The meeting of minds between the South Pacific MediaLab and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FoRST) over “research aggregation” has culminated in a multi-million dollar research programme, known as ICT Express.
Express will be organised on the basis that MediaLab has used and encouraged for the past few years — coordinating the efforts of a number of research teams outside the lab, particularly in universities.
One of ICT Express’s initial projects focuses on the resilience and reliability of Telecom’s pure-IP Next Generation Network, and is supported by Telecom and Alcatel as well as FoRST.
The Alcatel link runs on to Lucent, newly merged with Alcatel, and offers potentially valuable international market opportunities through those companies.
Another of the Express projects is in the leading-edge field of photonics and involves an international collaboration between Southern Photonics — a start-up company from the University of Auckland — and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) of Korea.
The research will focus on development of fibre-optics or photonics technology in two key areas:
• Strain gauge technology and the potential for optical sensor networks to monitor the real-time structural integrity of bridges, dams, buildings and ships.
• A “fibre-to-the-x” project, aimed at improving the resilience and availability of fibre-optic networks.
“This research may improve our current methods of delivering high bandwidth services to the kerbside, to the home and even within the home, to the screen,” says FoRST.
The Express initiative combines the forces of MediaLab, industry partners and six New Zealand universities to create a series of research communities, centres of excellence and technology testbeds.
Funding comes both from industry sources and government. FoRST has contributed $1.8 million to the photonics project and Telecom has kicked in $85,000 and offered the use of a FTTP (fibre to the premises) deployment in Manukau to support the research.
The NGN project has attracted $350,000 from Alcatel and Telecom, with $100,000 from FoRST. Telecom, Alcatel and FoRST are considering further commitments totalling more than $2 million over two years, pending successful completion of project milestones and ongoing support of the other research partners.
Other projects will examine the spectral efficiencies of delivering broadband services down copper wire and perfomance measurement on mobile phone networks.
Express brings together under one umbrella a range of research projects that have been developing since 2002.The scheme aims to build New Zealand ICT capability and improve network performance as well as develop downstream commercial ICT opportunities.
“Capability build, international connectivity and the creation of downstream benefits to the New Zealand ICT community are fundamental tenets of the Express programme,” says MediaLab general manager Phil Shepherd, signalling a willingness to include further research partners, including start-ups.
“Just as we have adopted a pan-university approach, we welcome interest from new ICT companies across the country with similar ambitions,” he says.