Becoming Resilient Digital University

La Trobe University is collaborating with long-standing partners Cisco and Optus Enterprise to transform its digital infrastructure and underlying network, to become a digital resilient University.

This transformation of La Trobe’s digital infrastructure forms part of a wider strategic partnership with Cisco and Optus, involving the development of the University’s Bundoora campus in Melbourne as a University City of the Future incorporating a ‘Living Lab’, along with other key initiatives including joint research and innovation through the establishment of a Digital Innovation Hub and advancement of critical digital workforce skills in areas including cybersecurity.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said that the University’s strong and established partnerships with leading technology companies Cisco and Optus are crucial to the successful development of La Trobe’s bold and ambitious University City of the Future.

“A core component of our University City of the Future is the concept of using the campus as a ‘Living Lab’; using existing and emerging technologies to ensure we can reach our Net Zero goals,” Professor Dewar said.

“Working with our valued and established partners Cisco and Optus, not only will we achieve those sustainability goals, but we’ll also be bringing together research and innovation in new and exciting ways to benefit industry as well as upskill the workforce in critical areas such as cybersecurity.

“And underpinning all of that is the need for robust digital infrastructure to ensure we can be resilient and adaptive .”

Digital infrastructure

The digital infrastructure project was devised after publication of an independent Australian national study commissioned by Cisco with Optus (part of the Singtel group) entitled “The Tipping Point for Digitisation of Education Campuses”, and a subsequent digital transformation proposal aimed at accelerating seamless connection of the University’s digital services for students and the community. Investment in the proposal was endorsed in September this year as part of the University’s transformation program, with an initial focus on a next-generation network transformation through Cisco and Optus.

Professor Dewar said that the University’s decision to transform its underlying technology infrastructure is a major step towards creating a university that is more resilient and adaptive to the changing landscape of higher education.

“The way we teach, learn, work and operate is fundamentally changing, and technology innovation is rapidly evolving to support this change,” Professor Dewar said.

“La Trobe has ambitious goals to further improve student experience, achieve Net Zero emissions by 2029, increase our research impact and continue to enhance our global reputation.

“None of these goals are achievable without a commitment to digitally transform the University, and I look forward to working with our partners Cisco and Optus to help make this reality.”

The technology transformation with Cisco includes transitioning to a Software Defined Network (SDN) which allows for greater control and ease for managing resources virtually; optimising the application experience with capacity to monitor applications running on the network as well as evolving its digital services, to support our community and hybrid working and learning. This will enable La Trobe to be more responsive to changing demands at its Melbourne and regional campuses, as well as providing a major boost to its cybersecurity resilience and capacity to innovate.

Cisco Australia and New Zealand Vice President Ben Dawson said, “The pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitisation in every industry sector, and education is no exception. That includes a need to review hybrid work and learning, improving security posture, expanding digital capability throughout buildings and enabling new innovative digital services,” Mr Dawson said.

“Research commissioned by Cisco revealed that the list of must-have technologies and digital services is growing, whether that be in teaching and learning, research or administration. The research indicated many Australian universities considered digital upgrades to be a priority.”

Managing Director of Optus Enterprise, Chris Mitchell said “Optus is excited to partner with La Trobe University and Cisco to usher in a new era of digital transformation that will have a positive impact on the students, faculty and staff. As we’ve learned over the past year, universities, just like businesses must be able to adopt a hybrid way of learning. La Trobe’s investment into a next generation network will ensure their staff and students have a seamless digital experience on campus and remotely in regional campuses.”

La Trobe City of the Future/Living Lab to address Australia’s greatest challenges

This investment will form part of La Trobe’s $5 Billion University City of the Future incorporating a Living Lab: using the campus as a living test and experimentation lab, enabled by Cisco’s technology. Part of this Living Lab focus will be to understand the role of technology as it relates to sustainability and supply chain.

Cisco-La Trobe Research Chair in AI and IoT, Professor Wei Xiang, said the Net Zero focus represented the coming together of two of Australia’s greatest challenges: rapid digitisation and the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with technology as an enabler.

“La Trobe’s City of the Future is an ideal environment to develop and test existing and emerging Cisco technologies that can support organisations to reach their Net Zero and emissions reduction goals,” Professor Xiang said.

“By treating the entire campus as a Living Lab, we can develop and test in a controlled environment and scale into operational settings. The scope is enormous with early opportunities relating to building management system optimisation, lighting innovations, waste reduction and energy analytics.”

The Digital Innovation Hub

Located within La Trobe University’s Research and Innovation Precinct – a core part of the University City of the Future – will be the Digital Innovation Hub, funded by the Victorian Government and due for completion in 2022. The Hub will connect La Trobe and its technology partners, Cisco and Optus, with businesses to improve their processes, products and services through the use of digital technologies as well as development of digital workforce skills.

Building on the La Trobe and Cisco partnership

The technology investment builds on the established partnership and includes:

  • The National Industry Innovation Network
  • A shared Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things, with focus on Cisco technology enabling in Australia and industry’s Net Zero goals
  • An innovation centre on campus as the focal point for industry, and a primary focus on sustainability and supply chain
  • Evolution of cybersecurity modules as part of La Trobe’s Cisco Networking Academy
  • Active collaboration on a number of research projects including use of digital tools to facilitate the safe return of students to campus, and the use of technology to monitor emissions and how to make buildings more efficient to manage and operate

“This partnership demonstrates how academia and industry can work together to create opportunities to solve real-world problems, through technology innovation,” said Mr Dawson.

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