New $18m partnership between CSIRO and universities to build digital tech for safer workforce

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Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, has joined forces with five universities under an $18 million partnership program, known as Tech4HSE, tasked with developing new tools and systems to protect Australians from harm at work.

Under the program, researchers in emerging technologies such as generative and immersive artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and cybersecurity, will develop tech to aid those working in dangerous environments.

The program, which will seek to bring Australia’s university expertise and CSIRO’s capabilities together to maximise the impact of science, research, and development, is led by CSIRO’s data and digital arm, Data61, and the University of Queensland (UQ). Swinburne, UNSW, Curtin and ANU have also signed up as partners.

All participating institutions are contributing funding and research expertise to the program, with UQ administering the funding.

Science Director of Data61, Professor Aaron Quigley, said the technologies developed will support health, safety and environmental (HSE) objectives across a wide range of industries.

“Whether they’re working with electrical equipment, heavy machinery or on our roads, millions of Australians put themselves in harm’s way every day to help and serve others,” Prof. Quigley said.

“We’re bringing the best researchers in the nation together to help get everyone home safely, by creating advanced digital tools for training, identifying and monitoring hazards, and planning responses and actions.”

Prototypes will be built over five years and trialled in real-world job scenarios, with a focus on developing commercially viable products which are responsible by design.

In the first project currently underway, researchers from Data61 and UQ will be developing technologies to support crisis preparedness and response for workers in the energy industry.

Researchers will be initially working with stakeholders in the power industry to ensure prototypes are sensitive to industry needs.

UQ Tech4HSE Science Lead Dr Mashhuda Glencross said these projects presented an exciting opportunity to make an impactful difference.

“The innovative technologies we are researching and developing in this initiative are aimed at supporting the safety of Australians during disasters and when working in potentially hazardous environments,” Dr Glencross said.

The program was announced by Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic, at the launch of Australia’s AI Month, coordinated by CSIRO’s National AI Centre.