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Hub to supercharge Queensland’s AI economy

07 May 2021

A recent University of Queensland-KPMG Australia study found that more than 60 per cent of Australians knew little about Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a transformative technology to augment and extend human capability.

The Trust in Artificial Intelligence: Australian Insights 2020 study also found many Australians were also unaware of AI in everyday applications, from wearable sports tech to robotics in manufacturing to surgical robots and ride-sharing apps.

Queensland’s Artificial Intelligence Hub is driven to understand why this is the case and bridge the information gap.

AI is no longer in the future, it’s in the here and now, from smartphones to smart technologies in our homes, in drones, social media and streaming services.

We see its application in robots being used in agriculture — from picking fruit to picking weeds. In medicine, we see it in robotic prosthetics and in technology helping doctors make key decisions in treating patients.

There is a global revolution in AI and robotics — and Queensland has been making its mark, quietly in the background.

Located at Brisbane’s innovation and start-up centre at The Precinct in Fortitude Valley, the Hub aims to grow and support the talent and technology needed to cement Queensland’s reputation as Australia’s emerging AI capital.

Queensland hosts a number of significant research institutes, including the QUT Centre for Robotics, the University of Queensland School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering and Griffith University’s Institute for Integrated and Intelligent Systems.

The establishment of the AI Hub is part of a Queensland Government economic vision to position the state as a world leader in AI and robotics.

The issue is that Australian businesses are yet to take full advantage of opportunities when it comes to the adoption of AI technologies.

A 2019 Accenture report said that if Australia adopted AI technologies, we could increase our Gross Domestic Product by $400 billion by 2025.

The Queensland Government has committed $5 million through Advance Queensland to establish the Hub, viewing this as a critical investment in the State’s future economy, helping to transform Queensland’s technology and industrial sectors.

The Hub is overseen by an experienced board of directors and an expert advisory board comprising a consortium of leading AI and tech experts, including Max Kelsen, IntelliHQ, KJR, 9Points and AiKademi.

Founding partners also include the University of Queensland, QUT and KPMG Australia.

The Hub’s inaugural CEO, Dr Sue Keay, is one of Australia’s leading AI and robotics champions.

Before taking up the role as CEO, Dr Keay worked on a range of community and industry building initiatives, including Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap, the Robotics Australia network, and the Queensland Field Robotics cluster.

She was also Research Director for Cyber-Physical Systems for CSIRO’s Data61 and Chief Operating Officer for the world-first Australian Centre for Robotic Vision at QUT.

Since her appointment as Queensland AI Hub CEO, Dr Keay has been named among a ranking of the world’s top 20 female disruptors making their mark in robotics and automation. Separately, she also won a World of Drones and Robotics Congress 2020 ‘Outstanding Individual Contribution Award’.

Under Dr Keay’s leadership, the Hub is focused on four key initiatives:

  • building on the existing AI community;
  • developing local AI talent;
  • providing a launch pad for AI-based start-ups by connecting them with end-user industries; and
  • assisting local businesses and government organisations to better understand and engage with AI technologies.

Dr Keay said there was no question Queensland was home to one of Australia’s leading AI ecosystems, but more needed to be done to unearth and connect AI talent with investment opportunities.

To date, her team has engaged with more than 200 Queensland organisations, either creating or adopting AI technologies, to map out challenges and opportunities, including a focus on regional Queensland and small and medium-sized enterprises.

“What’s exciting is that Queensland has a unique opportunity to drive national AI capability and shape Australia’s future, ensuring socioeconomic resilience and competitiveness on a global scale. So long as the full breadth of our AI talent does not remain a well-kept secret,” Dr Keay said.

Dr Keay said the Hub had most recently unearthed AI talent ‘literally on our doorstep’.

“We discovered the construction site foreman of the Hub’s recent fit-out project doubles as a tech innovator, developing an AI-enabled facial recognition platform that confirms identity and health — via temperature recording — of people needing to sign in and out of a physical space,” Dr Keay said of SafeFace Aus founding director Tim Volkman.

“We’ve connected Tim with the AI ecosystem and are excited to see where it leads, including potential for an industry-based trial.”

According to Tim Volkman, a 27-year-old self-taught tech pioneer, the opportunities opened by Queensland AI Hub are nothing short of life-changing, underlining the Hub’s focus on ‘the humans behind AI’.

“I had no idea about the best way to progress the company to market, and the Hub has opened doors and provided direction to help me realise the dream of helping businesses of all sizes operate in a more efficient and effective way — and make employees’ lives less stressful,” Mr Volkman said.

For more information on Queensland’s AI Hub, visit AI Hub on Advance Queensland.