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Industry Partnership Links University to World

Wednesday 12 April 2006

Industry Partnership Links University to the World

Innovative IT project to develop next generation of global network interconnectivity

The University of Otago’s School of Business is teaming up with two leading Information and Communication Technology companies in order to prepare the New Zealand ICT industry for the convergence of new generation technologies.

The School of Business and Wellington-based partners, software technology company Open Cloud and ICT research company MediaLab, have embarked on an ambitious three-year project: Global Network Interconnectivity: Supporting Networking and Wireless Technologies Development.

The project will work on the service and technology structures needed for 3G and 4G broadband mobile communications, wireless and multimedia networking technologies which are set to boom over the next decade.

“The ICT industry in New Zealand is uniquely poised to take advantage of the accelerated convergence and growth of wireless, next generation networking and computing technology,” says Professor George Benwell, Head of the University of Otago’s Department of Information Science, which is leading the project within the School of Business.

”Convergence between different types of network such as mobile, fixed, internet and next generation (3G/4G) has been extremely difficult and not cost effective. But the development of open standards-based networking infrastructures and services platforms changes this.

“The government has recognised an urgent need to expand New Zealand’s technical and research and development skills, since the outsourcing of ICT services is expected to exceed US$500 billion by the end of the decade. Responding directly to this need, the project combines the strengths of academia, and the telecommunications and software technology industries. The opportunity of this project is comparable to the influence that Nokia had in developing cell phone technology in Finland,” Professor Benwell added.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will contribute $1.5 million over the next three years toward the project through the Growth and Innovation Pilot Initiatives funding.

“This project is one of twelve cutting-edge projects that the TEC approved funding for this year,” says Dr Robert Burgess, TEC Growth and Innovation Manager.
“Through Growth and Innovation Pilot Initiatives funding, we want to encourage tertiary education organisations and businesses to build connections and share knowledge and expertise.”
The Global Network Interconnectivity: Supporting Networking and Wireless Technologies Development project has four major activities:

- Project development (including the establishment of an industry advisory group);
- Education and training (establishing a new industry focused qualification in telecommunications, amending existing degree programmes and establishing an industry training programme);
- Collaboration and networking strategy (including workshops and conferences organised by MediaLab); and
- Technology development.

A test bed for developing the new technologies will be set up within the University’s School of Business.

The crucial element in the project is JAINTM SLEE (Service Logic Execution Environment), an open industry Java (a programming language) standard technology which supports the rapid development of portable, robust telecommunications applications. JAIN SLEE provides the “glue” for the various next generation networking multimedia technologies.

Open Cloud and Sun Microsystems led the telecommunications industry community to create the JAIN SLEE standard. A number of telecommunications carriers, including Vodafone Spain have deployed JAIN SLEE–compliant technology to run real-life commercial voice services.

This technology will be a key factor in the development of the new University of Otago’s Diploma in Applied Science (Telecommunications), which is expected to be available from March 2007.

The existing Bachelor and Master of Applied Science (Telecommunications) degree programmes will be reviewed this year with content expected to be amended to include training in the new technologies.

The University is also planning an industry training programme to up-skill specialist practitioners in Java-based technology, 3G and 4G networking, distributed web-service technologies and wireless media.

The School of Business’s digital research repository, launched last year, will be used to collect and publish results from the project, with the National Library of New Zealand acting as an advisor.

“There is an amazing opportunity for collaborative research and technology development within New Zealand and abroad. The University of Otago and Open Cloud already have existing relationships with tertiary organisations in Spain, Germany, Belgium and Japan which we expect to utilise,” says Professor Alan MacGregor, Dean of the School of Business.


ENDS


About the Partners

Open Cloud was formed in 2000 to create Java-based infrastructure software technology that would revolutionise the portability and interoperability of middleware services in telecommunications specifically in the evolution to 3G information systems. Open Cloud works with partners to deliver, integrate and support end-to-end solutions incorporating Open Cloud products to global network operators and service providers. Open Cloud has representatives in London, Madrid and Tokyo.

MediaLab acts at the interface between industry and research providers, integrating skills through collaborative research projects to provide solutions to the ICT sector. Formed in 2002 as an incorporated society, MediaLab became a limited liability company in 2005 owned by venture capital firm, TMT Ventures and university commercialisation company, Otago Innovation Limited.


Background information on the Growth and Innovation Pilot Initiatives:
The Growth and Innovation Pilot Initiatives are a response to the government-appointed industry sector taskforces. The TEC first funded projects within this initiative in June 2004.
In 2003, government approved almost $30 million for Growth Pilots funding over five years. To date the TEC has approved more than $17 million for 31 projects, including the 12 announced in March this year.
Purpose of the Growth and Innovation Pilots is to:
-- build capability of tertiary education organisations (TEOs) to underpin the development of sectors of high growth potential
-- encourage collaboration between TEOs and businesses within the sectors of high growth potential which will result in:
- TEOs better understanding the businesses and delivering more relevant education, training and research that will respond to businesses’ needs;
- two-way sharing of knowledge and expertise between TEOs and businesses; and
- development of entrepreneurial and commercial skills within TEOs and businesses.
-- further inform policy around the importance of the role TEOs can play in economic development.
For more information on the Growth Pilots visit the TEC website at http://www.tec.govt.nz/funding/strategic/growthpilot/growth_pilot.htm.

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