The 2018-19 Round of the Fellowship Program selected a package of a Premier's Science Fellow and a Premier's Early to Mid-Career (EMC) Fellow to address the following Area of Research in Western Australia:
Automation; robotics; artificial intelligence; and/or machine learning.
Western Australia has existing strengths in this Area of Research and associated applications, particularly in the resources and energy industries. These include autonomous haulage trucks operating in mines in the State's north and Rio Tinto's AutoHaul, the world's first automated long-distance heavy-haul rail network.
The Fellows appointed under the 2018-19 Round of the Fellowship Program are:
- Premier’s Science Fellow: Professor Brad Yu; and
- Premier’s EMC Fellow: Dr Ben Ye.
Professor Yu and Dr Ye were appointed in recognition of the increasing importance of the robotics/artificial intelligence research areas to Western Australia, and together they provide a seeding opportunity to grow robotics and artificial intelligence in the State.
The State Government is investing $1 million over four years to support Professor Yu and $500,000 over four years to support Dr Ye. Curtin University, as the Host Organisation for these Fellows, has committed $2.5 million to support the Fellows' work in Western Australia.
Professor Yu has been attracted to Western Australia from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra where he led the Networked Systems Research Group in ANU’s Research School of Engineering.
He has over 15 years’ experience in automation, robotics and network technology and its applications, underpinned by mathematical modelling and advanced computing algorithms. His work has focused on theoretical contributions in optimisation and control, and resulting applications, for networked sensors and networked autonomous systems (multiple mobile robots and drones).
The impact of Professor Yu’s research was recognised last year with the awarding of an Australian Academy of Science John Booker Medal in Engineering Science to him as "the leader of a new generation of Australian researchers in applied/engineering mathematics whose research has yielded remarkable applications". These applications include enabling drones to fly in formations for border security, bush fire monitoring and measuring pollution levels from factory chimneys.
Professor Yu will build and lead a world-class research and development team (including Dr Ye) in Western Australia, whose research will focus on three related areas in the field of cyber-physical systems: (1) swarm intelligence; (2) social network security; and (3) multi-agent (robots and drones) coordination.
The team will develop frontier technology with broad potential applications, including in the resources industry, environmental monitoring, agriculture, border protection, road safety, regional telecommunications, asset maintenance and cyber security (for social networks).
Professor Yu’s Fellowship Project will also establish a research centre in cyber physical artificial intelligence that brings together universities, industry and government agencies in Western Australia; attracts other skilled researchers; and trains the next generation of researchers/engineers.
The new centre will build on the Fellowship team’s existing collaborations in artificial intelligence and robotics, both national (e.g. the Defence Science and Technology Group and Data61@CSIRO) and international (e.g. in Singapore, Germany, the Netherlands and Hong Kong).
Dr Ye has been attracted to Western Australia from the Netherlands, where he worked as a postdoctoral researcher after completing a PhD in ANU’s Research School of Engineering, for which Professor Yu was one of his supervisors.
Dr Ye’s PhD work won him ANU's 2018 JG Crawford Prize for PhD graduates for interdisciplinary research. He was also awarded a Springer PhD Thesis Prize, which saw his thesis published as a book by Springer, a global scientific publisher.
His previous research has focused on mathematical modelling and analysis of opinion formation/evolution and decision-making in complex social networks; coordination of multi-agent systems; epidemic (disease) spreading in metapopulation networks; and localisation techniques for drones.
Working together with Professor Yu, Dr Ye's EMC Fellowship Project will focus on safe and secure opinion formation and decision-making in Western Australia's social networks.
Through mathematical models and collaborations, including with social scientists, the Cyber Security CRC and local councils, he aims to deliver benefits such as more informed decision-making by government (including local government); and increased security, detection and resilience of social media networks to malicious attacks or attempts at influence. His work may also have direct relevance to the security of cyber-physical systems, and vice versa.