Optus and La Trobe invest AU$8m to create cybersecurity degree, digital university

Optus and La Trobe will embed smart city solutions throughout the university and data analytics technology in its Sports Park, and introduce cybersecurity courses and research programs.

Optus Business has announced co-investing up to AU$8 million alongside La Trobe University in Melbourne for the purposes of forming a cybersecurity degree and digitising the university and its Sports Park.

The partnership between the two will see them focus on the "significant challenges" of cybersecurity, smart cities, and big data, Optus said.

"Today's announcement responds to two critical challenges facing organisations: One is the importance of data analytics and cybersecurity in Australia's future in the digital world; the other is the need for industry, government, and academia to collaborate in order to ideate, co-create, and innovate," said managing director of Optus Business John Paitaridis.

"Optus will bring the technology and commercial expertise that complements La Trobe's exceptional research and education credentials, creating an exemplar for a partnership between industry and academia in Victoria."

In regards to the cybersecurity-centric degree, Optus and La Trobe said they will work on developing, alongside other industry partners, multi-disciplinary courses, research programs, and scholarships for students to study cybersecurity.

La Trobe University will also institute a chair of cyber security, who would "provide world-class leadership for research and teaching, and advice and solutions to real-world cybersecurity issues for educational institutions, government departments and agencies, and enterprise organisations".

The effort on digitising the university will see the two combine smart cities ideas and "living lab" solutions to connect all parts of the campus, including people movement, parking, security, and mapping.

They will also apply data collection and analytics technology at La Trobe's Sports Park in order to research sports performance and community engagement in an effort to influence future sports partnership decisions.

"Our collaboration with Optus will position La Trobe University as one of the most technologically innovative and industry-connected campuses anywhere in Australia," La Trobe vice chancellor John Dewar said.

La Trobe University has been focused on deploying new technology solutions of late, becoming involved in the Day of STEM initiative earlier this year, which aimed to show students what it means to have a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

In partnership with La Trobe University and Collingwood Football Club, the Westpac and Deloitte-backed STEM Cup saw students explore the use of mathematics in sport, via the Internet of Things (IoT) with Cisco and big data analytics with SAS.

In April last year, La Trobe also pledged to move all of its on-premises SAP applications into the HANA public cloud by the end of last year.

Optus' rival telecommunications provider Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) has also been partnering with tertiary institutions; it has been undertaking research and lab trials on 5G network technology in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Nokia.

Vodafone earlier this month lauded its non-exclusive academia-based partnership with UTS, saying it has enabled the companies to make use of the extensive research being conducted at the university.

"VHA is scoping out a partnership with UTS so that we can accelerate and we can properly prepare our 5G vision," Owen explained.

"UTS is the leading Australian university for 5G research, it is a hub for that technology, and we've taken a keen interest in their research into advanced radio, into antenna systems, we'll take an interest in their capabilities in software-defined networks, and also we're aware that they have a test bed planned for next year."

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