As Chief Investigator on nine ARC Linkage grants in the last 10 years - the most recent awarded in January 2017 - Professor Buddhima Indraratna is surely a keeper of the key to successful collaboration with industry.
“Our passion is research to deliver goods to industry where there are real problems. All of our research projects are practically focused on solving industry problems,” says Professor Indraratna, Professor of Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences and Founding Director of the Centre for Geotechnical and Railway Engineering (GRE).
Professor Indraratna’s recognition in the 1990s that Australia’s railway infrastructure lagged behind many other developed nations, and his adoption of railway engineering research - which he says was not being addressed by universities at the time – has paved the way for a career that has contributed strongly to the theoretical and practical aspects of the field.
Focusing predominately on innovation in ground improvement techniques for transport infrastructure, the research of Professor Indraratna and his team has revolutionised the field in terms of design innovations and extended longevity, enabling faster trains carrying heavier loads. It has also positively influenced Australian practices over the years, particularly in the revision of existing Australian standards, as well as driving the formulation of new Australian standards.
The team’s active ARC Linkage projects include Understanding mud pumping in heavy haul railroads; Load-displacement and consolidation behaviour of soft soils stabilized by stone columns for transport infrastructure and Performance of Soft Clay Consolidated by Biodegradable and Geosynthetic Vertical Drains under Vacuum Pressure for Transport Infrastructure.
In these projects, they collaborate with a number of key industry organisations including Australian Rail Track Corporation Ltd., Aurizon, Coffey Geotechnics, Douglas Partners and Menard Bachy.
With the ability to conduct large scale experimental work in their UOW laboratory that practically captures what happens in the field, combined with expertise in predictive computer simulations, the researchers are able to more swiftly integrate their research work into ‘realworld’ applications.
“Industry is happy to apply research, but you’ve also got to validate. Once industry has the confidence that the research methods proposed are working well, then they have the confidence to apply that to other projects and ultimately advance the Australian state of practice.”
As well, industry collaborations help cultivate synergy and momentum within the GRE providing an ideal environment for challenging research, Professor Indraratna says, which flows on to recognition in the form of national and international awards for the research team and their partners.
Among these accolades, Professor Indraratna was the recipient of the 2013 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research Partnerships (jointly, with Professor Brian Cullis and research partner Grains Research Development Corporation).