NSSN researchers and local industry come together to build smart sensors

Did you know that Australia has the capacity to build smart sensors/devices locally and export to the world? In fact, the state of NSW is well-placed to capitalise on this growth opportunity, being the national leader in manufacturing. The NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) is assisting this growth and has identified more than 70 local manufacturers (including start-ups), electronic designers, and industrial designers in NSW.

In 2015, the Australian Government established six industry-led growth centres including: Advanced Manufacturing (AMGC); Cyber Security; Food and Agribusiness; Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals (MTPConnect); Mining Equipment; Technology and Services; and Oil, Gas and Energy Resources.

One of the responsibilities tasked to the growth centres includes improved engagement between universities and industry (as well as within industry) to achieve greater collaboration with researchers and stronger commercialisation outcomes in the key growth sectors.

The purpose of the AMGC is to transform Australian manufacturing to be more globally competitive and generate the demand for jobs. The mandate of the AMGC is ‘to connect local manufacturers into global supply chains, lift managerial and workforce skills, improve sector-wide collaboration and reduce red tape’.

Similarly, the purpose of MTPConnect is to accelerate the rate of growth of the medical technologies, biotechnologies and pharmaceutical sector and to increase commercialisation and collaboration. The mandate of MTPConnect is focussed on ‘increasing collaboration and commercialisation across the sector, improving management and workforce skills, improving access to global supply chains and international markets and optimising the regulatory environment’.

At the state level, NSW manufacturers produce almost one third of Australia’s total manufacturing output, generating around $33 billion in industry value. NSW manufacturers directly employ around 253,000 people – almost one third of all jobs in the sector nationwide. Local manufacturing creates an economy that ensures prosperity for the state of NSW (NSW Department of Industry).

The NSSN, funded by the Department of Industry, is uniquely positioned as a conjugate to foster collaborations between our member researchers and the local manufacturing sector. The NSSN explores how smart sensing can help solve key challenges in: energy and resources; medtech; manufacturing; environment and agtech; built environment; and space and aviation.

It is important for researchers to gain valuable insights into the product development process from an initial idea through to a commercial product. While researchers are highly expert in their fields, the importance to engage with industrial designers, electronic designers and electronics manufacturers in the early stages of the product development process is key to the success of a commercially successful product.

To assist our members the NSSN recently organised an educational workshop focussing on ‘Smart Product Development’ for researchers and University Business Development Managers.

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Working with local companies Genesys Electronics Design and Circuitwise Electronics Manufacturing, the NSSN delivered this workshop onsite at the Circuitwise manufacturing facility in Bella Vista. The workshop was delivered by Genesys CEO, Geoff Sizer, and highlighted the requirements for creating a commercial device that is scalable, environmentally robust, and meets regulatory requirements for national and global distribution. Outcomes included how to manage learning curves around IoT technologies, the importance in understanding the regulatory pathways, moving beyond Minimum Value Proposition (MVP) to deliver a maximum viable architecture and the importance of modularity at both a hardware and software level.

The workshop concluded with a tour of the Circuitwise electronics manufacturing facility which specialises in the manufacture of complex electronic devices including printed circuit board (PCB) assembly, turnkey product assembly and advanced medical device manufacturing (ISO:13485 certified).

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Members that attended found the workshop to be highly valuable and this engagement with industry and researchers has initiated new collaborations. Follow-up workshops on individual research themes are now being planned. If you would like to participate in these workshops or are interested in becoming an industry partner for future workshops, please reach out to Amanda Hayes.

Inka-Maria Bane