GRI to meet geospatial data skills shortage

15 June 2016

UC's new Geospatial Research Institute will deliver world-class geospatial science projects and meet the demand for collaborative research with industry and government.

GRI to meet geospatial data skills shortage

UC Professor Simon Kingham, Director of the Geospatial Research Institute, predicts that in five years the GRI will have established an international presence as a key player in co-innovative geospatial research and education.

The University of Canterbury’s new Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau will deliver world-class geospatial science projects and meet the demand for collaborative research with industry and government, GRI Director Professor Simon Kingham says.

“There has been enormous growth in the amount of geospatial data being captured in recent times, in industries spanning health to local government. However, there is a skills shortage in processing this geospatial information.

“Companies do not necessarily have the research capability required to make use of geospatial information in-house. The Geospatial Research Institute Toi Hangarau (GRI) has been set up to provide support in this area by matching companies with the best researchers to meet their needs and provide practical solutions to industry and government problems,” he says.

Professor Kingham says the establishment of the GRI will increase collaboration by providing an umbrella institute that gives the community better access to University of Canterbury (UC) researchers from different disciplines.

“The Institute will build on UC’s culture of research excellence. UC is invested in collaborative research, both internally across disciplines, and with industry. By working together we can provide a coordinated response to industry research needs.”

Professor Kingham believes the Institute will continue to attract external interest and funding, but also bring in new researchers and students.

“Geospatial science feeds into a huge amount of projects and industries. There is a skills shortage of graduates in this area and the GRI is poised to meet this. Our postgraduate students are already being given opportunities to take part in industry research projects that almost always lead to jobs.”

Creating smart, sensing cities

Some of the first research to come out of the GRI will focus on one of New Zealand’s National Science Challenges: Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities – Ko ngā wā kāinga hei whakamāhorahora.

Researchers will work with the Christchurch and Wellington city councils to create geospatial tools that will inform urban planning decisions.

Related to this work is the testing of an app that cyclists can use to track and share their preferred routes around Christchurch.

Professor Kingham says that it could eventually not only help cyclists plan routes, but help the Christchurch City Council to maintain and create new cycleways.

“There are so many unique opportunities to apply geospatial research in our recovering city. We can take geospatial information and use it to improve our world,” he says.

Monitoring at-risk patients

Leading research is also being carried out by the Institute in partnership with the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB).

Researchers have created technology to monitor the movements of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Professor Kingham says that in the near future doctors could track where a patient is in real time, relate this to their health and provide more targeted advice.

Becoming an international player

Professor Kingham says that in five years the GRI will have established an international presence as a key player in co-innovative geospatial research and education.

“Ultimately, the GRI aims to be deeply involved in connecting research with the outside world through commercialisation, social and educational research, and outreach programmes.”

A research hub on campus is being set up so that companies can visit the GRI to talk about their research needs and create professional development opportunities. The Institute will also provide initiatives for collaborative supervision of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.

Fact file:

  • UC has delivered leading geospatial research for many years. The field is inherently cross-disciplinary.
  • All of UC’s five Colleges have been involved in geospatial projects, collaborating to produce results for a variety of industries and government departments.
  • Over time the GRI will build on its strategic partnerships and engage in collaborative outreach activities to build an awareness of geospatial science in the community.
  • The new institute ties in with a number of research units at UC and has attracted the support of a variety of organisations, including international research centres, government ministries and iwi.
  • The Australasian Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) have recently funded a new Professor of Spatial Information for the GRI.

For further information please contact:

Professor Simon Kingham, Director of the Geospatial Research Institute and Director of the GeoHealth Laboratory, Department of Geography, College of Science, University of Canterbury, www.science.canterbury.ac.nz/geospatial/, www.geohealth.canterbury.ac.nz Ph: (03) 3642893, simon.kingham@canterbury.ac.nz

or

For further information please contact:
Margaret Agnew, Senior External Relations Advisor, University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 2775 | Mobile: 027 5030 168 | margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz
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