Ben Long author image Ben Long

UGPN conference highlights global impact of research collaborations

Forum brings together academics from four continents to explore joint research projects and other opportunities 

A delegation from the University of Wollongong – led by new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) Professor Jennifer L. Martin AC – attended the 2019 University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, from April 1 to 3.

The annual conference brings together leaders and academics from UGPN’s four member institutions – North Carolina State University, University of São Paulo, University of Surrey, and UOW – to promote academic exchange and research opportunities. The conference was hosted by North Carolina State University at its Centennial Campus.

This year’s themes were: Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Big Data and Data Science; One Health and Global Health; and Sustainable and Smart Cities, with workshops held on each of those themes. UOW researchers were actively involved in each workshop.

Professor Martin said the theme-focused collaborative research workshops were a highlight of the gathering.

“I loved sitting in on the focused workshops and hearing about the incredible research being done by each of the four universities in the targeted areas, and then using that as an opportunity to build new connections and new research programs with even greater global and social impact,” Professor Martin said.

“One of the major benefits of this conference is the opportunity to meet face-to-face for the first time, to discover and develop new partnerships that weren’t obvious before and wouldn’t have formed otherwise, and of course the chance to explore a new environment and see how things operate in a different setting.”

The UGPN members’ shared commitment to delivering research with real-world impact was highlighted when the new THE (Times Higher Education) University Impact Rankings were released at the same time as the conference. The Rankings measure universities’ social and economic impact based on their success in delivering outcomes addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“While at UGPN, I was absolutely thrilled to see UOW rated 13th internationally in the THE Impact Rankings, on the basis of our commitment to addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. UGPN has now resolved to investigate how it aligns strategy with these same Goals,” Professor Martin said.

“UGPN also confirmed that we at UOW will host the 2020 UGPN conference – so we can showcase even more of our fantastic research and researchers as well as our beautiful campus and enviable lifestyle.”

For Professor Martin, the conference was also an opportunity during her first week in charge of UOW’s research and innovation efforts to get to know some of the University’s researchers – something she was looking forward to doing more of.

“I was delighted to have the chance so early in my tenure to meet with a variety of researchers from across the breadth of our Faculties and Institutes,” she said, adding, “I look forward to meeting many more of you over the next few months. Please say hi, and introduce yourself, when you see me around the campus.”

Senior Professor Sharon Robinson, Challenge Leader for Sustaining Coastal and Marine Zones in the Global Challenges Program, said a highlight for her was participating as a panellist on a Women in STEM Panel Discussion.

“The discussion was very well attended and very well received too – I got a lot of positive feedback,” Professor Robinson said.

“Each participant gave a short life story highlighting their path into STEM and the hurdles they had to overcome along the way. The stories showed the many challenges, not just for female participation in STEM, but also for first-in-family and poor socio-economic background students who lack pathways into university, let alone STEM. We then discussed our ideas about the path forward.”

UGPN conference collageAcademics from four continents came together for the 2019 University Global Partnership Network conference. The themes of the conference were: Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Big Data and Data Science; One Health and Global Health; and Sustainable and Smart Cities.


Another highlight for Professor Robinson was the Sustainable and Smart Cities workshop, which featured Dr Hugh Forehead from UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.

“This is an area where all four universities can contribute complimentary expertise and build a really strong network, enabling us to share experiences of what works from four different continents. We heard talks on everything from coping with disasters such as hurricanes and floods to building more resilient infrastructure,” she said.

“I’m also very excited about the possibility of building projects in the future on the blue economy, another topic of interest to all four partners.”

UGPN was established in 2011 to “develop sustainable world-class research, education and knowledge transfer through an active international network of selected universities collaborating in research, learning and teaching to benefit global society”. UOW joined the UGPN as its fourth member in late 2015.

The annual UGPN Research Collaboration Fund supports collaborations among researchers at the partner institutions and has supported 46 research projects to date. The 2019 round is now open for applications, with a deadline of Friday 31 May 2019.

Starter funds of up to US$10,000 per partner per project in any research area are available. See for more information including guidelines and the online application form.

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Tagged: Collaboration, Conference, Research