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07/03/2016

UGPN annual meeting declared ‘best ever’

Meeting of great minds at UOW yields greater international research and exchange opportunities.

After spending 46 hours in 26 sessions over three days exploring ways to collaboratively address real world challenges, 2016 Universities Global Partnership Network (UGPN) annual conference attendees declared the event as the ‘best ever’.

“The consensus is it’s been the best conference we’ve ever had,” University of Surrey Pro-Vice Chancellor International and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Vincent Emery said.

“Everyone has been very interactive, exploring the opportunities for the whole network to move forward and I think the University of Wollongong is a key player in that future,” Professor Emery said.

The conference, which included presentations, workshops, tours and networking events, drew approximately 85 attendees from UGPN partners University of Surrey, UK, North Carolina State University, USA and Universidade de Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil as well as UOW.

Established in 2011, the UGPN is an international consortium of selected research-intensive universities focussed on turning ideas into action by developing sustainable world-class research, education and knowledge transfer. UOW joined the network in November 2015.

UOW Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper said the conference lived up to expectations, revealing synergies and collaboration opportunities with current research projects.

“The University of Surrey has been undertaking research into the life cycle of shipping, but hadn’t considered the environmental impact of sea anchors - an area UOW has been researching.

“We saw a great deal of interest in our research in the field of wearable sensors.

“Australians are now using 4G mobile communications technology, but the University of Surrey has a 5G test bed. We’re looking at using this facility to test the compatibility of our sensors with the next generation of mobile communications technology.

“There was also considerable interest in Dr Kerrylee Rogers’ research into the effect of climate change on Australia’s mangrove forests and the role of the ‘blue carbon economy’. We’re now exploring how we can extend that work internationally.

“These are just a few initial examples, but researchers will continue exploring opportunities in the coming weeks and months,” Professor Raper said.

Another research area attracting attention was Early Start - UOW’s revolutionary initiative that combines research, teaching and community engagement to deliver better outcomes for children.

USP Director of International Cooperation, Professor Maricio S. Baptista, said he was impressed by Early Start’s interdisciplinary approach and the community outreach activities.

“If we work with our kids we are assuring the future of ourselves and of our country.

“For Brazil this is perhaps the weakest part of our society and an area where as a country we have to make humungous improvement,” he said.

As well as research collaboration, the conference gave partners insight into the experience on offer for international exchange students, a particular area of interest for North Carolina State University Vice Provost for International Affairs, Bailian Li.

“The facilities at UOW are excellent, especially your Innovation Campus which is very similar to North Carolina State’s Science Park.

“Your main campus is a lovely campus; almost like a little mini city with everything: cafes, stalls, theatre and the botanical gardens nearby.

“All this is a big plus because campus life is so important for our students when choosing an international exchange destination.

“We currently have a waiting list of students wanting to come to Wollongong and I’ve already spoken to UOW about expanding our exchange program,” he said.

UOW Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, said the conference was important for establishing a solid foundation for UOW’s participation in the network.

“As the network’s newest member, we were proud to showcase our research strengths, campus and city.

“We’ve made great progress in establishing international inter-disciplinary cooperation that will increase our global impact, strengthen the quality of our research and teaching programs and open new opportunities for staff and student mobility,” Professor Wellings said.

The conference also marked the opening of the call for submissions for the next round of the UGPN Research Collaboration Fund, which has provided seed funding for 27 projects over the last three years resulting in a total research investment in excess of $US3.1 million.

The next annual meeting of the UGPN network will be hosted by USP in Brazil in February/March 2017.

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International collaboration. Pictured at the 2016 UGPN meeting (from left): Dr. Bailian Li, Vice Provost for International Affairs, NCSU; Professor Joe Chicharo, DVC(Academic), UOW; Professor Michael Kearney, Vice Chancellor, University of Surrey; Prof. Judy Raper, DVC (Research & Innovation); Prof. Mauricio S. Baptista, Associate Director of International Cooperation, USP; Prof Vincent Emery, Pro-Vice Chancellor International, University of Surrey; Prof. Paul Wellings CBE, Vice Chancellor, UOW; Prof. G. Q. Max Lu, Vice Chancellor Designate, University of Surrey.

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