UNSW signs world-first solar agreement

In the first deal of its kind in the world university sector, UNSW Sydney reached an agreement with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to have 100% of its energy supplied by photovoltaic solar energy.

The 15-year solar supply agreement with Maoneng, which for the first time brings together a retailer, developer and corporate, will allow UNSW to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020. UNSW believes it is the first university worldwide to go fully energy carbon neutral with 100% of its needs supplied by solar photovoltaics (PV).

“This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact,” said UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies.”

Jacobs said the deal was a testament to the world-class research carried out at UNSW. 

“UNSW researchers, in particular Professor Martin Green and the late Professor Stuart Wenham and their teams, have been instrumental in ensuring that solar energy is affordable and accessible to all – this deal is a testament to their work,” he said. 

Under the agreement, UNSW will purchase up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy per annum from Maoneng’s Sunraysia Solar Farm near Balranald in south-western NSW, meeting UNSW’s annual energy requirement starting in 2019.

A three-year retail firming contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer, to manage the intermittency of solar production.

In brief

Law hub to tackle tech challenges

• UNSW Sydney and law firm Allens officially launched the Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation in March, unveiling 10 new research streams to tackle legal issues surrounding data, artificial intelligence, privacy, online social collaboration, intellectual property and digital platforms. The Allens Hub will investigate a wide range of issues, including the concept of legal responsibility for artificial intelligence, and the legal status of synthetic life forms.


Bran Black has been appointed CEO of the NUW Alliance, a first-of-its-kind partnership between the University of Newcastle, UNSW Sydney and the University of Wollongong. Black has served as Chief of Staff for the NSW Attorney-General and the NSW Environment and Heritage Minister. During his time in government, he was instrumental in delivering government reforms including the 2017 criminal justice reforms.


• UNSW Sydney has taken the lead on promoting financial literacy and independence among students, launching its Financial Inclusion Action Plan (FIAP). UNSW is the largest educational institute to take part in the program, established by Good Shepherd Microfinance. Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Inclusion and Diversity at UNSW, said the FIAP had been developed following extensive student consultation.


Helen Lochhead. Photo: Jessica Lindsay

Lochhead joins leading advisory groups

Professor Helen Lochhead, the Dean of the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment, has added several high-profile appointments to her already extensive portfolio.

Lochhead has been elected president of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), where she will promote the value of architectural education and the export of architectural services to the national economy. The appointment, which is effective from May 2019, will create opportunities to further develop research collaboration and knowledge exchange with industry and government.

In April, Lochhead was also appointed to serve on the first NSW State Design Review Panel (SDRP), a panel of 40 independent experts to advise on significant, large-scale developments in NSW.

The panel will work with the Government Architect NSW to review and consider key elements of the assessment process such as local character and design excellence.  

Lochhead said she was looking forward to further aligning university and professional expectations including continuing postgraduate and professional development education.

Lochhead is also Chair of the Sydney South Planning Panel, serves on the National Council and Board of the Australian Institute of Architects and has held many senior roles in NSW government, including Deputy Government Architect, and Executive Director roles at the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and Sydney Olympic Park Authority.


NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and Professor Veena Sahajwalla at the microfactory launch.

World-first e-waste microfactory offers mobile solution to landfill

NSW Minister for the Environment Gabrielle Upton was on hand for the launch of the world’s first e-waste microfactory at UNSW Sydney.

Using technology developed following extensive scientific research at UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT Centre), the e-waste microfactory has the potential to reduce the rapidly growing environmental problem of vast amounts of electronic waste.

Upton said it was pleasing to launch a NSW home-grown solution to the waste challenges facing communities all over the world.

“It is exciting to see innovations such as this prototype microfactory and the potential they have to reduce waste,” she added.

SMaRT Centre Director Professor Veena Sahajwalla said the e-waste microfactory was the first of a series of microfactories under development and in testing at UNSW that could also turn many types of consumer waste such as glass, plastic and timber into commercial materials and products.

For instance, old computer circuit boards can be transformed into valuable metal alloys such as copper and tin, and glass and plastic from e-devices can be converted into micromaterials used in industrial-grade ceramics and plastic filaments for 3D printing.

“These microfactories can transform waste where it is stockpiled and created, enabling local businesses and communities to not only tackle local waste problems but to develop a commercial opportunity from the valuable materials that are created,” Sahajwalla said.

UNSW’s modular microfactories can operate on a site as small as 50 square metres and can be located wherever waste may be stockpiled. A microfactory is one or a series of small machines and devices that uses patented technology to perform one or more functions in the re-forming of waste products into new and usable resources.

UNSW has developed the technology with support from the Australian Research Council and is now in partnership with a number of businesses and organisations including e-waste recycler TES, mining manufacturer Moly-Cop, and spectacle maker Dresden.

Need to know


UNSW Sydney President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs took up his role as the Group of Eight’s (Go8) new Chair in February. Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said: “Professor Jacobs has made it clear that he intends to use his year at the helm focusing on taking universities into the community, building stronger partnerships, and continuing to highlight the vital role universities play in Australia.”


UNSW Sydney and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) launched a collaboration in February to tackle poverty and equality head on. The collaboration includes backing from UNSW, ACOSS member organisations and philanthropists to the value of $2 million over five years. The interdisciplinary collaboration aims to focus national attention on poverty and inequality through high-quality research, policy development and advocacy to effect change. 


• UNSW was awarded almost $4 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grants in February, the highest amount in the Group of Eight (Go8). UNSW received 43% of the overall total ARC funding of $9.2 million, for projects including research on marine pollution, coastal hazards, ocean weather, antibiotic use, and Aboriginal health and wellbeing. Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at UNSW, said: “This funding will really help overcome some of society’s biggest challenges to achieve real-world outcomes for Australia.”


• A team of UNSW Law students claimed victory at the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Commercial Mediation Competition in Paris, beating 65 teams from 32 countries. The UNSW team of Nanak Narulla, Brittany Young, Nadhirah Daud and Jack Rathie beat a team from Saint Joseph University of Beirut in the final of the annual competition, regarded as the world’s top mediation challenge. 


• UNSW Galleries has a new Director, José Da Silva, who has almost 20 years of curatorial and management experience in art museums, private and public-sector environments. Over the past decade he delivered an ambitious program of exhibitions and projects at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, working across cinema, contemporary international art and performance. 

New research underpins world-class national security

UNSW Canberra launched the new UNSW Defence Research Institute in February to deliver world-class research to enhance Australia’s security.

The UNSW Defence Research Institute draws on the expertise of researchers from UNSW Sydney and Canberra, to provide Defence with solutions to real-world issues.

Headquartered at UNSW Canberra, the institute was officially launched by UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs. This was followed by celebrations at Parliament House to mark the 50th anniversary of educating Australia’s future military leaders at UNSW Canberra.

“World-class defence starts with world-class research,” Jacobs said. “UNSW Canberra has 50 years' experience partnering with Defence and a 50-year history of excelling in research.

“The UNSW Defence Research Institute will combine our strengths and lead the way for the next 50 years and beyond.”

Jacobs said the institute’s knowledge would be shared with communities across academia, government and industry, as well as global policy makers.

“UNSW excels in areas such as cyber security, space-systems engineering, artificial intelligence, logistics, hypersonics, defence-related public sector management and conflict studies,” he said. “We are making our expertise available for others to learn.”

The search is now on for a director to lead the institute.

UNSW Canberra Rector Professor Michael Frater said the UNSW Defence Research Institute would shine a light on the ground-breaking research conducted by the university’s academic staff.

“UNSW Canberra is one of the world’s leading research institutions, a pioneer in defence studies and a global leader in cyber security education,” Frater said. “It’s the natural home for Australia’s largest university-driven defence research institute.”

In brief


• UNSW Sydney achieved another strong result in the QS World University Rankings by Subject. Social Sciences and Management was the University’s strongest subject area, rising six spots to equal 16th place. Subjects in that field include Education, up 14 to 35, and Business & Management Studies, up one spot to 22. The University scored two top 10 subject rankings, Mineral & Mining Engineering (9) and Accounting & Finance (10). The University now has 22 subjects in the top 50.


UNSW alumna Angelica Mesiti has been selected by the Australia Council to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale 2019. Mesiti, one of Australia’s most celebrated contemporary artists working across video, performance and installation, holds a Bachelor of Fine Art (2001) and a Master of Fine Arts (2012) from UNSW Art & Design. “I’d like to say a big thank you to the selection panel for their faith in my practice and recognition of my work,” Mesiti said. 


• UNSW Medicine Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus has been named a laureate at the Khwarizmi International Award for her work using single-molecule imaging to analyse the complex decision-making process of T-cells. Gaus was one of five international medical researchers and scientists to receive an award at the 31st KIA Laureate ceremony in Tehran.


UNSW Art @ Design student Dennis Goulding works on the piece Pathways to Our Right.

Human Rights Institute aims for global change

The Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney was launched in March, and heralded for highlighting  the possibilities for collaborative research and the potential for young people to use their technology, idealism and power to make positive change.

The launch was hosted by ABC broadcaster Fran Kelly and featured a panel discussion where actor Magda Szubanski, The George Institute Executive Director Professor Vlado Perkovic, and Pollinate Energy cofounder Katerina Kimmorley shared their experiences in affecting change.

UNSW Sydney President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs described the institute’s role in the University’s important mission to better the lives of people in some of the world’s most marginalised communities.

Institute Director Professor Louise Chappell told the audience these changes would be possible when STEMM and non-STEM researchers joined forces around rights challenges.

“In building these collaborations, our institute will be unique in the world,” Chappell said.

The night also featured UNSW Art and Design Honours student Dennis Golding painting an artwork titled Pathways to Our Right. Guests were invited to contribute to the piece, which used traditional symbolism and merging colours to convey messages of unity.


Paul Gladston, inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Contemporary Art.

UNSW appoints first Judith Neilson Chair of Contemporary Art

It is probably fair to assume that one of the first stops for Professor Paul Gladston after he arrives in Sydney from the UK will be the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale.

As the inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Contemporary Art, Gladston will be itching to make use of his access to the White Rabbit Collection, one of the world’s most significant collections of contemporary Chinese art and an invaluable research resource and focus for critical debate.

Established in February 2017 with a $6 million gift from philanthropist and White Rabbit Gallery founder Judith Neilson, the Chair is aimed at developing new knowledge and a better critical understanding of the global significance of contemporary art and culture.

Gladston, one of the world’s leading experts on Chinese contemporary art and culture, will be based at UNSW Art & Design from May, leading scholarly research into contemporary art, with a focus on China. 

He joins from the University of Nottingham where he was Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures and Critical Theory, and Director of the Centre for Contemporary East-Asian Cultural Studies. Before this, he was seconded from the University of Nottingham as inaugural Head of the School of International Communications and Director of the Institute of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China.

“The Judith Neilson Chair provides an incomparable platform for critical research into contemporary art, and contemporary art in and from China. This resonates strongly with my existing scholarship in these areas,” he said. “I am very excited about developing what I hope will be an internationally recognised focus for scholarly, curatorial and artistic excellence.”

Professor Ross Harley, Dean of UNSW Art & Design, said Gladston would lead the faculty’s research and dialogue in contemporary Chinese culture internationally. 

“His expertise and academic leadership will enhance UNSW’s global excellence in this field and help expand our expertise in contemporary Chinese art in a global and historic context,” Harley said. 

Founder and director of White Rabbit Gallery Judith Neilson said she established this Chair to support a leading scholar to deepen the intellectual rigour of research into global contemporary art.

“We have found that in Professor Gladston. We must give the work, the artists, and the distinctive and shared traditions the rigorous critical attention they deserve, and I look forward to working with him to achieve this,” Neilson said.

Yu-Chieh Li, Adjunct Researcher at Tate Research Centre: Asia, was appointed as the Judith Neilson Postdoctoral Fellow of Contemporary Art and will join the University later this year.


Cisco performed at the re-opening of the Roundhouse.

Roundhouse resurrected

The scaffolding came down and the volume went up following the refurbishment of UNSW Sydney’s iconic Roundhouse – the venue of choice for the biggest music acts for nearly six decades.

The Roundhouse was officially re-opened on 15 March at a VIP event that featured speeches from President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs and former Vice-Chancellor Professor John Niland, a member of the Student Union board when the Roundhouse opened in 1961. The doors were then opened to students and the public as indie-pop band San Cisco (pictured) performed to a sold-out crowd.

The redevelopment comprises new building services, new energy-efficient exterior lighting and a refurbishment of its interior that respects the heritage of the building while adding new functionality. Landscape improvements underway will provide connections to Anzac Parade, the future light rail platform and the broader campus. 

The Roundhouse has long been a significant venue in Sydney’s live music scene. Constructed in 1961, it was designed by the Government Architect and Edwards, Madigan, Torzillo, Briggs Architects who later built the National Gallery and High Court in Canberra. It was considered a cutting-edge architectural statement as Sydney’s first circular building.

The venue has hosted a diverse range of events over the past 56 years, including wedding receptions, Bacchus Balls, boxing matches, comedy nights, theatre sports, formal dinners, dance parties and even a conga line protest. Music acts have included Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, Ratcat, Fatboy Slim, Foo Fighters, The Living End, Green Day, INXS and Nick Cave.