Curtin’s reputation for world-class research was confirmed with the recent ERA 2015 (Excellence in Research Australia 2015) demonstrating Curtin’s performance at World Class level or above in 43 of the 50 fields of research that were assessed. In 2017, Curtin achieved an estimated world ranking of 180th in the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2017 (ARWU, or Shanghai Jiao Tong) ranking, representing an upward movement from the 201-300 band in 2016. Nationally, Curtin was one of 20 Australian universities included in the ARWU and is placed 9th nationally. This important ranking reinforces the global significance of Curtin’s research performance alongside its longstanding contribution to international education.

As a leading research university in Australia, Curtin researchers were awarded over $25m in competitive ARC and NHMRC Grants during 2015. In particular, the award of a 5-year Australian Laureate Fellowship to John Curtin Distinguished Professor Zheng-Xiang Li for research on the project ‘How the Earth works – Toward building a new tectonic paradigm’. Professor Li also leads a major new International Geoscience Programme project titled ‘Supercontinent Cycles and Global Geodynamics’, sponsored by UNESCO and the International Union for Geological Sciences.

Our support for young scientists has also been recognised with Curtin University PhD student, Thomas Russell, receiving the 2015 WA Science Award as the ExxonMobil Student Scientist of the Year.

Industry and community partnerships

Curtin’s ongoing commitment to working with industry and the broader community continued to be demonstrated in 2015 with project funding being secured for leading CRC partners such as the CRC for Spatial Information, CRC for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders, CRC for Remote Economic Participation, Low Carbon Living CRC, and Deep Exploration Technologies CRC worth almost $6m.

At the same time, Curtin received generous support from industry through a range of strategic alliances. The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, provides research and analysis of the top economic, financial and social issues facing Western Australia today and in the future, such as housing affordability, income and wealth distribution, labour and skills needs, regional economics, population growth and infrastructure planning. A series of high profile and far reaching economic and social impact reports were released in 2015. These reports are regularly referenced in WA and national parliamentary debates, and form the basis for significant policy formulation.

Cisco Systems and Curtin entered into a strategic partnership and established Innovation Central Perth, launched by the WA Premier, Hon. Colin Barnett, in July 2015. This important industry-focussed alliance also includes Woodside Energy Limited and will expand to additional industry partners in the future. The Centre includes state of the art network infrastructure and establishment of an innovation hub on the Curtin campus that will be used to incubate SME’s working on IoE-type industry problems.

Further industry-focused alliances include the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) that was established via a bilateral research agreement with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) in 2014. The CCDM represents a major $100m joint investment between GRDC and Curtin for industry focused research and development in the grains area with the purpose-designed $40m grain pathology research building on the Curtin campus to be completed by the end of 2016.

Curtin has demonstrated leadership in the area of creative writing, with our Faculty of Humanities establishing the China-Australia Writing Centre with Fudan University during 2015. The China-Australia Writing Centre is an active partnership that promotes new scholarship, shared knowledge and creative innovation in the writing arts. An active program of conferences and workshops and cultural exchange opportunities for staff and students has already commenced.

Curtin’s focus on health research remains strong with the WA Primary Health Alliance awarded all three Primary Health Networks in Western Australia, with Curtin as a primary research partner. This strategic alliance will be important in positioning Curtin into the Primary Health Network research scene within WA. Curtin’s new Medical School will open in January 2017 and will further boost health and medical research at the University.

In an innovative industry-culture alliance, the WA Museum Foundation donated $170,000 towards the investigation and recording of the World War II shipwrecks of HMAS Sydney (II) and the HSK Kormoran. Key industry sponsors of the project are Founding Sponsor DOF Subsea, who donated the expedition vessel and engineering maritime operational expertise, and the GMA Garnet Group. The Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Western Australia also provided strong support for the project that resulted in a successful expedition in mid-2015 and provided a wealth of cultural and scientific data that continues to be analysed.

Enduring partnerships on energy projects are critical to Curtin’s research program. Research in exploration, production, design and maintenance with our industry partners is critical in the oil and gas sector. Additionally, biomass energy research continues to be strongly supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for work on low emission biofuel technologies through Curtin’s Fuel and Energy Research Institute (FETI).

IP Commercialisation

Curtin’s Office of IP Commercialisation continued to build programs to encourage entrepreneurship within the Curtin research community and beyond. Curtin Accelerate operates as an independent accelerator program with teams selected from a range of applicants from the Curtin community and provided with $5,000 per team, 10 weeks of mentoring and coworking space on campus towards helping them build and launch their new businesses.

In February and December 2015 Curtin conducted the OzAPP Awards as part of Curtin’s West Tech Fest. The OzAPP Awards have now been expanded to encompass Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, and are designed to identify the best new mobile, web or cloud computing app in the South East Asian region to promote and support entrepreneurship in the digital market. This Award forms the core of a week-long series of events under the banner of West Tech Fest promoting technology based entrepreneurship in the region. In conjunction with West Tech Fest Curtin conducted a ‘Future Leaders Entrepreneurship Bootcamp’ funded through the US Embassy as part of an Ambassador’s Innovation Roundtable initiative.

Professor Gwidon Stachowiak from Curtin’s Department of Mechanical Engineering was awarded the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers Tribology Gold Medal, a prestigious and internationally acclaimed award that recognises outstanding and supreme achievement in the field of tribology. Professor Stachowiak is the first Australian to receive the award which was presented by the UK High Commissioner to Australia, Mrs Menna Rawlings.

I invite you to explore Curtin’s research website to learn more about the outstanding work being undertaken by Curtin researchers.

Professor Chris Moran

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research