Week of September 27, 1999
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Australia-Based Warren Center Site Plumbs
Technology/Industrial Development Linkage

"Excellence and Innovation in Advanced Engineering" is the featured tag line for this site from the Sydney, Australia-based Warren Center for Advanced Engineering (www.warren.usyd.edu.au/). And excellence and innovation may be what some users find here -- particularly if they're interested in how advanced engineering technologies relate to industrial development or they're curious about location opportunities in Australia.

First, of course, you'll want to know the answer to that enduringly valid question from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "Who the hell are those guys?"

Created in 1983, the Warren Center is a non-profit organization based at the University of Sydney. However, as the site explains, it's "a self-funding body . . . controlled by representatives from industry." As a result, projects that the center undertakes must first have strong industry support -- and capital.

That business-driven approach has produced a number of successful projects with wide-ranging implications (a full list is included on the site). For example, the Warren Center has completed an industrial energy efficiency project that identified the potential to produce $2 billion savings among Australia's industrial users. Other center projects have accelerated Australian industry's adoption of CAD/CAM techniques and high performance computing tools, and produced major regulatory changes in the Australian Building Code.

Admirable stuff, but where's the beef for users?

Most of beef is located in this site's "Bulletins" section. Those bulletins describe the center's projects. To view them, you'll need to either have or download Adobe Acrobat (a memory hog that translates on many not-top-of-the-end rigs as very, very slow speed).

Also, a cautionary note on the bulletins: Be assured beforehand that you're not going blind when you view these. The problem here is that the type fonts are so small that you'll have to hit your "increase font" control a number of times before they're readable. (Once you're established interest in a report, downloading is probably the preferred option here.)


Major Projects Under Way

Those difficulties aside, here are some of the significant Warren Center projects that are covered on site:

  • The center's "Sustainable Transport in Sustainable Cities" project is looking at how transportation systems in major cities can be integrated with urban planning and communications. The work, the site explains, is primarily focused "on new, developing technologies and intelligent systems to better manage the movement of people and freight."

  • The center's "Industrial Energy Efficiency Project" has an ambitious goal, as the site explains: "to change the view of Australian industry towards investments in energy efficiency." But before you grab your bash-all-government-intervention cudgel, remember that industry is sponsoring this project. In addition, the work is aimed, as the site explains, at "showing [how] savings can be achieved through the application of inexpensive, cost-justified techniques [that] do not involve large expenditure of capital . . . [and] are sustainable" (emphasis added).

  • Companies interested in possibly locating in Australia may be engaged by the center's "Photonics in Australia" project, which is investigating "the opportunity is to create an industry cluster in Australia of those who supply, use, manufacture, develop and research [photonics] technology." And there's huge potential in photonics technology, which is widely considered the only currently extant method of sidestepping wired infrastructure's physical impediments to high-transmission speeds.

  • Finally, the center's "Australian Smart Card" project is designed to increase the nation's role in delivering to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region smart-card solutions, which have enjoyed rapid uptake in Australia.

Collaborative Opportunities?

Companies who either are members of, or suppliers to, such industries may be interested in participating in some of the collaborative avenues that are briefly described on the site. For example, Warren Center projects have prompted the creation of the Smart Card Forum, the Photonics Forum and the Advanced Manufacturing Center at the ATP (Australian Technology Park Sydney). The center also organizes a series of roundtables and provides online copies of its annual "Innovation Lecture" and the ongoing "Distinguished Lectures" series.

This isn't a particularly link-rich site. You may, however, find some helpful resources from some of the linked organizations, including Australian Business, Australian Technology Park Sydney, EnergyAustralia and Silicon Graphics (the latter among the site's "sponsors and developers"). Seemingly, a number of other closely related organizations could've been linked. For example, if you use "photonics" and "Australia" as your search parameters, you'll turn up a broad range of interesting sites. Then again, perhaps the theory here was "if we link one, we have to link all," and discretion proved the better part of endlessly listing links.

What's more, this site's focus is relatively narrow. In fact, it's clearly designed to provide much more value, and substantive content, to actual participants than to casual surfers. But if this site's niche happens to coincide with your own, you may find ample value here.


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