The Port of Brisbane and University of Queensland (UQ) have been honoured with a 2017 UQ Partners in Research Excellence Award (PIREA) as a result of their innovative research partnership.

The PIREA is one of three categories at UQ’s annual Research Week Awards which highlights outstanding industry-UQ collaborations that have benefited industry and the community.

Established in early 2015, the Developing Port Growth partnership connects researchers from UQ’s Faculties of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology, and Business, Economics and Law with Queensland’s premier multi-cargo port.

Led by Professor Carlo Prato and Dr Alistair Grinham from the School of Civil Engineering, and Dr Peggy Schrobback from the School of Economics, the partnership has dual aims: to future-proof port growth in an increasingly competitive global trade environment, and to stimulate the Queensland economy.

Professor Prato – who came on board in 2016 to co-manage the partnership and supervise several postdoctoral fellows and PhD students – said their task was to work with the port to “push the envelope”.

“From my understanding, the port wanted a different perspective,” Mr Prato said.

“When they joined forces with UQ, our researchers were able to bring something to the table that was forward thinking and cutting-edge.”

Dr Schrobback said the partnership had to meet a range of business, transport and environmental targets – a huge task for such a large operation.

“We have created a multi-faculty approach, with UQ research teams developing highly innovative business and environmental solutions, and port-related technologies,” Dr Schrobback said.

So far, over 50 researchers and students have received a hands-on educational experience at the port facility, exposing them to the challenges faced both regionally and globally.

Environmental management expert Dr Grinham said there was a “natural fit” for both EAIT and BEL teams.

“The port is about more than just ships coming in,” Dr Grinham said.

“Everything is constantly changing, and there are numerous, amazing issues to work on in fields including transport and coastal engineering, geotechnical and environmental sciences, and economics.”

General Manager of Infrastructure and Environment at the Port of Brisbane, Robert Nave, said the UQ research team was at the forefront of delivering high-quality research outcomes.

“From our perspective, the Developing Port Growth partnership helps us maintain our competitive edge,” Mr Nave said.

“The research spans a number of disciplines, including economic analysis, dredge and dredge material management, air quality management, land reclamation and stormwater management.

“UQ’s research teams are committed to communicating and applying this research to produce tangible benefits for society, such as improved economic, social and environmental reporting, reuse of dredge material, enhanced sediment and stormwater management, the identification of economically efficient ways to reduce air pollution, and optimised supply and logistic chains.

“This partnership has benefited not only the port, but also students and researchers across a number of disciplines, and the local and larger economies.

“It is healthy and robust, and continues to grow in scope.”

Major outcomes to date include optimising navigation channels to accommodate larger container vessels, developing strategies to manage sediment transport into Moreton Bay, and implementing an advanced monitoring program to inform the port’s multi-million dollar catchment rehabilitation program.

Funded by UQ and the Port of Brisbane for $2 million over three years, the partnership has subsequently generated over $6 million in research income, including ARC Linkage and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) funding.

It has been showcased at several international conferences and was also presented as a case study by UQ Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Høj, at the Universitas 21 Presidents’ Forum, held at The University of Nottingham, UK.

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