Govt, unis and industry form robotics focused 'Sixth Wave Alliance'

To 'create the critical mass' to tackle Australia's automation challenges

Government agencies, universities and industry are joining forces to “create the critical mass” needed to tackle Australia’s robotics and automation challenges.

The Sixth Wave Alliance (SWA) – its name inspired by the title of a book authored by former CSIRO engineer James Moody – will “put Australia on the map as the global leader in robotics” it says.

It has three main aims: to “change the narrative” around robotics and automation technologies away from Hollywood horror stories to highlight the positive impacts; to boost adoption of the technologies to improve productivity and safety in Australian industry; and to create an ecosystem to assist start-ups in the sector and take research to reality.

Australian robotics research is well regarded around the world, with Brisbane last week hosting the first International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) to be held in the southern hemisphere.

“We have a lot of different companies and research group that are doing work in the space and developing robotic systems and automation systems tech. But they don’t have good visibility, and they’re not well connected so there’s a fragmentation,” explained Data61 senior engineer, robotics Fred Pauling.

“But we need to develop the supply chains round these – that involves creating new companies, scaling up existing ones, to help not only create the tech but support it once it’s out in industry,” he added.

Organisations involved in the alliance at launch include CSIRO’s Data61, AlphaBeta, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, METSIgnited, NERA (National Energy Resources Australia), QUT, University of Queensland and Woodside. Other entities involved in robotics and automation technologies are being urged to join.

The Alliance will initially focus its efforts on industries primed for transformation through autonomous technologies. These include: defence, agriculture, oil and gas, mining, transport, and smart cities the group said.

“The country’s robotics opportunity lies in using robots and sensors to capture information about complex environments and to automate tasks that would otherwise be completed by humans in high risk situations and at a greater cost,” said Adrian Turner, Data61 CEO. “As every sector becomes data-driven, areas like Australia's healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing and mining industries are primed for enhancement via robotics and autonomous systems.”

“SWA will allow us to put Australia on the map as the global leader in robotics. The national robotics R&D strategy will create opportunities for the robotics industry to work with the Australian government and private sector to drive scale and increase Australia’s competitive on an international scale,” he added. 

The SWA is the result of discussions around the development of the Robotics Roadmap for Australia, which is being led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision based at QUT.

The roadmap is expected to be released in June.

“The formation of the SWA is critical to build a successful path to innovation for robotics R&D. SWA brings together complementary skills to solve problems, build human capacity, develop new technologies and encourage investment in an area where Australia already has a world-leading reputation,” said chair of the Robotics Roadmap and COO of the Centre for Robotic Vision, Dr Sue Keay.

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Tags technologyCSIROautomationresearchroboticsAIalliancemachine learningData61sith alliance

More about ARCAustraliaCSIRODepartment of IndustryFredQUTUniversity of Queensland

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