Unleashing innovation in the face of COVID-19
Disruption and innovation have been features of the UTS Rapido Vietnam: Industry 4.0 for sustainable water systems since inception!
This project, funded under the Australian Government’s Aus4Innovation Partnership Grants Program (see the showcase), equips Vietnamese universities and research institutes with the knowledge and tools to capitalise on their research potential, empowering them to produce working prototypes, and in turn, making innovative technologies more accessible to the economy – particularly to SMEs.
The aim is to demonstrate the UTS Rapido model of technology transfer through pilot activities that introduce new technologies to water systems in two different regions of Vietnam.
In Xuan Dai bay, Phu Yen, researchers from UTS and Ho Chi Minh University of Technology (HCMUT) have launched a seawater environment monitoring system that employs cutting edge technology in robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics and mechatronics. A first in Vietnam, it is among very few worldwide providing real-time offshore environmental measurements in hostile conditions, including saltwater corrosion and seasonal heavy tropical storms.
In the Red River Delta, improved designs for water filtration systems are increasing access to drinking water for households and communities, while UTS researchers and their local industry partners are working with Vietnam National University – University of Engineering and Technology (VNU-UET) to integrate sensing technology with the new systems.
An automated treatment plant, currently under construction, will bring new technology to peri-urban Hanoi and build capacity in local industry, allowing it to manufacture similar systems and tap into the manufacturing ability of Vietnam.
Prof. Ian Burnett, Dean, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, UTS said the delivery of the seawater environment monitoring system and the water filtration systems during this uncertain time strongly proves UTS deep engagement with partners in Vietnam through our joint research centres with VNU-UET and HCMUT.
Addressing the internationally emerging challenges in ocean environment and in ground water pollution, the project again highlights the unique strength and impact of UTS practice-oriented research not only in Vietnam but globally.
COVID-19 was an entirely unforeseen disruption to the project, as everywhere.
Nonetheless, the nature of the project and its objectives have allowed it to navigate and leverage restrictions and obstacles imposed by the pandemic, finding new ways to collaborate and engage with industry, and fostering independence in the local pilot Rapido teams.
Due to international travel bans, teams of researchers from UTS and partners VNU-UET and HCMUT have worked remotely to plan and implement project activities. Teams in Vietnam have also navigated local travel bans and restricted access to project sites, which are located at a distance from the university hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
The impact of the pandemic has meant adapting to a ‘new normal’, where timelines and deliverables are re-evaluated and, in some cases, reimagined – and there have been plenty of opportunities to innovate.
The team delivered a virtual technology transfer workshop early on, harnessing the opportunities presented by teleconferencing platforms and social media networks to extend the reach of the training beyond initial plans.
A new technology transfer unit, HCMUT Rapido, harnessed the research capabilities of HCMUT to develop an IoT-enabled ventilator at the height of the pandemic in Vietnam. This project, the first self-contained project under the new Rapido Vietnam model, demonstrated the agility and user-focus characteristic of the Rapido model.
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced disastrous economic and public health outcomes globally. Yet in this case, it has enabled the growth of HCMUT Rapido, which grasped the opportunity to innovate and test their new capabilities.
HCMUT Rapido has gone on to deliver additional projects which address the impact of the virus, from online learning tools that demonstrate how Industry 4.0 technologies can help fight COVID-19, to an ATM which caters to people who are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic, while adhering to social distancing.
Prof. Eryk Dutkiewicz, UTS Chief Investigator said the teams behind UTS Rapido Vietnam have effectively adjusted to COVID-19 restrictions.
They adapted to the new normal, embracing opportunities to find new ways of doing things in both Australia and Vietnam. This success in navigating the pandemic to deliver the aims of the project can be attributed to the deep working relationships between the Australian and Vietnamese partners, built over many years of close collaboration.
The strong and cooperative relationships that drive UTS Rapido Vietnam leave it exceptionally well-placed to deliver on its aims throughout the ongoing pandemic, as partners work closely to tailor the UTS Rapido model to Vietnam and establish a blueprint for technology transfer that can be applied to the entire country.
“By working closely with our partners in Vietnam, we are embedding an innovative technology development and transfer model to the country’s technology start-up ecosystem, starting from universities and R&D institutes,” said Dr.Diep N Nguyen, UTS Co-Investigator.
UTS Rapido Vietnam is funded by the Aus4Innovation Innovation Partnership Grants scheme, an initiative of the Australian Government and managed by the CSIRO.