Finding and engaging research expertise is a challenge for business, and a barrier to innovation.

According to the 2016 Australian Innovation System Report produced by the Department of Industry, Australian businesses report a lack of access to skilled personnel as a barrier to innovation. Data supports this sentiment, and suggests that Australia’s innovation ecosystem (particularly in the areas of business to research and business to business collaboration) is weakly networked.

Numerous workshops have been held with relevant stakeholders to identify barriers to collaboration, frequently arriving at the conclusion that an industry-researcher linkage platform is required (so industry can easily search all research expertise in the one place). Whilst many groups have attempted this, they often placed the burden on researchers to create and update their profiles.

Data61’s Expert Connect has been created in response to this major divide in Australia’s innovation ecosystem, to help support the activity of existing innovation facilitators, and to unlock the knowledge contained within Australia’s premier research institutions for the benefit of industry and the Australian public.

A unique solution to a challenging issue

Our guiding principle was to leverage what data already exists, utilising technology to automate the creation of profiles and remove the burden of researchers having to maintain and update their profiles.

Data61 researchers developed solutions (in collaboration with our industry partner Agile Digital) for integrating data and solving entity resolution as it relates to researcher identities. The benefits of the platform have been designed to be shared as widely as possibly, with open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allowing for the integration and further development of the underlying data.

We have worked closely with over 50 collaborators from across industry, research and government to ensure the solution meets user needs. Along the way we encountered many groups looking to do something similar, however rather than compete, we have joined forces.

Developed in just 17 weeks and released on the 28th of June 2017, the Beta version provided a glimpse into the potential of the tool. Considerable further development has taken place since then, with the ingested data sources expanding and the platform evolving to meet a wider range of user needs. An updated beta version was launched on 9th July 2018.