Academia and Industry – Science Practice Partnerships: Event Review

Thursday, 23 March 2016
Written by Don Crawford, WA Branch Committee

An Australian Water Association WA Professional Development Seminar held on Thursday 23 March at Murdoch University looked at how industry can tap into the skills and intellectual resources of students and academics to develop solutions to water industry challenges while at the same time improving the learning and skill development of students through working on real world problems as the basis of their academic projects. 

Students, academics and industry representatives spoke about the many benefits to all parties of these Science Practice partnerships. Students considered the challenge of addressing a real life problem motivated them strongly to complete their project and also increased their knowledge, research skills and technical writing skills. Working with an industry partner introduced them to aspects of working life in a professional organisation, such as organisation culture, how to interact with staff and the level of rigour required in professional work. 

Industry representatives considered they benefitted from the student projects undertaken, the exposure to students who had an interest in their technical area of business who had the potential for future engagement and the ongoing collaboration with the academic institution. The universities promote the science practice partnerships because the concept exposes their students to problem and project based learning, they  develop close links to industry and they help solve real-life problems.

Dr Martin Anda of Murdoch University, Professor Anas Ghadouani of UWA and Associate Professor Anna Heitz of Curtin University explained that industry partnerships could be established at undergraduate (projects or honours theses), Masters, Doctor of Philosophy or post-doctoral level. The three graduates presenting their projects and the benefits of their experience with the program were Ashwin Nayak who graduated from Murdoch, Flavia Steinuer who graduated from Curtin and Peter Rice who graduated from UWA. All spoke positively about their experience with the partnerships and the benefits of the scheme, and their honesty and frankness was appreciated.

Industry representatives Peter Spencer from Water Corporation and Dr Raj Kurup from Environmental Engineers International spoke about the benefits and opportunities, but also about the practicalities of planning and structuring the project, the need to have resources to support the student and the need to tailor expectations to the ability of the student.

ANZ Bank is a supporter of the Australian Water Association, and appropriately Jeff Pontifex, State General Manager Business Banking ANZ, spoke about financing water infrastructure and the factors to consider in developing project business cases. He referred to a paper commissioned by ANZ and available on the Association website titled "Alternative Models for Financing Water Infrastructure" and suggested all project managers looking at developing business cases and finance proposals refer to this paper.

The seminar was attended by over fifty people, was well organised and well received, promoted robust questioning and successfully promoted the concept and benefits of Science Practice partnerships.   

Thank you to our generous sponsor Endress + Hausser for supporting this event.


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