They are confident in UQ’s ability to contribute seminal research that will have significant impact,” she said.

Partnerships are a critical link between research and impact. By commercialising research outcomes from partnerships, UniQuest – the University’s main technology transfer and commercialisation company – has played a vital role in translating discoveries into globally accessible business outcomes that have the potential to improve the lives of millions around the world.

For example, chronic pain sufferers worldwide are one step closer to an accessible treatment following last year’s acquisition of Spinifex Pharmaceuticals by global pharmaceutical company Novartis International AG – a deal thought to be one of the largest in the history of the Australian biotechnology industry. Founded by UniQuest, Spinifex is developing an oral treatment for chronic pain based on the neuropathic pain research of UQ’s Professor Maree Smith.

UQ’s Research Partnerships Director, Ian Harris, said another example of commercial research outcomes was the partnership with aerospace and commercial jetliner company Boeing.

“The University’s collaborative relationship with Boeing has extended over a decade and has resulted in both research projects and support for student learning from undergraduate level right through to research PhDs,” Harris said.

Since 2003, UQ has been involved in 13 projects with Boeing with total funding of $10.5 million.

“UQ has helped Boeing to address a range of research topics from how bees and birds navigate to avoid collisions, to psychology and human factors, to using plants to make renewable jet fuel.”

Another example of a longterm commercial collaboration is with worldwide resources company Rio Tinto. UQ’s relationship with Rio Tinto was formalised with a five-year education partnership agreement in 2012.

“Rio Tinto has supported a broad range of areas such as funding for research centres, field trips, developing academic leadership programs, and supporting female and Indigenous students with scholarships aiming to boost diversity in the resources sector,” Harris said.

Harris said the benefits of partnerships and collaborations flowed both ways.

“Industry collaborations enable UQ researchers to have an impact on a global scale and test their findings in the field, while industry benefits from expertise to develop new products, processes and technologies for commercial use, and to teach the next generation of the workforce.”

For more information about UQ’s research partnerships, visit uq.edu.au/research.

Key domestic and international healthcare partnerships have ensured UQ remains a leader in major medical breakthroughs.

Shared Vision Spans Decades

Mater Research Institute Principal Research Fellow Professor John Hooper

Mater Research Institute Principal Research Fellow Professor John Hooper

Both UQ and the Mater began operations in Brisbane in the early 1900s.

Their earliest history of collaboration can be traced back to 1945, when medical and science students from UQ would travel to Mater for clinical physiology classes, often taught by Sisters of Mercy, many of whom were well-regarded scientists.

Since then, the two organisations have collaborated through teaching medicine, nursing and allied health; through shared research projects and institutes; and through joint philanthropic partnerships to fund staff, teaching spaces and buildings.

UQ’s Director of Development and Philanthropy, Andrew Pentland, said both Mater and UQ had shared a vision from the outset.

“Mater and UQ have been committed to providing exceptional healthcare through education, research and community engagement,” Pentland said.

“The institutions use their respective strengths in a competitive fundraising environment to extend the scale of research and clinical teaching projects.”

The Mater–UQ partnership receives significant philanthropic funding from Mater Foundation, whose funding comes from community donors.

Mater Foundation Chief Executive Officer Nigel Harris said in an environment where research funding was scarce, it was far better to be a collaborator than a competitor.

“If there’s one message to take away from this partnership, it is that today’s philanthropy is not necessarily institutionally driven,” Harris said.

“Philanthropy is about how institutions can work together and across organisational boundaries to get outcomes that greatly improve society. It’s why the Mater–UQ partnership has been so successful.”

Mater and UQ formalised a longstanding research relationship with the establishment of Mater Research Institute–University of Queensland (MRI–UQ) in 2013.

Mater Research CEO and MRI–UQ Director, Professor John Prins, said the collaboration had enabled greater clinical and academic synergy.

“Mater is one of several high-profile research institutes based in a city hospital, and this helps to bridge the gap between clinical patient care and research,” Prins said.

MRI–UQ’s funding rates are well above the national average and, since the partnership, UQ’s research outcomes have increased by three per cent.

In 2013, Mater and UQ also entered a partnership to strengthen their clinical teaching relationship.

The agreement aims to create an outstanding educational environment for medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health students within a hospital setting.

One of the first outcomes of the agreement has been the restoration and refurbishment of Mater’s heritage-listed Whitty Building, which opened in early 2016.

For more information about Mater Research, visit research.mater.org.au.

Accelerating Drugs to Fight Diseases

 UniQuest Chief Executive Officer Dr Dean Moss, University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj and Emory University President Dr James Wagner during an Emory University visit to UQ in March 2016.

From left: UniQuest Chief Executive Officer Dr Dean Moss, University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj and Emory University President Dr James Wagner during an Emory University visit to UQ in March 2016.

UQ, the Queensland Government and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, have partnered to help accelerate the development of new drugs to target some of the world’s leading diseases.

The Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI) will be based at UQ and was brokered in 2015 through UQ’s main commercialisation company, UniQuest.

The aim of the centre is to translate academic drug discoveries into clinical trials to target diseases such as cancer, diabetes, inflammatory disorders and infectious diseases.

The collaboration enables UQ to draw on the extensive experience of Emory University’s drug development institute, led by Professor Dennis Liotta, the inventor of one the world’s most widely used HIV drugs, and its commercialisation company Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE).

The Queensland Government has committed $4.169 million to the project over four years, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing the Government’s support in June 2015.

“QEDDI will see the development of a pipeline of potential new drugs to meet existing and future health challenges in Queensland, throughout Australia, and internationally,” Palaszczuk said.

UniQuest’s track record includes the commercialisation of the HPV vaccine Gardasil, the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, the image correction technology used in the majority of the world’s MRI machines, and Spinifex Pty Ltd, a biopharmaceutical company acquired recently in one of Australia’s largest ever biotech deals.

For more information about the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative, visit uniquest.com.au.

International Collaboration

The Ochsner Health System in New Orleans

The Ochsner Health System in New Orleans.

UQ and the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana, have a unique partnership to foster international clinical opportunities for medical students in the US and Australia, and collaborative opportunities for researchers from across the two continents.

The Ochsner partnership began in 2008 when the two institutions teamed up to establish the Ochsner Clinical School.

Ochsner is Louisiana’s largest nonprofit, academic, multispecialty healthcare delivery system, which owns, manages or is affiliated with 25 hospitals.

Ochsner is very active in medical research, conducting more than 750 clinical research studies every year.

About 120 American students enrol in UQ’s medical program each year.

They complete their first two years of the degree (pre-clinical) in Brisbane and then their third and fourth years (clinical years) at UQ’s Ochsner Clinical School in New Orleans.

Domestic and other international UQ medical students also have the opportunity to complete some of their medical training at Ochsner, giving them exposure to the US health system.

The relationship has since grown to include an expansive research partnership, enabling researchers from UQ and Ochsner to access vast public and private funding opportunities in Australia and the US, including those exclusively earmarked for international collaborations.

The partnership has enabled a strong track record of transdisciplinary research collaborations between the two organisations.

For more information about the Ochsner Research Partnership, visit ochsner.uq.edu.au.

Back to top

UQ has partnered with some of the world's peak performers in mining and engineering to tap into the minds of tomorrow's leaders.

Boeing Puts Students on Right Flight Path

Engineering students test their projects as part of the Boeing partnership.

Engineering students test their projects as part of the Boeing partnership.

UQ’s partnership with Boeing Australia spans a range of disciplines and activities, from collaborative research projects to student scholarship support and campus engagement activities.

Since 2003, Boeing has funded 13 UQ research projects totalling $10.5 million and signed an agreement in 2015 to fund PhD scholarships.

Boeing now supports 10 PhD scholarships a year through the Boeing UQ Research Alliance PhD Scholarship Scheme in the fields of engineering, information technology, physics, human factors and psychology.

Boeing Research & Technology – Australia Manager Dr Jason Armstrong said the PhD scholarships ensured a talent pipeline for Boeing and the doctoral research outputs added to Boeing’s business needs.

“We’re looking for the best innovations and talent to support our growth across a range of fields,” Armstrong said.

“For a number of years we’ve partnered with UQ researchers on projects in psychology and human factors, with the Queensland Brain Institute, in engineering, physics, chemical technology, public UQ has partnered with some of the world’s peak performers in mining and engineering to tap into the minds of tomorrow’s leaders. health, as well as microbiology.

“Research partnerships enable leverage – we’re able extend the breadth of our research activity and get exposure to technology and expertise that’s cutting edge.”

In addition to its research interests, Boeing offers student mentoring and work experience opportunities, provides guest lecturers, and sponsors student camps. Engineering students test their projects as part of the Boeing partnership.

Download the Contact app to view more photos of Boeing UQ Research Alliance projects.

Partners Share the Same Taste

© iStock.com/Getty Images

© iStock.com/Getty Images

PepsiCo, the largest food and beverage business in the US, has a long-term research collaboration with Professor Jason Stokes from UQ’s School of Chemical Engineering.

PepsiCo and Stokes’s research seeks to offer consumers healthy variations of the world’s most popular snack foods and drinks, without sacrificing taste and “mouth-feel”.

Stokes said while many food companies like PepsiCo were striving to deliver products with improved health attributes, it was not as simple as just removing fat, sugar and salt.

“For example, if you take oil out of potato chips or sugar out of soft drink, the texture and ‘mouth-feel’ is compromised,” Stokes said.

“The problem is that food companies don’t know why. Our research aims to understand why, and how to measure it so that we can inform new food product design.”

PepsiCo has directly funded six research projects with UQ, and together were awarded a three-year Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant in 2014.

The collaboration between Stokes and PepsiCo, co-sponsored by UniQuest, was recognised at UQ’s prestigious Partners in Research Excellence Awards in 2014.

PepsiCo has recently expanded its relationship to other areas of UQ, with two confirmed collaborative projects and possible licence opportunities for UQ technologies.

Senior Principal Scientist from PepsiCo’s Measurement Science Group, Dr Stefan Baier, said UQ’s research had helped to position PepsiCo at the forefront of innovation, and had provided critical insights to the redesign of the next generation of foods and beverages.

“Our partnership with UQ has been extremely fruitful and we are delighted to be working with thought-leaders like Jason, and now others at UQ,” Baier said.

Bolstering Metallurgical Research

One of the world’s largest steel companies, Baosteel, has sought out four of Australia’s leading universities to collaborate on innovative metals-related research.

The partnership resulted in a world-first joint venture – the Baosteel Australia Joint Research and Development Centre – a collaboration between Shanghai-based Baosteel, UQ, the University of New South Wales, Monash University, and the University of Wollongong. The centre was established in 2011 and, while functionally located at UQ, fosters collaboration between all participating research teams.

Centre Director Professor Victor Rudolph said the centre had supported 40 research projects since establishment, in areas such as steel making, light metals, environmental technologies and energy technologies.

“Baosteel’s interests are diverse and many are focused on long-term and new technologies that investigate manufacturing metals in economical and environmentally sustainable ways,” Rudolph said.

“The research centre’s findings contribute to expanding Baosteel’s global presence and also to providing new knowledge and technologies for metals-based materials worldwide.”

The centre’s collaborations have attracted $21.7 million of partner funding and $6.2 million in research grants, along with $14.6 million in project funding.

“The centre’s efforts prove that while individual research projects can make a difference, collaborations enable greater leverage and reach,” Rudolph said.

Another research collaboration between UQ and two international metals companies is helping to secure a sustainable future for the global metals industry.

The partnership is between leading Chinese metals company, Shandong Fangyuan Nonferrous Metals Group (Fangyuan), and the world’s largest copper producer, The National Copper Corporation of Chile (CODELCO).

Fangyuan approached UQ in 2010 to help further research into the company’s innovative copper smelting technology, which led to the establishment of a Fangyuan Fellowship in 2011.

Codelco-Fangyuan Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering, Dr Baojun Zhao, said Fangyuan had developed a method of extraction called oxygen-enriched, bottom-blowing copper smelting technology (BBS Technology).

“BBS Technology consumes less fuel, reduces carbon dioxide emissions and enables more copper to be recovered from lower-grade copper sources,” Zhao said.

“As the largest copper producer in the world, CODELCO was interested in Fangyuan’s smelting technology, and both companies have a joint interest in supporting further research to develop the technology.”

This led to the two companies establishing a joint-funded professor position at UQ in 2015, and Zhao said shared knowledge was a large part of the agreement.

The partnership has resulted in internships at CODELCO for UQ undergraduate students and the development and delivery of training sessions for CODELCO graduates each year, with a number of staff enrolling in UQ’s Masters programs.

Back to top

Key partnerships are helping vulnerable members of society to overcome adversity on a global scale.

Protecting the Vulnerable

At the largest United Nations World Summit in 2005, world leaders endorsed a principle to prevent and respond to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, known as the Responsibility to Protect (R2P).

To advance the R2P in the Asia-Pacific, the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (AP R2P) was established at UQ in 2008 – the first regional centre of its kind.

Centre Director Dr Alex Bellamy said the AP R2P was specifically dedicated to advancing the R2P through research and policy dialogue, and that partnerships were crucial.

“The centre is a collaborative partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and works closely with partners right across the region and beyond,” Bellamy said.

“We are also a member of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, a group of more than 70 organisations worldwide.

“Further, the centre is a player on the global stage. Our partnerships include a former President (Philippines), four former foreign ministers, former ambassadors and senior diplomats, and a Prince (Cambodia).”

Bellamy said the partnership with the Chinese Institute for International Studies (the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s think tank) illustrated the collaborative work of the centre.

“The centre organises an annual Australia-China R2P dialogue to bring analysts and diplomats from the two countries together,” he said.

“We also exchange staff and are working together on two joint reports, on the crisis in Syria, and on challenges posed by non-state armed groups respectively.”

The centre is widely known for its leadership role in advancing R2P in the Asia-Pacific.

“Most countries in the region now have an active national conversation about R2P and most have civil society groups and government officials actively engaged in supporting its goals,” Bellamy said.

“Above all, we’ve seen ongoing decline in the incidence of atrocity crimes in the region, even as the global picture has moved in the wrong direction.”

Tackling Disadvantage

 Australian Government Department of Social Services Policy Office Group Manager, Sean Innis; UQ Institute for Social Science Research Director, Professor Mark Western; University of Western Australia Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Stephen Zubrick; Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Minister of Finance and the Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation, The Honourable Bill English MP; Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Statistician, David Kalisch; and UQ Life Course Centre Director, Professor Janeen Baxter.

Working together to reduce disadvantage: Australian Government Department of Social Services Policy Office Group Manager, Sean Innis; UQ Institute for Social Science Research Director, Professor Mark Western; University of Western Australia Senior Principal Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Stephen Zubrick; Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Minister of Finance and the Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation, The Honourable Bill English MP; Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Statistician, David Kalisch; and UQ Life Course Centre Director, Professor Janeen Baxter.

The “lottery of birth” still plays a large part in whether people are able to live fulfilling lives or whether they will face lives of hardship, according to UQ Professor Janeen Baxter, a world-leading expert in life course studies and Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (the Life Course Centre).

The issue of how to prevent disadvantage being transferred within families and across generations prompted a $28 million partnership in 2014 to establish the Life Course Centre based at UQ’s Institute for Social Science Research.

The centre was established with a $20 million ARC grant and $8 million of additional support from university, Australian Government and community partners. Baxter said the centre aimed to advance research into deep and persistent disadvantage, which is when social and economic poverty spreads across generations, even when there are overall improvements in broader society.

“The indicators of disadvantage include poverty, homelessness, low levels of education, poor health, crime and reduced opportunities to find employment,” Baxter said.

“We can see the economic costs of disadvantage in rising welfare expenditure. In 2013, the government spent $132 billion on social security payments. That’s almost 10 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product). The human costs are also staggering. When disadvantage persists, people lose hope.”

Baxter said partnerships were key to tackling this issue, one of the most persistent policy challenges facing Australia and the world.

“The Life Course Centre is collaborative, bringing together the expertise of leading researchers around the world, and partnering with government and nongovernment organisations involved in human service delivery and policy,” she said.

“The centre will deliver the evidence to help state and federal governments develop policy and program initiatives that work to reduce disadvantage.”

The centre is a collaboration between four Australian universities: The University of Queensland, The University of Western Australia, The University of Melbourne and The University of Sydney; 16 international universities; six Australian Government departments; and two nongovernment partners.

Back to top

As society looks towards renewable sources to power and feed the world, UQ is meeting the challenge through groundbreaking projects that harvest some of Australia's best natural assets.

Boosting Drought Tolerance

 Ron Hohenhaus)

A field of ripe sorghum (Image: Ron Hohenhaus)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), and agricultural scientists from UQ have partnered to improve the drought resistance of sorghum, an ancient cereal grain and staple food for millions of people worldwide.

Sorghum is Queensland’s most valuable cereal crop, topping wheat, with a value of $432 million per year, and is used as a source of food for Queensland livestock.

It is also the world’s fifth most important cereal and a staple food crop for half a billion people in the semi-arid tropics, including Asia and Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ACIAR have provided $4.6 million to UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) to collaborate with DAF and the Ethiopian Government to improve sorghum productivity under drought conditions in Queensland and internationally.

QAAFI’s Professor David Jordan said the project addressed problems common to sorghum growers in many of the globe’s low-rainfall regions.

“It’s crucially important to food security in Africa as sorghum is grown in the drier and resource-poor areas, where its capacity to better tolerate drought, high temperatures and low fertility make it a preferred crop to maize,” Jordan said.

The focus for the sorghum research is about doing more with less water.

“We’re looking at things like root architecture and designing root systems for sorghum plants that access water deeper down in the profile,” he said.

“We’re also looking at transpiration efficiency – that’s the efficiency with which a plant uses water to make grain – and there’s quite a variation with sorghum for both those traits.”

Jordan said the grain was gaining popularity in Western diets because it was gluten-free, and had a range of nutritional benefits.

For more information, visit qaafi.uq.edu.au.

Switch on the Sun

The Solar Research Facility at UQ Gatton

The Solar Research Facility at UQ Gatton

At UQ’s Global Change Institute (GCI), an industry partnership has enabled UQ Solar to be at the forefront of global renewable energy research.

The collaboration has helped to construct the Gatton Solar Research Facility at UQ Gatton. It is the largest experimental solar array in the southern hemisphere and one of the most sophisticated facilities of its kind anywhere, consisting of a 3.275 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) pilot plant and large 760 kilowatt hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery.

The collaboration between UQ, the University of New South Wales, First Solar and AGL PV Solar Developments Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of AGL Energy Ltd (AGL), was funded by a $40.7 million Federal Government Education Investment Fund program grant, administered by the Department of Education. The facility is powered by more than 37,000 advanced PV Modules, supplied by First Solar, that produce enough clean energy to power more than 1000 average Queensland homes and displace about 5300 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually – equivalent to removing about 1500 cars from the road.

In its first year of operation, the facility generated more than 5800 megawatt hours (5.8 million kWh) of renewable energy, reducing electricity consumption from the UQ Gatton campus grid by almost 40 per cent.

GCI Clean Energy and UQ Solar Director Professor Paul Meredith said UQ was one of only a few universities in the world to own and operate a solar plant of this size and was helping to address the many complexities in integrating large-scale clean energy into the traditional energy market.

“Our research findings are beneficial to our industry partners, enabling them to have more efficient plants, and this knowledge-sharing ultimately benefits the community,” Meredith said.

AGL Project Manager for the Nyngan and Broken Hill Solar Plants, Adam Mackett, said one of the outcomes of the research facility was to improve the integration of solar energy into the National Electricity Market.

“Australia’s energy market landscape is changing rapidly, with environmental regulation, technologies, and customer preferences all evolving,” Mackett said.

“Academic research across a range of fields is required to support the modernisation and decarbonisation of Australia’s energy sector.”

Meredith said the research had global impact.

“We’re living in a dynamic environment where the way we use and generate power is key to addressing climate change.”

For more information, visit solar-energy.uq.edu.au/solarresearch-projects.

Back to top

Latest