The Asian Smart Cities Research and Innovation Network (ASCRIN)-developed by La Trobe University (Australia), along with its partners IIT Kanpur and BITS Pilani-was announced last week during a visit to India by La Trobe's vice-chancellor, Prof John Dewar.
"The aim of this initiative is to build a critical mass of resources, know-how and targeted research strength from the three universities, along with close engagement with industry and local government, to deliver impact for the sustainability, liveability and efficiency of cities across Asia," La Trobe said in a statement.
The research network will include La Trobe-IIT Kanpur Research Academy and a joint PhD and research framework with BITS Pilani-which will be supported and guided by a network of 'industry champions'-who will comprise senior leaders from corporates, consulting houses, SMEs and the government.
Key themes for research and industry collaboration are around infrastructure and technology; economic development; mobility and transport; health and well-being; education; urban planning; governance and engagement; security and safety; culture and heritage; and energy, water and waste.
Prof Dewar said, "I'm delighted to deepen our relationship with IIT Kanpur and BITS Pilani to create a powerhouse of research and industry collaboration to address the pressing global challenges brought about by urbanisation in Asia."
More than 70 academics from the three universities have joined the research and innovation network, with the aim of creating new joint research professorships and a joint PhD programme with more than 50 PhD scholarships offered.
Prof Abhay Karandikar, director of IIT Kanpur, said the institute specialises in smart energy grids that are the backbone of any Smart City. "We are not only conducting state-of-the-art research in this area but have also put our work into practice by implementing a smart energy grid in our campus," he said.
"Combining our expertise in this this area with the research strengths of La Trobe University will bring us cutting-edge results for the benefit of rapidly urbanising Asian cities," he added.
Prof Souvik Bhattacharyya, vice-chancellor of BITS Pilani, said, "We want to take our collaboration with La Trobe to the next level, introducing a joint doctoral programme. We are combining our expertise to address new challenges in Smart Cities. This covers many areas, from mobility and transport to sanitation and waste management, using disruptive technologies such as IoT, AI, machine learning, blockchain and real-time data analytics."
In 2018, La Trobe launched an innovation competition called Technology Infusion Grand Challenge where UG students apply skills gained in their studies to solve societal or industry problems in Smart Cities. Entries to the second year of this annual competition are now open.