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Wednesday, 29 July 2009 08:50

NICTA presses Australia, Asia research links

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Australian ICT research centre of excellence NICTA has secured Microsoft’s top Asian R&D excecutive Yan-Qin Zhang as keynote speaker at its TechFest open house in Sydney next month.

Dr Zhang, a Microsoft corporate vice-president who chairs the company’s China R&D Group, is a member of the NICTA international business advisory group (IBAG) and will be in Sydney with other members for the agency’s annual review of research projects.

The China R&D Group is Microsoft’s largest research group outside of Redmond, with more than 3,000 engineers and scientists engaged in projects ranging from basic research to pre-commercial innovation and incubation.

TechFest will showcase more than 30 NICTA research projects in disciplines ranging from biomedical and life sciences to intelligent transport, safety and security and environmental management.

It is understood Dr Zhang will address research opportunities and potential commercial linkages between Australia and Asia.

For the first time NICTA has coordinated its annual TechFest event with its annual review by the agency’s business advisory board and its international science advisory board (ISAG).

The two advisory boards represent perhaps the most senior standing committee of international commercial and research expertise put together by an Australian organisation. The advisory groups include Rodney Brooks, a (South Australian) professor of robotics at MIT; Google East Coast Labs vice-president Stuart Feldman; Bob Bishop an Australian consultant and former chairman/CEO of Silicon Graphics; and Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Indian technology services giant InfoSys.

The advisory group includes research chiefs from the peak German R&D agency, the Fraunhofer Institute, as well as the French agency, École normale supérieure
(ENS).

NICTA spokesman Dan Smith said the two advisory groups would have free rein to delve investigate projects of special interest at the TechFest event, and would hear formal strategic and commercial presentations from the NICTA research teams the following day, before delivering formal responses and feedback to the groups.

The advisory boards aim to deliver a kind of direct and international peer review of both the research and product development directions of the each research project, as well as the commercial potential of the products.

For the first time also, Smith said TechFest would include a student component, with up to 100 high school students will participate in a special robotics seminar with MIT’s Rodney Brooks, before being guided around the TechFest showfloor.

Smith said the project aimed to both get students excited about the science and information technology that drives the project, but also to open their eyes to the commercial and career prospects of such research.

TechFest, at the Australian Technology Park on August 12, is an open event.

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