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By  Geoff Egan 24 January 2024 6 min read

Key points

  • Round 2023-24 of our Next Generation Graduates Program will fund more than 160 postgraduate students in emerging technologies, quantum and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • This round of the program includes a regional stream to build a pipeline of talent outside major cities.
  • The program includes universities from across Australia and industry partners from across the world.

Can you live outside a major metro area and develop cutting-edge technology? Unfortunately, for many Australians, the answer is no.

Major universities and industries are often located hundreds or thousands of kilometres from home. This means developing a pipeline of researchers in regional areas has significant challenges. It's why we're funding 162 postgraduate student places to universities as part of the Next Generation Graduates Program. Our goal is to help build the technology pipeline outside the capital cities.

Universities have partnered with industry partners including Singtel, Optus, SAAB Australia and Meta to give students direct access to industry-leading experts.

Aaron Quigley is Science Director at Data61. He said the Next Generation Graduates Program will help solve our greatest challenges.

“The Program’s regional stream will ensure those living outside major cities can be part of world-leading research,” Aaron said.

“The challenges facing regional areas are distinct from those in major cities and it is vital to have perspectives from those areas.”

Charles Sturt University’s AI and Cyber Futures Institute Executive Director Ganna Pogrebna. ©  Alexander Kharlamov

Charles Sturt University’s artificial intelligence (AI) and Cyber Futures Institute (AICF) is based in Bathurst. Prof Ganna Pogrebna is AICF's Executive Director. She said being based in as well as focused on regional Australia was vital to the program.

“Developing research pipelines outside major urban centres is essential for fostering collaborative environments across consortium universities," Ganna said.

The Next Generations Graduate Program's regional focus ensures practical, hands-on experiences for students and researchers. It enables them to apply cutting-edge technologies to real-world agricultural challenges.

This approach not only diversifies the talent pool but also revitalises regional business models, creating job opportunities and attracting investments,” Ganna said.

“It brings the benefits of technological innovation to the core of Australian agriculture, ensuring advancements are not confined to urban centres.”

The AgriTwins project is one of eleven projects in the Next Generation Graduates Program. It addresses a range of agricultural industry challenges using AI, machine learning, and cybersecurity.

“The program's primary objective is to integrate digital and quantum twins, ensuring a cyber-secure future for the agricultural industry,” Ganna said.

“This initiative is crucial in enhancing Australia's competitive edge in global markets and ensuring decision superiority in agricultural practices and innovations.”

Dr Winyu Chinthammit is the University of Tasmania’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory Research Leader. He said the Next Generation Graduates Program could be a building block to developing a digital technology industry in regional Australia.

“Developing an emerging technologies research pipeline outside capital cities is crucial to address the challenges faced by regional areas, such as constrained access to digital services, infrastructure availability, education disparities, and workforce supply," Winyu said.

Winyu’s research looks into improving workers’ safety and performance by integrating digital technologies, as well as seamless communication between human and digital entities. It is another of the successful programs in this round of the Next Generation Graduates Program.

The Program focuses on three key areas of digital technology: immersive Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“The program will provide valuable insights into how augmented human operations with VR, AR and AI can be used to create a more efficient and effective workforce," Winyu said.

Previous successful Next Generation Graduates Program projects have included quantum, sports data science, privacy, automation, clean energy, digital twins, critical infrastructure, defence, digital currency, AI in mental health, materials science, the metaverse, and much more.

This is the first round to have a specific regional stream.

The Next Generation Graduates Program is funded by the Australian Government.

Successful Next Generation Graduates Program Round 2023-24 applications

Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Secure Signal Processing and Connectivity for Autonomous Sensors

This program will develop world-leading algorithms and systems to redefine the boundaries of AI applications in secure sensor connectivity across defence, agriculture, energy, satellite industries.

Partners: RMIT University, CQUniversity, Federation University, University Technology Sydney, Singtel Optus, Consunet, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Praetorian Aeronautics, Botanical Food Company, McCormick Foods Australia, Single Agriculture, ConnectAUZ, BuzzBay, RedgridGPT, Blue Spiral, Outlook Industries Australia, Datellite

Scholarships: 10 PhD, two MPhil, one Honours

An Adaptive AI-informed Framework for Next-Generation Productivity Enhancement using IoT and Smart Sensing Technologies

This project aims to develop AI-informed frameworks for insight generation and adaptation of smart sensing and communications to enhance productivity in Industry 4.0 settings. 

Partners: Deakin University, University of New South Wales, James Cook University, Stronger Brains Limited, Intersect Australia Limited, Cerenaut, Green IOT, Agriculture Victoria Research, Kurloo Technology, AutoWeed

Scholarships: eight PhD, one MPhil, two Honours

Continual Learning and Adaptation of Resilient Vision Models in Uncertain Real-world Environments

This will enhance computer vision solutions, bolstering reliability, adaptability, and cost-efficiency spanning industries from healthcare to robotics, while contributing to sustainability and strengthening sovereign capabilities in the digital economy.

Partners: University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, Defence Science and Technology Group, Defence Artificial Intelligence Research Network (DAIRNet)

Scholarships: 10 Honours

Creating the Next-Generation Specialists in Quantum

This will provide the framework to identify and develop quantum talents that are home-grown, job-ready graduates who can potentially unlock the immense economic opportunity offered by quantum technologies.

Partners: University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, Sydney Quantum Academy

Scholarships: three Masters, 16 Honours

Emerging Technologies for the Integration of Autonomous Vehicles into Networked Naval Operations

This program will provide research, testing, and evaluation, to assist the effectively integration of crewed vessels with autonomous maritime and aerial vehicles to assist the current and future challenges Australia’s navy faces.

Partners: RMIT University, University of Tasmania, Defence Science and Technology Group, Navantia Australia, SAAB Australia, C2 Robotics, Arkeus; DefenceX, Nova Systems, CSIRO

Scholarships: nine PhD, four MPhil, one Honours

AI-powered digital transformation for the smart circular economy

This program will produce next-generation AI graduates who will facilitate development of new knowledge, skills and tools to drive creation of a smart circular economy in Australia in general, with a focus at the regional scale.

Partners: Southern Cross University, University of Technology Sydney, Revolve Your World, CSENS, Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, Business NSW

Scholarships: six PhD, nine Honours

Next Generation Policing: Effective and Ethical Use of AI and Data Science in Law Enforcement

Police forces have an increased amount of data sciences and AI available, this project will examine the best ways to ethically and lawfully query, interrogate and visualise this data are utilised.

Partners: Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, University of Western Australia, University of New England, WA Police

Scholarships: 10 Masters

AgriTwins: Bridging Cyber-secure Emerging Technologies and Datacentric Twin Tech for Resilient Agriculture of the Future

The AgriTwins programme intertwines advanced cybersecurity with emergent data-centric twin technologies to address escalating challenges the agriculture sector faces, ranging from sustainability issues to increased need for optimisation and efficiency.

Partners: Charles Sturt University, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, Agri Sciences Research and Business Park (Supported by NSW Wine Industry Association, Bega Group, Telstra, Clara Hydrogen, Delta Ag, Bayer Australia, Sphere Drones, SunRice, Hutcheon and Pearce)

Scholarships: eight PhD, one Masters, two Honours

Towards a Natural Disaster Resilient ‘Net Zero Future’ in Queensland

This project will use advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence to help reduce risk, and aid prediction, monitoring and protection of people from the impacts of climate change, flooding, bushfires, cyclones and heatwaves.

Partners: James Cook University, Griffith University, Bentley Education, Blue Carbon, Townsville City Council, G2X, Rockfield Technologies, Spark NQ

Scholarships: 11 PhD

Augmented Human Operations

This research aims to empower human performance, capabilities and safety using immersive virtual reality, augmented reality technologies and Artificial Intelligence to facilitate communication and cross-interactions between human and digital entities using.

Partners: University of Tasmania, University of South Australia, University of Queensland, Monash University, RayTracer, Think Digital, SABRN, Healthy Shack Tech, VentureOne, Acacia Systems, Asension, Trajan Scientific Australia, Forest Products Commission, Launceston Church Grammar School

Scholarships: 11 PhD, three Honours

SAFE-XR: XR Perception and Safety and Health Issues

This research program will explore fundamental issues in perception and health and safety in head worn AR/VR systems including addressing simulator sickness and distraction from real work dangers.

Partners: University of South Australia, Monash University, University of Queensland, Meta

Scholarships: seven PhD, six Masters, 21 Honours

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