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From the Chancellery

By Professor Sakkie Pretorius, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President: Research and Innovation

Professor Sakkie Pretorius, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President: Research and Innovation.Last December, I took up the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President: Research and Innovation at UniSA after many years in charge of the Australian Wine Research Institute. So why did I make the move? Well, there is no doubt in my mind that UniSA has the potential to become Australia’s university of choice when it comes to ‘excellence with relevance’ - that is, building pathways and partnerships between academia, industry and the wider community.

From my very first day in the Chancellery, I recognised the potential. UniSA is internationally renowned for its expertise in many disciplines. Our divisions, research institutes and research centres have the multidisciplinary capacity to build further a reputation for engagement in a range of areas including the mining sector, materials science and minerals processing, wireless communications, social sustainability, health and biomedical sciences, marketing science, sustainable systems and technologies, defence and complex systems engineering, and advanced manufacturing. At every turn, in every division, I saw evidence of outstanding researchers and expertise.

In the weeks that followed, I also identified a unifying theme. I sought counsel from many sources and directions, because I see consultation and collaboration as a foundation of leadership and action. Throughout the University, I saw the potential for excellence with relevance. That is, the capacity and the capability to achieve academic excellence while addressing ‘real-world’ problems. Those ‘real-world’ problems are a priority for our students, their families, our partners in industry, and our stakeholders in government and the wider community.

To address such problems, through UniSA’s research programs, I also recognised the potential for a renewed culture of innovation. Horizon 2020 already outlines UniSA’s vision for its future, and my role as the new Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation is to build on that blueprint, ensuring that its vision is realised through strategic thinking and concerted action. To achieve that, I have sought advice from the wider university community and, as part of the consultative process, I also invited submissions through an Ideas Forum that was held on May 17.

The event was facilitated by Professor Göran Roos, a founder of modern intellectual capital science who has made a significant global contribution to the theory, policy and practice of innovation and strategy management. Professor Roos has been appointed Adjunct Professor at a number of universities, including UniSA. As a former Adelaide Thinker in Residence, he also advised the State on the future of its manufacturing sector, and his final report has become a blueprint for innovation in South Australia.

The Ideas Forum brought together some of the brightest minds from within and beyond the University, and it demonstrated UniSA’s commitment to excellence with relevance. Some of the ideas addressed renewable energy, sustainability and social cohesion, while others applied innovative thinking to genomics and personalised medicine. There were calls for entrepreneurship to be integrated into UniSA’s research culture, and there were new ideas in fields of healthcare and journalism ethics. The forum also responded to industry priorities in the mining and health sectors – both key elements of South Australia’s economy.

The Ideas Forum provided critical input to the realisation of Horizon 2020 by demonstrating that UniSA has the capacity and the capability to innovate. The next step is the formulation and clear articulation of UniSA’s research and innovation strategy. This is my priority.

Since I took up my position, I have also identified an ambitious opportunity. It is my belief that UniSA has the potential to become one of the top 10 universities in Australia. It is a bold ambition, but one that I am confident we can achieve.

Research inspires teaching and learning. Education integrates and implements innovation. We have the opportunity to embed a renewed culture of excellence with relevance if our research responds directly to the concerns and priorities of industry and society, and if we aspire to excellence in everything that we do.