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​Optus and Curtin University partner for artificial intelligence research

The five-year industry-academia partnership will see the establishment of a centre of excellence in artificial intelligence.

Optus Business has announced a partnership with Curtin University that will see the pair work together on artificial intelligence (AI).

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A new research group that will operate out of the School of Electrical Engineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences has been stood up under the partnership, which will focus on the impact of AI on regional telecommunications, higher education, and the urban environment.

The five-year arrangement will also see the appointment of an Optus chair in artificial intelligence and three Optus Research Fellows, as well as funding for PhD scholarships and student projects, Optus explained on Monday.

"This five-year alliance is built on a shared vision and strong track record of industry engagement and innovation," Curtin University vice-chancellor professor Deborah Terry said. "It will also help Curtin University to train the highly skilled and industry-ready students of the future."

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Optus Business managing director John Paitaridis expects the partnership will "help build real-world solutions while growing the skills of the future workforce".

"Fully realising the application of technology, like artificial intelligence, is critical in how we're helping organisations address digital disruption," he continued.

"Great innovation comes from collaboration, which is why we are so pleased to be joining with Curtin to create a centre of excellence in artificial intelligence by bringing together the experience and expertise of industry and academia."

Previously focusing on building cybersecurity skills, Optus Business co-invested AU$8 million alongside La Trobe University in Melbourne in late 2016 to form a cybersecurity degree that is focused on developing multi-disciplinary courses, research programs, and scholarships for students to study cybersecurity.

The cyber degree followed the AU$10 million co-investment Optus Business made with Macquarie University the prior May to establish a cybersecurity hub that will provide research, degree programs, executive and business short courses, professional recruiting opportunities, and consultancy services to the private sector and government agencies.

The business has since invested in initiatives such as an online cyber education program for secondary school, TAFE, and university students.

Optus' parent Singtel in December announced the establishment of a SG$42.4 million Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence Lab for Enterprises (SCALE) to work on researching and developing applications across public safety, smart city, transportation, healthcare, and manufacturing solutions.

The lab, to be built under a five-year partnership with Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore), and the National Research Foundation Singapore, will focus on AI, robotics, smart computing, and advanced data analytics.

Around 100 Singtel and NTU researchers will work at SCALE, with 200 research engineers and students to be trained there too.

The announcement from Optus follows the federal opposition last week revealing its intentions to establish a National Centre of AI Excellence, which aims to boost local research efforts and skirt the loss of jobs that AI is feared to cause, according to Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy and the Future of Work Ed Husic.

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