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Industry Consortium Awarded $1.4m for Semantic Technologies
Thursday, 29 October 2009 00:00

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), in collaboration with an industry consortium facilitated by Fuji Xerox Australia, has been awarded a three-year $1.4 million Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project Grant by the Australian Government.

The objective of the research project is to pioneer innovation in the use of semantic technologies* by developing real-world business applications that streamline sustainability reporting.

Titled Semantics and Sustainability, the cross-disciplinary research project will apply semantic technologies to sustainability reporting, which remains a challenge globally for organisations that publicly disclose their economic, environmental, and social performance.

The intent of the project was unveiled today before  guests representing the government, technology and academic sectors at a launch event held at Fuji Xerox Australia's epicenter™ in Sydney.

The project aims to develop systems that automate the sustainability reporting process and generate reports dynamically and in real-time, using semantic technologies to identify and analyse relevant data from multiple sources.

If successful, this open source software solution could reduce the complexity and manual processes involved in sustainability reporting. It could also have global implications for standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative, the world’s prevalent framework for sustainability reporting.

The new grant follows the successful completion of a separate ARC-funded research project led by Fuji Xerox Australia in partnership with RMIT.

Initiated in 2006, the project investigated the potential applications of semantic technologies in the digital print and publishing industries, with the preliminary research results unveiled at today’s event.

The research found that many organisations are already utilising some of the basic concepts of semantic technologies in their approaches to data and information management, albeit as discrete projects, in sectors such as government, health, education and finance.

Earlier in May this year, the Government established the Information Technology Industry Innovation Council which seeks to to promote the $98 billion IT industry sector as an ‘enabler of innovation, productivity and sustainable development for the economy as a whole’.

Nick Kugenthiran, managing director of Fuji Xerox Australia, says the new research project is part of the company’s commitment to investing in local research and development (R&D) to foster innovation in Australia.

“As a company, we’ve invested heavily in R&D over the last four years to develop local solutions tailored to the needs of Australian customers, and conduct research that identifies ground-breaking applications for semantic technologies,” says Kugenthiran.

“This second project is part of our commitment to partner with industry to innovate locally by creating solutions that can be applied globally. It’s also about building Australia’s capabilities in emerging technologies.”

The  chief research investigators for Semantics and Sustainability are Paul James, director of RMIT’s Globalism Institute and author /editor of nineteen books, internationally recognised researchers Lin Padgham and James Thom from RMIT’s Computer Science department, and Hepu Deng, an associate professor with RMIT's Business School.

*What are semantic technologies?

Semantic technologies have been described as bringing together technology, politics, psychology and philosophy.

Quite simply, it enables machines to make contextual connections around information that humans publish. Semantic technologies bring together quantitative and qualitative data residing in databases and on the Web, and offer a powerful solution to the problem of dealing with vast quantities of information both in real time and from multiple sources.

 

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