Australia placed to be world water leader

Improved water productivity and increased export incomes are at the heart of a new National water management blueprint launched at the University of Melbourne today.

The Blueprint for Regional Water Productivity launched by Minister for Environment the Hon Greg Hunt will position Australia as a world leader in water resource management.

The Blueprint will provide an innovative and collaborative framework relevant from the farm scale to the national level and will guide efforts to tackle a range of water management issues.

The Blueprint was developed as part of the Carlton Connect Initiative led by Professor Peter Scales from the Melbourne School of Engineering.

“We have some major objectives in mind. We want to look at irrigated and rain-fed agriculture that takes maximum advantage of variable water availability. We need to move towards environmental water management that is underpinned by a strong evidence-base,” he said.

“The project will also look at efficient water distribution and markets that promote multiple benefits and planning that will enrich regional communities.”

Achievement of the objectives will result in a more sustainable approach to economic development and help create more resilient regional communities.

The Blueprint for Regional Water Productivity (PDF) is available for download online at

The Carlton Connect Initiative is a collaborative project that provides a leading-edge catalyst for cross-sectoral innovation that aims to have a big impact on pressing social challenges with a particular focus around sustainability and resilience.

Cortera Neurotechnologies secures DARPA funding

Ricky Muller launches Cortera Neurotechnologies
Dr Rikky Muller launches Cortera Neurotechnologies

The Melbourne Accelerator Program congratulates Cortera Neurotechnologies, alumnus of the 2013 program, on being part of a UC San Francisco-led team that has secured funding from DARPA as part of US President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative.

DARPA has provided $56 million USD of funding to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco to develop brain implants to treat mental illness.  Cortera Neurotechnologies will provide their technology to support this effort.

Cortera Neurotechnologies CEO, Dr. Rikky Muller, stated she was “incredibly proud to be a part of the first major project under the Obama BRAIN Initiative and is looking forward to working with an incredible team of physicians, scientists and engineers.”

After completing their Ph.D. research at UC Berkeley, Dr. Rikky Muller and Dr. Simone Gambini moved to Melbourne in late 2012 to take up academic positions at the University of Melbourne.  In 2013, Cortera Neurotechnologies participated in the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), which provided office space, funding and mentoring over the course of the program.

MAP Manager Rohan Workman stated, “We’re incredibly proud to see Rikky and Simone participate in this world leading initiative.  It is fantastic validation of the hard work they’ve put into Cortera Neurotechnologies over the last year.”

The Melbourne Accelerator Program is the leading entrepreneurial program in Australia and is hosted by the University of Melbourne.  Alumni of the MAP Startup Accelerator have raised over $4 million in funding since it was established in 2012.

More information can be found at or by contacting Rohan Workman on +61 409 508 555.

Protein fibres grow within DNA cylinders

Associate Professor Sally Gras, from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Nadrian Seeman, chemistry professor at New York University have discovered a new method using DNA origami to turn one-dimensional nanomaterials into two dimensions.

Gras and Seeman have co-authored a paper, “Amyloid fibrils nucleated and organized by DNA origami constructions”, that was published yesterday in Nature Nanotechnology. Professor Seeman, founder and developer of the field of DNA technology, is lead author of the paper.

In a New York University press release, Associate Professor Gras said “We brought together two of life’s building blocks, DNA and protein, in an exciting new way. We are growing protein fibers within a DNA origami structure.”

The methods used to create these hybrid materials could be used in the future to capture other rod-like structures such as carbon nanotubes, potentially enhancing fiber optics and electronic devices.

Professor Seeman said, “If we can make smaller and stronger materials in electronics and photonics, we have the potential to improve consumer products.”

For more information read “Nano fibres get their structure from DNA ‘origami’”, by James Devitt-NYU,, June 2, 2014

2014 MAP Entrepreneurial Fellowships announced

Six startups have been chosen to participate in the MAP14 Startup Accelerator, as part of the 2014 Melbourne Accelerator Program. They are:

      • Pathobin – pathology photography image hosting service for pathologists, scientists, surgeons and students –digitises microscopic slides to improve patient diagnosis, cancer research and education and allows for crowd-sourced research.
      • xLabs – has developed the first eye-gaze tracking solution that works with an ordinary webcam, doesn’t restrict your movement or need continuous recalibration.
      • Brosa – is a marketplace helping industrial designers manufacture and sell unique homeware products to consumers. Industrial designers turn their real life ideas into products and make money by selling to a community of homeware lovers.
      • SCANN3D – provides a 3D visualisation service that pioneers the next generation of real estate marketing content.
      • Financial Ask – helps you to make the correct financial decisions. By connecting qualified advisors with consumers it provides financial advice for those who could not afford it previously.
      • Quanticare Technologies – builds healthcare solutions which enable data-driven clinical encounters through the development of novel monitoring and tracking technology. For example, the first product developed by Quanticare is is a sensor enabled walking frame which facilitates better mobility and prevents falls in the elderly.

The Entrepreneurial Fellowships include $20k AUD funding, office space, mentoring and unparalleled networking opportunities. The startups will also travel to Sydney and Silicon Valley for investor meetings.

MAP Manager, Rohan Workman, said that he was delighted with the quality of applications in 2014.

“Choosing the final six was incredibly tough but we’re very pleased with the startups we’ve selected and look forward to helping them grow into viable businesses,” Rohan said.

The Melbourne Accelerator Program is the preeminent entrepreneurship program in Australia and supports entrepreneurs of all abilities.

Top startups are awarded access to the MAP Startup Accelerator and alumni have raised over $4 million AUD in funding.

Former recipients of a MAP fellowship and co-founders of Australia’s most popular mobile shopping app, Bluesky, David Mah and Nigel Ang will compete for $5 million AUD in the Big Pitch to take place on June 17 in Federation Square. To find out more about their big pitch read “Bluesky makes finals for The Big Pitch as deadline nears” by Caitlin Fitzsimmons, BRW, 3 June 2014.

The MAP14 Startup Accelerator will officially launch on Thursday 10 July, tickets can be obtained online.

Girton Grammar and Mater Christi College bring home the glory in The Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest

Mater Christi College
Mater Christi College

Fledgling inventors from around Victoria descended on Wilson Hall this week to show off their bizarre and brilliant contraptions as part of the Melbourne School of Engineering’s Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest.

Similar to Rube Goldberg machines, Spaghetti Machines complete a simple task via a series of complex and entertaining steps, often making use of materials such as dominoes, marbles, toy cars, balloons and found objects. This year’s challenge was to build a “wake up machine” using a minimum of 10 steps.

The Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest was launched in 2011 to celebrate 150 years of engineering education at the University of Melbourne

Year 10 students from schools around the state put together an astonishing showcase of creative and clever spaghetti machines, making use of ingredients as diverse as bicarbonate of soda, batteries, Jenga pieces and the music of 80s pop icons Wham!

There was drama at the finish line with the judges unable to separate the two top teams. In the end a tie was declared, with Girton Grammar and Mater Christi College taking out top honours for their highly creative and technically excellent machines.

For Mater Christi, 2014 was their debut entry in the contest. Team spokesperson Sarah Camm said the students were excited and amazed to have won.

“No words can express how much effort we’ve put in and how much time we’ve put in after school until 8pm and later, three nights a week for the past three weeks.”

Sarah said that the win was even more amazing given the team only had three weeks to complete the project, due to their supervising teacher being overseas.

“We’re all so relieved and so happy that we’ve achieved this result.”

The Mater Christi students built a toy shop themed machine, which was activated by a “sunrise” hitting a light sensitive diode.

“Everything we used in the machine was recyclable. We only bought a few things, the rest of it was sourced,” Sarah said.

She said the entire team learnt a great deal about teamwork thanks to the competition.

“With me having a science brain and others having creative brains it was great to see what we could put together at the end.”

Girton College
Girton Grammar

Girton Grammar students put together an entertaining and popular machine to wake their doll test subject “Jeff.” The Wallace and Gromit inspired machine was also a hit with crowds, with the team taking out the People’s Choice Award.

Girton student Karli Kulbars said that the Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest was an important way to promote involvement in Science and Engineering at Girton.

“We want to create a big Science community at Girton because it’s one of our favourite things.”

The School has previously won the 2011 and 2012 contests, and Karli said they were excited to have brought the trophy home once again.

“From Year 7 we’ve known about the Spaghetti Machine and how cool it is to be a part of it. I joined Systems Engineering because I wanted to learn more about what happens with mechanics.”

Second and Third Place winners in the contest were Gippsland Grammar and Methodist Ladies’ College.

The Technical Award went to Emmanuel College and the Spirit of the Spaghetti encouragement prize went to Westbourne Grammar.

Students were posting Instagram images to the #spagmachine tag throughout the day as their machines started to take shape. See their photos here.

Federal Budget Tech Cuts

The federal budget is moving to slash science and technology funding, boosting dollars into medical research instead.

Talking to Jennifer Foreshew from the Australian, our Dean of Engineering Professor Iven Mareels discusses how this change in focus could be detrimental to Australian innovation and technology.

To read more about the cuts to the technology industry from the Australian, click here.

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Place Matters: A Journey to a Just and Fairer Society

As the ongoing search for flight MH730 has demonstrated, spatial awareness is a fundamental issue for society. Despite the relevance and importance of spatial data, the principles, laws, systems and technologies surrounding place and location can be difficult to decipher.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 11.34.10 am

In his public lecture, Place Matters: A Journey to a Just and Fairer Society, Emeritus Professor Ian P. Williamson AM will use global examples to highlight place, location, property ownership and land management. By examining these factors with sustainable development, Professor Williamson will explore why good land administration is essential within a spatially enabled society. In understanding these factors, Professor Williamson will demonstrate how his lifetime passion can be used to better understand place and location to achieve a fairer and more just society.

Ian Williamson is an Emeritus Professor in the Centre for Spatial Data Infrastructures and Land Administration, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne. Undertaking worldwide research to support spatial data development and administration in the Asia-Pacific region, this centre explores a number of fields including land policy, management and information.

For over 30 years, Professor Williamson has researched, published and consulted on land matters on a global scale. In particular, he has worked with AusAid and the United Nations, enabling him to address current issues and fairness in society through a spatial data lens.

Register here to attend Professor Williamson’s lecture.

WHEN: 10 June 2014, 6pm – 7pm

WHERE: A1 Theatre, First Floor, Old Engineering Building 173, The University of Melbourne, Parkville Campus

MAP MedTech Meetup

WHEN: 10 June 2014, 6pm – 8.30pm

WHERE: Level 2, Old Metallurgy, The University of Melbourne

The Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) is the leading entrepreneurial program in Australia. Organising meetups for special interest groups in entrepreneurship around the University, MAP is giving developing entrepreneurs access to networks and expertise to accelerate their ventures into the global stratosphere.

In a new initiative for entrepreneurs who are passionate about medicine, MAP is launching the MedTech Meetup. Meetup attendees will have the unique opportunity to connect and discuss healthcare innovation and medical technology with like-minded people.

In addition to networking with peers, attendees will also hear from industry professionals, who will discuss their medical and entrepreneurial innovations. Andre Tan, R&D Advisor and Co-inventor at GI Therapies and Andrew Rudge, Senior Business Development Manager from the University of Melbourne Commercial will be on hand to answer questions about entrepreneurship, medical technology and healthcare.

If you’re fascinated by the medical industry, determined to make a difference in healthcare or are simply interested in expanding your network, this meetup can open hidden doors for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The MedTech Meetup will be held on Tuesday June 10 at the University of Melbourne. For more information, click here.

Making green cars sustainable

The latest edition of Visions looks at options for making electric vehicles sustainable. Researchers at the Melbourne School of Engineering are investigating the effects of electric vehicles on the energy grid and how to mitigate potential strain by using smart meters and plugs to shift charging to off-peak times.

Dr Julian de Hoog, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, PhD student Lu Xia and Dean of the School of Engineering Professor Iven Mareels discuss the technologies that could see a future of carbon-footprint-free commuting.

What now for the NBN as taxpayer investment is capped?

Professor Thas Nirmalathas
Professor Thas Nirmalathas

Professor Thas Nirmalathas, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, has written an article for The Conversation.

Professor Nirmalathas discusses the implications of recent federal budgets cuts to the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Read, “What now for the NBN as taxpayer investment is capped?”, The Conversation, 15 May 2014.

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