Remarks at the Torch Innovation Week Gala Dinner

I start by acknowledging the Bedegal people, the Traditional Custodians of this land. I also pay my respects to the Elders both past and present and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are present here today.

We are honoured to have here tonight China’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Cheng Jingye, and other members of the diplomatic corps.

I am also very excited that we have so many representatives of our Torch industry partners joining us. Many of you have been with us from the very beginning of Torch and we are delighted to have such strong support.

I would like to acknowledge and welcome representatives of: Huawei, Goldwind and Goldwind Environment, HCCL, Shenzhen Kohodo, Beijing, Origin Water, Beroni Group, TusHoldings, Suzhou International, Technology Institution for Industrial Research, Our photovoltaics partners and other Knowledge Exchange partners, and, from UNSW, researchers, Management Board, and the Knowledge Exchange team.

There is something very special about Torch Innovation Week here at UNSW.

Because the nature of our collaboration is so often virtual, we may not realise the power of what we are creating through the Torch initiative.

But to stand here and see China’s Ambassador, Australian and Chinese researchers, industry representatives, entrepreneurs, and the teams who support this program, gives me an enormous sense of pride in what we have created.

It is now two years since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, joined together at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People to endorse the agreement for the first Torch precinct outside of China.

In that time, we have made great progress.

As Premier Li described it, the UNSW Torch Innovation program is “a shining beacon of bilateral co-operation in innovation and entrepreneurship” and we are certainly seeing the results of this unique partnership.

So far, we have built a research contract pipeline worth $195 million.

That is good for Australia and good for China, but most of all, it is good for the communities we serve. Because the projects we undertake have a tremendous impact – economically and socially – across many, diverse parts of society.

From the world-changing work led by UNSW Professor Martin Green on photovoltaic solar energy. To the work of our researchers on the elimination of Hepatitis C, the partnerships between UNSW and our Chinese colleagues are making a real difference.

Torch partners Beroni, Kohodo, and Beijing Origin Water have all established Australia-based companies, and we are establishing joint ventures in China, which are partly owned by UNSW. 

We have located a Centre for Transformational Environmental Technologies, focussed on water and environment, in Yixing. And in Hangzhou and Jiaxing, we will continue our quest for better, more efficient photovoltaics.

In this Torch Innovation Week, I am delighted that we have some exciting new agreements to sign.

UNSW researcher, Professor Chuan Zhao, will work with Shenzhen Kohodo on hydrogen creation as a new form of clean energy.

Professor Joe Dong and Scientia Professor David Waite join forces with Goldwind and Goldwind Environment on windfarm and water treatment for ion removal and energy recovery.

Professor Sean Li will work with Hangzhou Cables on the Phase 2 of our flagship project including graphene-enhanced, high-performance electricity grid transmission lines.

And Jiangsu International Technology Institution for Industrial Research will partner with Dr Binghao Li on the development of underground mine 3D mapping and autonomous vehicles.

This week not only highlights the importance of the TORCH partnerships but the relationship between China and Australia.

The Torch initiative will assist both countries to advance scientific and technological progress and help us better prepare for the future.

Our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has reiterated his commitment to working closely with China, honouring our long strategic, diplomatic, and economic history.

And in a recent speech, the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Philip Gaetjens, praised the mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries and its potential to create ‘more value, more growth and more jobs’.

I would add that the strengthening ties between Australia and China, through such initiatives as the Torch Innovation Precinct, create an expansion of our knowledge base at a time when our world so desperately needs it – when the problems we need to solve are complex and, at times, with no precedent to guide us.

We will only solve the challenges facing our society in these rapidly changing times, by embracing a spirit of ‘generosity in partnership’.

That is a phrase I use often and believe in with great conviction.

It does not just indicate the importance of partnership and collaboration, but also that being generous in the conduct of the partnership opens doors, generates mutual trust, and more often than not, returns greater benefits.

The UNSW Torch Innovation Precinct is doing all of that.

It is also fostering a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and partnership that is imperative if we are to effectively translate our research into real-world impact.

I thank you all for sharing a commitment to collaboration – to generosity in partnership – and I look forward to all we will achieve together in the coming year.

Check against delivery