Professor Mary-Anne Williams

Professor Mary-Anne Williams

PhD, Artificial Intelligence, University of Sydney, 1994

Master of Laws (LL.M.), Innovation, Law and Technology, University of Edinburgh, 2008

Master of Science, Computer Science, 1991

Business School
School of Management and Governance

I am the Michael J Crouch Chair for Innovation at UNSW where I collaborate to grow entrepreneurship and accelerate innovative thinking in Australia. Micheal Crouch was an inspiring Australian entrepreneur and business leader. He was a visionary and extraordinarily generous benefactor. In 2017 Michael Crouch was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to the community through philanthropic contributions to youth, cultural, medical research and health care organisations, to business in the areas of manufacturing and international trade, and as a supporter of innovation and higher education.

Prior to taking up this exciting role I spent 18 years as founder and director of the Innovation and Enterprise Research Lab (The Magic Lab), Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute at UTS. The Magic Lab was a pioneer with unique transdisciplinary capabilities in key areas of innovation and enterprise. It specialised in technology-enabled innovation and build solutions using AI, Design Thinking, Experimentation, and Analytics. Our industry and government partners included South Western Sydney Local Health District, IBM, Google, Disrupt, Linkedin, bigtincan, Willow Garage (now Savioke), Amazon, Visual Risk, CBA, Denmark's National Bank, Samsung, Sony, and Softbank.

School of Management UNSW Business School
  • Conference Papers | 2017
    Ojha S; Vitale J; Williams MA, 2017, 'A Domain-Independent Approach of Cognitive Appraisal Augmented by Higher Cognitive Layer of Ethical Reasoning', in CogSci 2017 - Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Computational Foundations of Cognition, pp. 2833 - 2838
    Conference Papers | 2017
    Vitale J; Johnston B; Williams MA, 2017, 'Facial Motor Information is Sufficient for Identity Recognition', in CogSci 2017 - Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Computational Foundations of Cognition, pp. 3447 - 3452
    Conference Papers | 2016
    Vitale J; Williams MA; Johnston B, 2016, 'The face-space duality hypothesis: a computational model', in Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2016, pp. 514 - 519
    Conference Papers | 2003
    Tran QN; Low GC; Williams M, 2003, 'A Feature Analysis Framework for Evaluating Multi-Agent System Development Methodologies', in 14th International Symposium, ISMIS 2003, Maebashi Citry, Japan, pp. 613 - 617, presented at 14th International Symposium, ISMIS 2003, Maebashi Citry, Japan, 28 October 2003 - 31 October 2003


  1. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2016 - 2018 $380,000; Project Title: Robust Intelligence: Rational Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partners: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden), Henri Prade (CNRS); Summary: Intelligent agents exercise profound and growing impact in business and society. However, significant problems arise in intelligent agent deployment as their theoretical underpinnings do not ensure rational decision making in complex real-world settings. This project will bridge the gap between theory and practice with an innovative framework for rational decision making under risk and uncertainty. It will open the door to transformational technologies that will drive new entrepreneurial opportunities in agent-based global services.
  2. Australia Research Council Linkage Project 2012 - 2014 $335,000 + significant in-kind support; Project Title: A Framework for Physical and Social Collaboration: Towards the Smarter Planet Vision; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams, and Benjamin Johnston; Partner: IBM Australia; Summary: This project developed a new approach to intelligent collaborative technologies by advancing the theory of collaborative action and developing an innovative framework and practical methods which will allow intelligent systems to undertake the collaborative actions required for applications in transport, energy management, sustainability, and healthcare.
  3. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2012 - 2014 $320,000; Project Title: Adaptive Cyber-Physical Technologies with Attention Driven Common-sense Behaviours; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner Investigator: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden); Summary: This project focused on intelligent cyber-physical systems for open, complex and changing environments presents enormous scientific challenges. It developed an innovative framework, methods and tools that provide cyber-physical technologies with attention based common-sense capabilities for adapting to new, unexpected and unforeseen situations.
  4. Australia Research Council Linkage Project 2011 - 2014 $280,000 + significant in kind support; Project Title: Establishing a Next Generation Framework to Determine the Influence of Intelligent Water Metering on Householder Attitudes and Behaviours; Chief Investigators: Stuart B White, Rodney A Stewart, Mary-Anne Williams, Damien P Giurco, Kelvin R O'Hallora; Partners: Mid Coast Water and the Institute of Sustainable Futures; Summary: This project tested competing theories on how householders respond to interactive water consumption data from smart meters. The outcome is a novel framework for intelligent water management; underpinned by innovative research into causal mechanisms linking data communication to knowledge, and the impact of knowledge on attitudes and behaviours.
  5. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2008 - 2011 $270,000; Project Title: Developing and Managing Sustainable Technology-enabled Innovation Capabilities; Chief Investigators: Steve Elliot (University of Sydney) and Mary-Anne Williams; Summary: This project helped organisations develop sustainable innovation capabilities using disruptive technologies.
  6. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2007 - 2011 $340,000; Project Title: Planning, Communication, and Collaboration in Cognitive Systems; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden); Summary: This project developed a better understanding of collaboration in complex environments.
  7. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2004 – 2007 $150,000; Project Title: Intelligent Agent and Semantic Web empowered eFinance: A Knowledge Management Approach to enable and sustain Innovation; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams and Steve Elliot (University of Sydney) Partner: Dieter Fensel (University of Innsbruck, Austria); Summary: This research project made strong theoretical advances by developing an integrated and scalable knowledge engineering approach to the problems confronting Australian Industry.
  8. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2002 – 2006 $200,000; Project Title: Agent-Oriented Concept Management; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden); Summary: In order for agents to communicate effectively they must share concepts, and attribute the same meaning to shared concepts. We developed a innovative approach to concept management a new area of research with important application to intelligent systems.
  9. Australia Research Council Project 2000 - 2003 $200,000; Project Title: Information and Knowledge Integration; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner: Grigoris Antoniou (University of Crete, Greece); Summary: One of the key issues in global information infrastructures like the World Wide Web and enterprise networks is the ability to combine information from different sources in meaningful ways.
  10. Australia Research Council Project 1998 - 2001 $180,000; Project Title: Exception-Tolerant Information Systems for Managing Uncertain Information; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams; Partners: Didier Dubois and Henri Prade (CNRS, France); Summary: This project designed and developed exception-tolerant techniques to allow business systems to perform effectively when using qualitatively uncertain information.
  11. Australia Research Council Project 1997 - 2000 $200,000; Project Title: Reasoning with Changing and Incomplete Information Project; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams and Grigoris Antoniou; Summary: Developed a decision making framework for handling decisions based on changing and incomplete information using techniques from Knowledge Representation and Reasoning.
  12. Australia Research Council Project 1996 - 1999 $170,000; Project Title: Entrenchment Based Reasoning about Action; Chief Investigators: Norman Foo UNSW, Pavlos Peppas and Mary-Anne Williams; Summary: This project developed innovative algorithms for challenging planning problems that allowed for changing requirements.

Fellow, AAAI 2022

Google International Faculty Award Machine Learning 2021-2022

Google International Faculty Award Machine Learning 2019 - 2020

Australasian Artificial Intelligence Distinguished Research Contribution Award 2019

Fellow, Australia Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), 2015

Fellow, Australian Computer Society (ACS), 2014

Pauli Fellowship, Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, 2008

IBM Faculty Award2007

University of Edinburgh Law School Fellowship Award 2006 - 2008

Commonwealth Fellowship, Australian Academy of Science 1996

British Council Fellowship 1996

Australasian Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award 1994 Comp Sc Association (CORE)

My Research Supervision




CURRENT PhD Students

  1. Lauren Hass Jones: Adventure Thinking and Business Strategy. 
  2. Sarita Herse: Building Trusted Technology in Human-Centric Intelligent Environments. Sarita has a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours from UNSW. She received the Best Paper Award – International Conference on Social Robotics 2019, and is co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston (2016-2021) and Jonathan Vitale and Christopher Jackson.
  3. Sidra Alam: Persuasion in Human-Robot Collaboration: Exploring intelligent and robust persuasive behaviours to support human-robot collaboration. I supervised Sidra together with Benjamin Johnston and from July 2021 with Jaime Valls Miro.



  • Nikolas Dawson: Economic Impact of AI and the Future of Work. Nik was awarded a fellowship to work at the United Nations and a 2020 OECD Future of Work Fellowship. Nik was co-supervised together with Benjamin Johnston and Marian-Andrei Rizoiu.
  • Sammy Pfeiffer, Autonomy for Intelligent Social Robots: Exploring mechanism to help robots make autonomous decisions as they carry out their missions unsupervised.  Sammy is co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston.
  • Meg Tonkin, Sociable Human-Robot Interaction. Meg won the Social Robot Design Award in 2018. Meg was co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston.


  • Suman Ohja: Ethics and Emotion using Artificial Intelligence: Exploring how to embed ethics into social robots decision making. Gained First Place in the Master of IT at The University of Sydney in 2015. 
  • Mahya Mirzaei Poueinag: Disruptive Innovation: Integrating Business Analytics and Design Thinking. CBA Top-Up. 99.8 ATAR B Aeronautical Space Engineering at the University of Sydney, Funded on an APA with ARC Discovery and CBA Top-Up. Awarded 2xIBM PhD Fellowships US$40K. Also joined UTS Hatchery+ Entrepreneurship Program. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston.  
  • Srinivas Madhisetty: Managing Privacy in Photos and Videos in Social Media Applications. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Syed Ali Raza, Reinforcement Learning using Human Demonstration. ARC-funded scholarship and project focused on machine learning techniques for teaching robots new behaviours through human demonstration. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Mark.van Rijmenam, Organisations in times of disruption: Towards a data-driven framework for sustained competitive advantage. Supervised with Jochen Schweitzer in the School of Business.  
  • Jonathan Vitale, Cognitive Robotics. International Student Italy. Funded on an ARC Discovery complimentary APA. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Muhammad Anshar, Designing New Automated Behaviours and Skills. International Student Indonesia. Funded on a 4-Year Endeavour Leadership Scholarship.  
  • Wei Wang, Social Network for Automated Share Information and Skills. International Student, IBM PhD Fellowship. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Shaukat Abedi, Semi-Supervised and Unsupervised Extensions to Maximum-Margin Structured Prediction: ARC-funded scholarship and project focused on machine learning techniques for recognising human activity. Supervised with Massimo Picardi.  
  • Nima Ramezani Taghiabadi, Optimising Robot Motion. Funded on APA with CBA Top-Up. Previously working as a researcher at the German Research Institute in AI. Now working as a Senior Data Scientist at CBA.  
  • Rony Novianto, Attention-based Cognitive Architecture: funded on an ARC Discovery Project. Received an Endeavour Fellowship to work at Lund University Sweden 2011, and an IBM PhD Fellowship 2012. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Shan Chen, Privacy and Personal Information Management: funded on an APA and ARC Discovery Project. Received an Endeavour Fellowship to work at Indiana University at Bloomington USA in 2012.  
  • Edward Wei, Learning How to Make Good Decisions: co-supervised with Professor Jordan Louviere.
  • Xun Wang, An Innovative Framework for Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Management: funded on an ARC Discovery Project. Received IBM PhD Fellowship 2010-2011. Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow. Currently leads the CBA's Social Robotics program.
  • Jebrin Sharawneh, Recommendation in Social Networks using AI: funded on an APA. Received a Best Paper Award at a top-tier conference in Information Systems. Currently, developing a Start-Up based on an AI recommender system he developed for his PhD.  
  • Benjamin Johnston, Commonsense Reasoning: First Class Honours & University Medal, University of Queensland. Won 2011 UTS Chancellor’s Award for the Best PhD Dissertation. Nominated to ACM Best Dissertation. Won the Kurzweil Prize for Most Creative Idea in Artificial Intelligence 2011. UTS Chancellor’s Post-Doc 2012 - 2015.  
  • Muh Anshar, High-Performance Robot Motion: Master of Science (International Student). Funded on an Endeavour Scholarship. Returned to undertake a PhD.
  • Christopher Stanton, Grounding Representations. First Class Honours, Dean’s Medal University of Newcastle. Funded on a Faculty Scholarship. 
  • Numi Tran, Agent-Oriented System Design Methodology. (First Class Honours and the University Medal University of Newcastle).  
  • Suku SInna, A New Approach to Marketing: Classifying Customers using Conceptual Spaces. Currently, leading his own AI start-up.  
  • Wei Liu, A New Approach to Belief Revision. PhD was funded on a highly competitive IPRS. Currently, Associate Professor at UWA.