Swinburne University will be the home for Amazon’s seventh Cloud Innovation Centre (CIC), a research hub aimed at developing technology solutions for broad social problems, based on large amounts of data.

The centre, which will be the first in the Southern Hemisphere, is owned and managed by the university and runs on Amazon Web Services technology.

The new Swinburne Centre will give students ranging from undergraduates to PHD researchers an environment to collaborate with industry, not for profits and the public sector on projects to address social problems including those created by digital technology and Industry 4.0, according to the Melbourne university.

Around 30 to 40 students will participate in the first year and they will retain full ownership of any IP they develop. Amazon will provide access to the cloud computing and storage technology. Startups will also participate with a view to help commercialise some of the students’ solutions.

Professor Aleksandar Subic, Swinburne’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Development made the announcement during Amazon Web Services annual Australian user conference in Sydney.

Subic declined to disclose the cost of the new centre, instead describing it as a “considerable investment” for the university.

Subic told Which-50 in media session following the announcement that while Industry 4.0 holds much promise it also threatens to leave certain parts of society behind, including traditional manufacturing workers and occupations outside of STEM industries. But he believes managing the change is something the new centre can help with.

“We live in a very diverse society and the future will be very diverse and rich. It will be what we create,” Subic said.

“Digitalisation should be an enabler. It should be an enabler for creating new values. So what this [new centre] is about, through challenges [and] interrogating where can we create those values, how do different parts of society fit in to that.”

The Swinburne professor pointed to the closure of Australia’s car manufacturing plants as an example of potential disruptions to the workforce driven by technology. The new centre could theoretically help anticipate these challenges as well as find new ways of utilising existing resources and labour.

Subic acknowledged the problems the CIC will try to tackle are significant but they also can’t be avoided.

Some of the early projects already identified will include analysing data to develop personalised medical plans to treat chronic conditions like diabetes, hopefully lessening the burden on both patients and service providers.

Another early use case, is the analysis of city data to improve operational efficiencies. An example of this “low hanging fruit” is the potential to more efficiently deploy rail replacement buses in the event of train failures, Subic said.

“We are interested in how neighborhood-level data can be used to improve the transparency and efficacy of local decision making. By providing a means of sharing relevant and timely data regarding issues that are of local importance, such as transport, employment, human services, and child welfare, communities can make consensus decisions and monitor the outcomes.”

Swinburne has previously partnered with other private sector firms, including Adobe for marketing, Tableau for analytics, Capgemini for blockchain, and Deloitte and Linkedin for the future of work.

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