Breast physiology and milk biochemistry

Research into breast anatomy and physiology and human milk biochemistry at The University of Western Australia (UWA) has led to partnerships with Medela AG (Medela) resulting in innovative solutions for mothers and babies. Calmita® is an infant teat for preterm infants with an integrated vacuum-controlled valve. Calmita increases breastfeeding in preterm infants and reduces length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). UWA research led to the development of Medela’s breast pump: the Symphony. From 2011-2016 Medela extended that technology into four breast pumps designed for home use: offering solutions to mothers who are returning to work but wish to maintain lactation. UWA research is frequently used in Medela consumer outreach which relies on UWA’s basic research.

High returns on Canola investment

UWA’s sustained research program into molecular genetics and the identification of molecular markers in canola crossbreeding has led to the development and release of 50 new improved canola varieties since 2004, with higher yield, disease resistance, and herbicide tolerance for weed control, thereby improving the long-term sustainability of Australian cropping systems. These canola varieties which have been adopted by farmers because of their higher yield and disease resistance, allow more sustainable crop rotations and improved farm profits. Significant economic benefits have also been delivered to seed production and distribution companies. New breeding methods have the potential to improve crop adaptation to climate change.

MMEx e-Health Clinical Platform

The MMEx platform is an award winning, evidence based and fully shareable web-based electronic health record system. MMEx was developed at UWA’s Centre for Software Practice and delivered to market by ISA Technologies. It provides practitioners with a patient management system that allows care teams to share information and be guided by risk-based decision support and other tools. Initially developed to manage healthcare for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, MMEx has since been used to support the health care of large indigenous populations throughout Australia as well as highly specialised care in urban settings. MMEx has been used to collect research data for projects looking at chronic disease management practices, approaches to telehealth, and sexually transmitted infections.

Safer, cheaper offshore pipelines for oil and gas production

UWA researchers have developed cheaper and safer offshore pipelines to reduce the cost of building and maintenance in oil and gas infrastructure. This has been achieved via the delivery of new design paradigms that have been adopted by operators and verifiers worldwide, and which now feature in international standards for pipeline design.

Folate fortification reduces neural tube defects

Maternal dietary folate deficiency in the first weeks of life carries a higher risk that the fetus’ neural tube will not fuse, leading to the development of either spina bifida or anencephaly. For two decades Bower et al. followed a dedicated pathway to impact by lobbying the Australian Government’s Health portfolio’s statutory authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to introduce mandatory fortification of wheat flour. In 1995 voluntary fortification was allowed and in 2009 fortification of wheat flour with folate became mandatory. From 2011 to 2016, NTD births dropped, regardless of mother’s culture, age, educational attainment or choice of hospital system.

The benefits of Child’s Play

Insufficient physical activity by children are associated with poorer physical and mental health. The Child’s Play project, led by Associate Professor Wood and Dr Martin at the UWA School of Population and Global Health has generated community engagement with nature-play spaces in Western Australian schools and local communities. The researchers collaborated with Healthway, Rio Tinto, Kings Park Botanic Garden and Parks Authority, the WA Department of Education, Nature Play WA, Kidsafe, urban planners and architects, as well as local councils and schools to identify play space designs that were preferred by children and supported play. Collaborators have used UWA research to inform their strategies around open spaces and evaluate their new and existing parks and playgrounds.

Shaping National and International Educational Measurement Approaches and Practices

UWA researchers have developed an innovative assessment method to enable schools to streamline school assessment processes across the nation. Brightpath is an online tool in which samples of students work can be compared with exemplars and used provide standardised feedback in order to positive affect educational outcomes.

Brightpath has been adopted by approximately 500 schools and used for 300,000 assessments of Australian students. In addition, the researchers have impacted Australian education communities through critical involvement with: (i) the National Assessment Programme—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) involving over 1 million student participants per year; and (ii) the high-stakes Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) affecting 26,000 high school students each year.

INFFER – applying economics in environmental management

The Investment Framework for Environmental Resources (INFFER) is a set of tools and frameworks that has redirected investments worth tens of millions of dollars by methodically demonstrating the value for money, or lack of it, in environmental project options. Since 2011, 20 of Australia’s 56 regional environmental management bodies have undertaken training in INFFER and are now using it to develop, evaluate and prioritise environmental projects. INFFER helps managers assess and rank environmental and natural resource projects and provides a framework for economic thinking in the decision processes. Impacts have been seen in greater environmental benefits through better design and prioritisation of environmental projects in publicly funded programs.

Fixing a leaky Fixing

UWA research uncovered a price bias and an exploitable trade advantage in the 100 year old mechanism used to set the daily benchmark price of precious metals globally. The London Fixing, which had been run by a handful of “member” banks, formed an integral part of a US$30 trillion dollar annual market, impacting metal prices, financial instruments and contracts. Following publication of the research, multiple civil and criminal trials were launched against the banks. Regulatory investigations began and fines were issued. Benchmarking regulations were overhauled and manipulation was criminalised. The research has led to the London Fixings being replaced with modern electronic auctions that provide fairer and more transparent systems of commodity price benchmarking.

Enhancing Policy-Making and Public Dialogue on the Future of Cities

The University of Western Australia (UWA) has played a critical role in enhancing policy-making, public debate and progress on the future of Perth and Australian cities. An important part of this has been an innovative, longstanding partnership with the Committee for Perth. This partnership has focused on major urban policy concerns related to globalization, economic development, demographic change, urban liveability and social equality. This research stimulated debate across business, community, government and individuals about the future of cities. The partnership draws on an active and ongoing strategy of engagement with stakeholders. In addition, the partnership actively seeks to inform policy by improving the quality of evidence used by urban decision-makers.