Deakin Research set for further growth in 2011

06 January 2011

New Year's message from Professor Lee Astheimer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

Deakin celebrated a number of red letter days in research during 2010 which should serve as inspiration in 2011 and beyond as the University continues to work towards its goal of building a critical mass of researchers with a distinctive portfolio of high quality discovery, applied and commercial research.

One of those red letter days last year was Friday, May 21st, when the Federal Government announced funding of $37m to support the establishment of a new collaborative research facility - the Australian Future Fibre Research Innovation Centre (AFFRIC).

This Centre has enormous implications for Deakin as a globally recognised, research driven university in not just 2011, but for many years beyond.

AFFRIC will be located at the Geelong Technology Precinct (GTP) and involves the co-location of a materials and fibres research group from CSIRO with the expansion of the existing research labs in the GTP, construction of a new processing building and the establishment of the Australian Carbon Fibre Research Facility (ACFRF).

The ACFRF is one of the world’s only carbon fibre research plants, a partnership between Deakin and the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM) and supported by the Victorian State Government.

Research at AFFRIC will focus on the development of a range of innovative and functional materials including:

  • nanomaterials
  • smart fibrous materials
  • green natural fibres and
  • carbon fibre.

This research will be for applications relevant in aerospace, alternative energy, automotive and textiles industries and will be undertaken by up to 300 additional staff and students.

Strong international interest in the ACFRF and research in carbon fibre and composites, led by Associate Professor Bronwyn Fox (ITRI), has attracted industry and university world experts in carbon fibre to a Deakin-led conference in late February, 2011 coinciding with the Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport, near Geelong.  The conference, entitled Carbon Fibres – Future Directions, will help build significant collaborations between Deakin and the carbon fibre industry.

A further achievement highlighting Deakin’s growth as a research driven university occurred in December last year when Professor Maria Forsyth and collaborators at Deakin, Monash and CSIRO were awarded a major ARC Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) grant to establish a unique NMR characterisation facility to enhance Deakin’s research in three ARC Centres of Excellence (in Electromaterials Science, Nanotechnology and Light Metals)as well as in Biotechnology and Energy. This research will lead to the development of new materials and new technologies in clean energy, carbon capture and health care.

Another event in 2010 with long term future benefits also occurred late in the year when Dr Aidan Beer and Professor Matt Barnett and their collaborators were awarded a Deakin-led LIEF grant to construct a Facility for the development of new lightweight extruded alloys and structures.

We also had in 2010 the official opening of the Proof of Concept Building by the Victorian Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Jacinta Allan in August. This will increase our ability to work with industry partners in taking new products from concept to commercialisation.

These industry partners will be a growing mix of local, national and international organisations.

Deakin is developing research partnerships in North America, Europe, China and India.

In fact, a key part of Deakin’s research activities will involve a growing array of partnerships with India.

The NanoBiotechnology Research Centre, a partnership between Deakin University and The Energy Research Institute (TERI), was opened in New Delhi in November, 2010. TERI, one of India’s most prestigious research institutes, is directed by Nobel Prize winner Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri. Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander, has noted that it is a significant compliment for Deakin to be involved in such a partnership. 

The aim of the Centre is to make a positive difference to the peoples of both countries, and the world generally, in areas like food and water security, remediation of polluted environments through natural products and health via novel molecules. It is envisaged that, within five years, the Centre will have approximately 70 researchers, including 50 PhD students enrolled at Deakin and co-supervised by Deakin and TERI staff.

Professor den Hollander also noted that this partnership further fulfils the prophecy of Alfred Deakin made in 1893 that it was inevitable that Australians and Indians would work together at the intellectual level for the benefits of both countries.

Coincident with the launch of the NanoBiotechnology Research Centre, Deakin University also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with India Oil.

Also in November, 2010, the University’s Alfred Deakin Research Institute (ADRI) held its first Fusion Lecture, a series that in 2011 will again feature prominent thinkers on current public policy issues. The Fusion lectures draw inspiration from the intellectual and political legacy of Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second Prime Minister, andbring different disciplines to bear in interpreting and responding to global and regional change.

The inaugural speaker was internationally regarded economist, Professor Paul Collier, CBE, Professor of Economics and Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford and author of award winning books “The Bottom Billion: Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it” and “Plundered Planet: How to reconcile prosperity with nature”.

In November the Atrium at ADRI’s building on the Geelong Waterfront was also the venue for the fifth annual IT’S NOT MY FAULT FORUM, in conjunction with ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program.  In the past, these public forums broadcast on Radio National have embraced debate on ethics, sustainability, literacy and obesity. This year the subject was YES WE’RE STILL A MONARCHY BUT IT IS NOT MY FAULT.  The speakers were Greg Barns, former chairman of the Australian Republican Movement and Deakin University’s Professor Marian Simms and Professor Damien Kingsbury.

Originally established in 2009 as one of Deakin’s new Strategic Research Centres (SRCs), in 2010 ADRI combined with the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation to become the Centre for Comparative Social Research.

In 2011, all the SRCs will continue to play an important role in the growth of Deakin as a research driven university, building on existing research strengths.

These SRCs are:

  • The Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (ITRI)
  • The Centre for Comparative Social Research (CCSR)
  • Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention (CMII)
  • Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing Research (CMHWR)
  • Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (CPAN)
  • Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation (CREFI)
  • Centre for Sustainable and Responsible Organisations (CSaRO)
  • Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS)
  • Centre for Integrative Ecology (CIE)
  • Molecular and Medical Research (MMR)
  • Population Health (PH)
  • Biotechnology, Chemistry and Systems Biology (BCSB)

All of the Strategic Research Centres made great progress in 2010 – again heartening signs for 2011 and beyond.

The Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (CPAN) was particularly successful with numerous grant awards including an ARC Discovery Grant to Kylie Hesketh and her team.  Dr Hesketh was also honoured with an award by the Australian Society for Behavioural Health and Medicine for best oral presentation by an early career researcher and was a finalist in the Humanities and Social Sciences section of the Scopus Young Researcher of the Year Awards. 

Dr Karen Campbell won a World Cancer Research Fund grant for child obesity prevention. 

Dr Sarah McNaughton received a number of grants including a prestigious ARC Future Fellowship, one of the first of two awards to Deakin University, and an NHMRC Career Development Award. 

A number of PhD candidates received external awards in 2010 including a prestigious travel award from the European Society for Muscle Research to Marita Wallace and a Dietician’s Association of Australia Research in Practice Award to Alison Spence.

CREFI, CIE and QPS had great success in ARC Discovery and Linkage schemes. CMII produced five books and Associate Professor Kim Vincs and her team developed a work entitled ‘Infinite Space’ for the Melbourne Ballet Company which combines motion capture, 3D stereo projection and live dance.

The performance showcased a new approach for live theatre using motion capture to track dancers’ movements, and generate 3D imagery.

The development of both early and mid career researchers was again a key strategy in 2010 and will continue to be so in 2011.

A new appointment was made to develop and deliver a range of workshops and opportunities for early career researchers.  

The Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Scheme, targeting talented young researchers, drew an outstanding field. 

These bright young minds will underpin our push to build a vibrant culture and put Deakin on the international map in research”.

The Developing Research Leaders Program also enjoyed great success during the year, with both mentors and mentees benefiting not just from their involvement in the program, but also exposure in the media of their partnerships and their research.

The Institute of Research Training organised a highly successful series of skills development workshops for higher degree by research students on a range of topics.

In 2010, Deakin University implemented a new internal funding model for research:  the Research Investment Allocation Model (RIAM). 

Administered by the DVC (Research), the new model places particular emphasis on growing HDR numbers, targeted funding to identify and build research strengths and to encourage collaboration with external partners. The core elements of the RIAM are:

  • Aggregation of the total research spending of the university, providing a clearer understanding of investment in research.
  • Support for Strategic Research Centres and ITRI as Deakin’s research strengths, providing them with triennial research base funding to ensure their continued development.
  • Driving better strategic planning to maximise research outcomes, increase external research income needed to support this and to identify opportunities to enhance research performance through targeted recruitment.
  • Increased scholarship funding for both domestic and international higher degree by research students.
  • Provision of funding for Faculties to develop Faculty Research Clusters

As well as developing our own researchers from within, in 2011, Deakin will continue to work confidently to recruit more and more world class researchers.

In 2010, a number of very exciting appointments reflected the growth of Deakin as a research institution capable of attracting some of the world’s leaders in their fields.

Professor Maria Forsyth was appointed to ITRI, Professor John Endler to the Centre of Integrative Ecology, and Professor Marian Simms as Head of the School of History Heritage and Society in the Faculty of Arts and Education.

The appointment of new personal chairs also added to Deakin’s research depth:

  • Associate Professor Matthew Barnett
  • Associate Professor Ian Robottom
  • Associate Professor Lyn McCredden
  • Associate Professor Kylie Ball

Other highlights of 2010 worth reflecting upon included:


  • The award of two ARC Future Fellowships.  This is the first time that Deakin has been the recipient of these prestigious awards to support outstanding mid-career researchers.  The recipients were Professor Matthew Barnett (ITRI) and Dr Sarah McNaughton, as noted above.
  • Development of the “Smart Bike”:  a project led by Dr Paul Collins in ITRI bringing together cutting edge research from across Deakin in collaboration with industry partners to produce a lighter, stiffer, cheaper and ultimately smarter bike using light metals, carbon fibres and composites.  The bike was developed ahead of the UCI world cycling championships held in Geelong and attracted significant interest and media attention on Deakin’s research and innovation capabilities. 
  • The presentation of a Victorian Young Tall Poppy Science Award to Dr Paul Francis (Faculty of Science and Technology).
  • Deakin University’s successful submission to the inaugural Excellence in Research for Australia initiative
  • Launch of the Deakin Research Showcase and the Deakin Research Channel on the research website: an initiative to highlight the university’s research activities to the community
  • Establishment of “Breakthrough” a weekly research news page in the Geelong Advertiser which features research activities at Deakin University, CSIRO and Barwon Health.


So much worth celebrating was achieved in terms of research growth at Deakin in 2010 and I congratulate and thank all of you for enormous enthusiasm and effort.  But the clear message I want close with is that we have huge potential to expand our research, both in its scope and quality. That potential offers amazing opportunities in 2011. I look forward to working with you on these in this New Year.



Professor Lee Astheimer

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research)

Professor Lee Astheimer

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