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2018 Winners of the BHERT Awards for Collaboration

For over 20 years, the BHERT Awards have celebrated the very best of Australian university partnerships with business and the community. In 2018, the winners include:

  • an academy which trains autistic students for roles in the IT industry
  • a major partnership supporting the international competitiveness of Australia’s food industries
  • Australia’s largest science and engineering challenge for school students
  • a powerful collaboration in indigenous health to address disadvantage
  • a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment using viruses.

BHERT has also honoured regional Victorian leader Jane den Hollander, for her leadership in establishing Geelong as one of Australia’s most vibrant innovation precincts.

The BHERT Awards

The BHERT Awards are Australia’s longest-running and highest-profile recognition of the outstanding partnerships involving universities.

First launched in 1997, BHERT Awards have honoured some of Australia’s most important activities, including for example the revolutionary vaccine Gardasil; Seeing Machines, the computer vision company; many of Australia’s leading Work-Integrated Learning programs, and national initiatives in environmental management and social inclusion.

In 2018, the BHERT Awards attracted a record field of entries, with 79 high-calibre submissions from 30 universities. The partnerships touched upon nearly every industry in Australia, and over 200 companies and organisations participated. BHERT assembled an outstanding Panel to assess the Awards, featuring business and community CEOs, and scientists and university leaders.

The Winners of the BHERT Awards are characterized by national impact and unique partnerships across Australian society. All have operated for many years, and have involved multiple participants.

Award for Outstanding Collaboration in Research & Development: Industry Partnership

BHERT Research and Development Collaboration Award

Awarded to:

  • Monash University
  • University of Queensland
  • Soochow University
  • Bega, Devondale
  • Tartura
  • Fonterra

Project: Monash Program for the Food and Dairy Industries

The Program was established in 2006, initially for the dairy industry, as a joint initiative of Monash University with Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd (DIAL) – an industry body representing companies dedicated to advancing Australia’s dairy sector.

The Program aimed to develop new processing and technologies, and provide Australia’s dairy companies with innovative powders that can be sold at a premium, and novel ingredients like milk protein concentrates, specialty proteins, and whey products.

Australia is the fourth largest dairy exporter in the world, has 6% of global trade and $3 billion in annual export earnings. Roughly 40 percent of fresh milk in Australia is spray dried, and the Monash program has guided the development and rollout of revolutionary spray-drying technologies – Smart Drying, single droplet drying, and Microfluidic spray-drying – which have established Australian companies like Bega, Tartura, Fonterra, Devondale at the forefront of the international dairy products industry.

Direct outcomes have included extension of the shelf life of Australia’s powdered dairy exports – including infant formula – while meeting stringent safety and quality benchmarks for export and domestic markets.

Over recent years, the Program has evolved from a dairy focus to encompass other foods and pharmaceuticals, and has led engagement of the industry with China. Initially based at Monash University in Melbourne, the Program now extends to the University of Queensland, and Soochow University in China.

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Award for Outstanding Collaboration in Research and Development: Technology Development

Collaboration in Research and Development Award

Awarded to:

  • The University of Newcastle
  • Hunter Medical Research Institute
  • MSD Australia

Project: Viralytics: immunotherapy-based cancer treatment

Two decades of The University of Newcastle research into the common cold virus has led to a new cohort of oncology treatments, based on immunotherapies, which introduce viruses to induce an immune response against cancerous tissues. These are proving to be particularly important in treating late stage and metastatic diseases, including melanoma, prostate, lung, head, neck, and bladder cancers.

In 1999 The University of Newcastle helped Professor Shafren patent the use of CAVATAK® in oncology and form Viralytics Ltd. Seven patents were secured for the use of the drug in various types of cancer treatments.

Through 2007 and 2009, Professor Shafren and Viralytics at a laboratory at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) partnered with the Hunter New England Local Health District, Princess Alexandria Hospital (Brisbane), Calvary Mater Hospital (Newcastle), St Vincent’s Hospital (Sydney), and the Royal Adelaide Hospital to carry out Phase 1 clinical trials.

Between 2014 and 2018, Shafren and the Viralytics team raised nearly $85 million in capital to support ongoing research and development in CAVATAK®.

In June 2018, Merck acquired Viralytics for $502 million, establishing Australia as a leader in cancer immunotherapies. Viralytics is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. but continues to operate as normal in Australia and is working with Merck and MSD to advance clinical trials with a view to developing CAVATAK® into a commercial product.

The annual global market opportunity for cancer immunotherapies is estimated to reach $42 billion, around 50 percent of the total cancer treatment market by 2020. The research has helped cement The University of Newcastle’s reputation as a world-leading research centre, and the formation of Viralytics has led to the creation of 35 jobs, including 25 scientists employed by The University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute.

Through 2007 and 2009, Professor Shafren and Viralytics at a laboratory at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) partnered with the Princess Alexandria Hospital (Brisbane), Calvary Mater Hospital (Newcastle), St Vincent's Hospital (Sydney), and the Royal Adelaide Hospital to carry out Phase 1 clinical trials.

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Award for Outstanding Collaboration for National Benefit

Collaboration for National Benefit Award

Awarded to:

  • Curtin University
  • Bankwest
  • BHP
  • Deloitte
  • Ian Potter Foundation
  • Bennelong
  • Rotary
  • rerisk

Project: Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance 

The Autism Academy is a social initiative that recognises and harnesses the special talents of autistic school leavers, to provide an enhanced capability for software designers, and attractive career paths for the students. The model follows a Danish company (Specialisterne) that created a strengths-based approach for supporting individuals on the autism spectrum to secure employment in the IT area. The labour force participation rate for adults with autism is 41% in Australia.

The Academy was launched in 2015. It worked with the Australian Computer Society Foundation on development of a specialist internship scholarship program, and in 2016 Bankwest agreed to pilot scholarships for two interns; the success of this pilot led it to taking in more interns in subsequent years, and setting up its own autism employment working group. Five other companies then committed to the AASQA program, including BHP, which has 30 internship places, and plans to roll out the program to its eastern state offices.

The Academy now takes 160 high school, vocational and undergraduate students on the autism spectrum, supported by around 55 volunteer mentors, and trains them in coding, automation, software quality assurance and work experience. It has raised over $1.1 million in funding, and has partnerships with BHP, Bankwest, Deloitte, the Ian Potter Foundation, Bennelong Foundation, Rotary, and rerisk.

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Award for Outstanding Collaboration in Higher Education and Training

Closing the Gap

Awarded to:

  • University of Queensland
  • The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health

Project: Indigenous Health Education and Workforce Development

In 2010, the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), with support from the UQ Poche Centre for Urban Indigenous Health, entered a partnership. IUIH is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled, health organisation in Australia, with an annual operating budget of $70 million. IUIH is the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in South East Queensland.

The partnership with UQ was designed to address indigenous health disadvantage through developing a generation of health professionals familiar with the special challenges of indigenous health. It used university placements (students and staff) within the Indigenous health organisation rather than at a university.

Since 2010, annual student placements have grown from 30 students across 3 disciplines, to over 350 students across 20 disciplines in 2017. 25 graduates have been employed at IUIH following their placement experience. The partnership between the University of Queensland and IUIH was enabled by the generous philanthropy of Greg Poche and Kay von Norton Poche towards the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, which provided resources for placement of University of Queensland students within IUIH health facilities.

IUIH can demonstrate that its clients experience an improvement in Health Adjusted Life Expectancy of nearly a full year, and the UQ-IUIH Program supports the development of a clinically and culturally competent health workforce.

Since 2010, annual student placements have grown from 30 students across 3 disciplines, to over 350 students across 20 disciplines in 2017. 25 graduates have been employed at IUIH following their placement experience.

IUIH can demonstrate that its clients experience an improvement in Health Adjusted Life Expectancy of nearly a full year, and the UQ-IUIH Program supports the development of a clinically and culturally competent health workforce.

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Award for Outstanding Collaboration in Community Engagement

Collaboration in Community Engagement Award

Awarded to:

  • The University of Newcastle
  • Rotary
  • Google
  • Engineers Australia
  • Defence Force Recruiting and others
  • 27 other Australian Universities, and NZ and Singapore Universities

Project: The Science & Engineering Challenge

In 2000 the Science and Engineering Challenge (SEC) was started by The University of Newcastle in collaboration with Rotary, by Dr Terry Burns. From a single event, the program has now grown to include 265 event days and 50,000 students across Australia each year. The program partners with numerous local and national businesses and organisations and 28 Australian universities.

The SEC delivers 3 principal programs: Challenge Event Days, for High School students (years 9 & 10), Discovery Days, for Primary school students (years 5 & 6), and the SMART outreach program for ages 3 to adult.

Challenge and Discovery Days bring together groups of students from multiple schools to compete in hands-on ‘real-world’ science and engineering activities, centred on teamwork, problem-solving and creativity.

SMART (Science Maths and Real Technology) delivers interactive, curriculum linked science shows, professional development sessions and hands-on STEM workshops across the Hunter Valley and in regional communities.

The Program has produced outstanding outcomes: one year after participating, 96% of students had found the Challenge rewarding; 89% found the Challenge informative about relevant potential careers; and 38-45% of students credited the Science and Engineering Challenge as influencing their decision to study mathematics, chemistry and physics.

Rotary has been the major partner for 18 years, alongside Google, Engineers Australia, Defence Force Recruiting, and many other businesses. The Science and Engineering Challenge is now a sustainable and self-funding activity, with $1.4 million revenue per year; and has recently expanded to Singapore and New Zealand.

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Ashley Goldsworthy Award for Individual Leadership in University-Business Collaboration

Awarded to: Professor Jane den Hollander AO, Vice Chancellor, Deakin University

Professor Jane den Hollander

Deakin University plays a pivotal role in the economic, social and cultural life of Geelong, Victoria’s largest regional city. The decline in its traditional manufacturing sector has presented significant challenges as large employers such as Ford and Alcoa have closed.

Since taking up her position as Vice-Chancellor in 2010, Professor Jane den Hollander AO has worked tirelessly with Government, industry and education partners to proactively identify and address the challenges of a region undergoing significant transition.

Professor den Hollander has provided outstanding leadership in driving collaboration with local, state and national organisations to enable Geelong to not only respond to the challenges but to embrace the opportunities of innovation, advanced manufacturing and the digital economy.

Outcomes have included:

  • Driving the development of the Geelong Future Economy Precinct. The Precinct includes Carbon Nexus, the world-leading carbon fibre/composite research and development facility and ManuFutures, the advanced manufacturing innovation hub that provides space and support for growing businesses to work with the university. In the last five years the innovation hub has generated over 2,000 high-tech high value jobs in regional Geelong.
  • Chairing the Skilling the Bay Advisory Group, a group of leaders from Geelong’s key industry, education and community sectors guiding a program to equip workers for the jobs of the future. Partners include The Gordon, WorkSafe, Epworth Geelong, Newcomb Secondary College, Runway (Accelerator hub) and Department of Education and Training and Australian Government Department of Employment. The Victorian Government invested over $4.7 million in Skilling the Bay through 2015-17.
  • Championing opportunities for Geelong’s disadvantaged: Professor den Hollander has worked tirelessly to see that education is seen as a desirable and achievable goal for regional Victorians. Initiatives in Geelong include Northern Futures, the Whittington Works Alliance, the Northern Bay Guarantee and the Northern Bay Promise.
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