Research Director’s Update: April 2017

Posted on April 10, 2017
The first few months of the year have seen devastating deluges in Indonesia and Australia. As I write this update, the clean up after cyclone Debbie has begun after it ravaged central and south-east Queensland, causing flash flooding, road closures and the shutdown of hundreds of schools and businesses. Unfortunately this is a yearly occurrence for our many friends in Jakarta, who brace themselves for scenes of apocalyptic inundation every December as the rainy season begins.

Research plays a crucial role in understanding and implementing strategies to manage floods and landslides. Our Urban Water Cluster has been hard at work over the past few weeks—kick-starting research that will assess how households and communities are becoming more resilient to floods, and convening flood management discussions amongst government, businesses, civil society and the media in Bogor. Indeed, I participated in a community focus group discussion lead by the Mayor of Bogor, the young Dr Bima Arya Sugiarto, a graduate of both Monash University and the Australian National University. You can read more about these activities below.

Talking about the importance of connecting research with real-word problems, several members of the AIC Energy Cluster were recently involved in an industry conference in Sydney on off-grid energy. The conference was an important opportunity for researchers to meet key energy industry players and confirm that our research continues to be relevant to challenges and progress of the energy sector. Pleasingly, Australian energy industry members seemed keen to expand microgrid systems in Indonesia, which is now competitive with the cost of owning a diesel generator in a moderately remote location. I’ve included more information about this below.

Finally, the next Australia-Indonesia Leadership Program will focus on smart cities, and it is pleasing that a number of Indonesian and Australian researchers will participate in this executive style training programme in Australia over 22 – 31 May. They will join other delegates made up of senior government officials, diplomats and industry leaders from across both countries. Some of our cluster researchers will play a role in delivering some of the content of the programme. This initiative is a good example of where

The Australia-Indonesia Centre seeks to more tightly align its research and engagement initiatives.

Within this update, I’ve included information on:

  1. Transforming the rainy city to a water-smart one: Indonesia’s floods spawn new research
  2. Remote Area Power Supply conference sets pathway to deeper Australia, Indonesia, Pacific Connections
  3. Making research relevant: Understanding business and government priorities at the first Urban Water Cluster board meeting
  4. Your Centre in the news
  5. Upcoming events
  6. The Next Gen speaks
  7. Funding opportunities
  8. We want to hear from YOU

Read on below, and remember to follow @AusIndResearch and @AusIndCentre for all the latest news as it happens.

Kind regards,

Richard Price, Director of Research, The Australia-Indonesia Centre

Transforming the rainy city to a water-smart one: Indonesia’s floods spawn new research

Things can be tricky when 15 million people live in a city mostly below sea level, and which is sinking by 20cm each year. Every December, residents in Jakarta and Bogor brace themselves for scenes of apocalyptic inundation as the rainy season begins. 2017 was no different, with 180mm of rain falling on Jakarta in 24 hours, killing several people and flooding thousands of houses.

We have awarded researchers at ANU, the University of Indonesia, University of Waikoto and Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) with a Tactical Research Project grant for a project that intends to ensure households, communities and the private sector intensify their efforts to help resolve Jakarta’s flooding problems.

The researchers plan to:

  • identify and measure the impact of floods on household welfare and poverty
  • identify household and community characteristics that could help overcome the adverse effects of Jakarta’s floods
  • understand how households are strengthening their long-term resilience to flood disasters through holding assets and savings and what role women in particular play in this resilience building.

Much of the water that arrives in Jakarta flows from neighbouring Bogor—a city that receives 3,000-3,500mm of rain each year. February saw devastating landslides and floods ravage Bogor, prompting the AIC Urban Water Research Cluster to organise a series of four focus group discussions aiming to transform Bogor from the ‘rainy’ city to a ‘water sensitive’ city.

The first discussion group, focusing on the causes and solutions of floods and landslides took place on March 17 and was attended by Bogor’s mayor, the head of the city planning bureau, researchers, NGOs, the AIC’s Research Director and media. Participants heard about how Bogor’s irrigation system is struggling to cope with population growth, with housing estates and litter clogging waterways putting the system under immense stress.

During the focus group, the city of Bogor committed to resourcing actions to improve the water system and better educate residents about drainage and garbage in their neighbourhood. Newly appointed Urban Water Research Cluster liaison officer in Indonesia, Dwi Yuliantoro was integral to the planning and coordination of the focus group discussion.

The next focus group will be held on 14 April and will focus on generating clear alternative solutions.

Remote Area Power Supply conference sets pathway to deeper Australia, Indonesia, Pacific Connections

Providing reliable electric power is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of the smaller islands and remote communities of Indonesia, Australia and the Pacific.

The Remote Area Power Supply Conference provides an annual platform for the rapidly growing off-grid energy industry to meet and share updates on projects and technologies. This year’s conference, held in Sydney on 21 and 22 March and supported by the Australia Indonesia Centre, saw a strong focus on the emerging markets in remote areas of Indonesia and the Asia Pacific.

“The conference confirmed our understanding of the importance of the social and cultural context and the need for the optimisation and modelling tools the AIC is developing when working with communities to implement sustainable energy solutions,” said Dr Ariel Liebman of the AIC Energy Cluster and Monash University, who chaired several sessions at the conference.

Andre Susanto, clean energy consultant and a new partner of the AIC in Jakarta, presented the latest costs for solar panel microgrids in Indonesia, which is now competitive with the cost of owning a diesel generator in a moderately remote location. You can read more of his thoughts here.

“There was great interest from Australian industry leaders to work more closely with local counterparts in Indonesia, and the AIC’s research and networks can help to facilitate this,” said Dr Max Richter of the AIC Energy Cluster and Monash University, who also attended the conference.

Watch this space for some exciting research-industry partnerships!

Making research relevant: Understanding business and government priorities at the first Urban Water Cluster board meeting

While held on 21 November, the first Urban Water Cluster Advisory Board meeting yielded some interesting insights into how research is informed by current policy and business challenges.

The Urban Water Cluster Advisory Board is made up of Australian and Indonesian local government, research and business representatives—from drinking water companies to banks and local city councillors.

They discussed the importance of understanding what business and government priorities are in order for the research outcomes to create impact on policies and how communities think.

Board members expressed a need for AIC Urban Water Cluster researchers to help communities gain more accessible and sustainable technology to support what they already have, as well as addressing how community efforts can be leveraged for expansion to satellite cities.

The members also discussed benchmarking tools to assess the water sensitivity of a city and inform solutions that further current water management practices such as treating polluted stormwater runoff using ‘rain gardens’ and storing excess water using rainwater tanks.

The value of having an Advisory Board was clear to cluster researchers. Board member views grounded the research directions to real world challenges, bringing practical experience together with theory and knowledge to set a pathway for the cluster to attain mutual goals. Most importantly, with the potential end users of the research engaged in discussion from the outset, a pathway has been laid out to ensure that research results are trialled, debated, improved upon and built into the practices and policies of community groups, businesses and government planners.

In the News

Earlier in this update, an article referred to a focus group discussion on the recent Bogor floods. The meeting was organised by the Urban Water Research Cluster and chaired by the Mayor of Bogor, Dr Bima Arya Sugiarto. A media article about this meeting was published by the Bogor Tribune News.

Have you or your research team been in the news lately?

Send through a photo or link to a story you’d like to share. We’d also be happy to spread the word if you have a paper or article coming up—so let us know in advance if we can help.

The Next Gen Speaks

In each edition this newsletter I’d like to elicit and share the views of a young researcher, entrepreneur, administrator or just a concerned and interested citizen about their experiences and aspirations with respect to the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

This time, we’re hearing from our new Indonesia-based Water Research Cluster Liaison Officer, Dr Dwi Yuliantoro, who writes of his experience attending the Smart Cities stream of the Indonesia-Australia Business Week event convened in Jakarta.  You can learn more about Dr Dwi here and read his article here.

Funding opportunities

ARC and other Australian and Indonesian grant schemes you may wish to consider:

  • NHMRC Program Grants: provide support for teams of high calibre researchers to pursue broad based, multi-disciplinary and collaborative research activities. Teams will be expected to contribute to new knowledge at a leading international level in important areas of health and medical research. Deadline is 17 May 2017
  • NHMRC Translating Research into Practice Fellowships: NHMRC TRIP Fellowships provide support for health care professionals (e.g medical specialists, general practitioners, public health practitioners, physiotherapists, nurses, midwives, radiologists, and other allied health providers), health care personnel (health service managers, hospital department leaders, clinical trial managers) health systems personnel, health researchers and health policy makers to translate evidence into health care and public health improvements.Deadline is 25 May 2017
  • ARC Linkage Projects: These provide opportunities for internationally competitive research projects to be conducted in collaboration with organisations outside the higher education sector, including industry. Proposals have a rolling deadline.
  • NHMRC Partnerships Projects: This funding scheme provides funding and support to create new opportunities for researchers and policy makers to work together to define research questions, undertake research, interpret the findings and implement the findings into policy and practice. Proposals have a rolling deadline.
  • On Accelerate 3: targeted towards young researchers with a serious entrepreneurial bent!
  • The International Cosmos Prize:(¥40M) This prize honours an individual or team promoting “the harmonious coexistence of nature and mankind” through research and vision. Nominations close 14 April.
  • Australian Academy of Science Awards: Nominations close 20 April.
  • The Innovators in Science Award:This Awardrecognises a promising early career researcher and outstanding senior researchers’ contribution to science in the therapeutic areas of Neuroscience, Gastroenterology, Regenerative Medicine, and Oncology. Nominations due 26 April.

Upcoming events: conferences, launches, etc.

Australia-Indonesia Leaders Program – Future Cities
21-31 May
Melbourne/Canberra/Sydney, AustraliaAssociation of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning Conference
May 16-19, 2017
Makassar, Indonesia

Ecocity World Summit 2017
12-14 July
Melbourne, Australia