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About us

12 December 2023

The Spatial Engineering Research Centre (SERC) is an academic research centre at UC's College of Engineering. Based in the John Britten building, the SERC team includes experienced research scientists, engineers, and PhD and graduate students who can support a range of geospatial technologies and disciplines. Learn more about SERC.


The Spatial Engineering Research Centre (SERC) is an academic research centre at the University of Canterbury's College of Engineering, and is based in John Britten building. The SERC team includes experienced research scientists, engineers, and PhD and graduate students, who are able to support a range of geospatial technologies and disciplines including:

  • Positioning and orientation 
  • Imaging and image analysis 
  • Communications and signal analysis 
  • Position sensor integration 
  • GIS

The Spatial Engineering Research Centre has its roots in a company called Geospatial Research Centre (NZ) Ltd.

The GRC(NZ) Ltd company started trading in Christchurch on 13th Nov 2006 as a joint venture between the University of Canterbury and University of Nottingham (UK). Besides the two founding universities, initial funding came from the NZTE and CEDF, and the centre grew to a team of 23 researchers, admin and marketing staff.

The company attracted research contracts from NZ, UK, and USA organisations including: Trimble, Sonardyne, DTA, Hamilton Jet, Tait, and used post-graduate expertise in the areas of Maths, Geography, Computer Science and Engineering to complete many industrial contracts.

By 2009 the global economic situation caused the company to suspend operations and go into recess. Two team members, Kelvin Barnsdale and Marcus Andreotti were selected to keep the Geospatial Research Centre operational under the sole guidance of Canterbury University and professor Richard Duke as director.

In 2010 the directorship passed over to Fred Samadari, who was already the director of the Wireless Research Centre.

Since Fred’s appointment to GRC, the centre has worked closely with WRC in all its research activities.

Late in 2012, the research centre changed its name to the Spatial Engineering Research Centre (SERC), being a closer description of its research areas and bridging the gap between engineering and geography.  At about the same time, UC created the larger Geospatial Research and Innovation Institute (GRI) highlighting its strength in this area beyond the engineering expertise that SERC provides.  SERC is part of GRI’s research leadership.

The modus operandi of the centre has remained unchanged since 2006, to engage with industry and use student and professional consultants of the centre to satisfy industrial research contracts.

Real-world application and research areas

The SERC team works closely with industry and government bodies in New Zealand and overseas, across a range of real-world application and research areas including:

  • Surveying 
  • Precision agriculture 
  • Underwater positioning 
  • Defence 
  • Environmental monitoring and management 
  • Transport
  • Indoor navigation
Postgraduate research opportunities

There are many postgraduate research opportunities available for prospective students within SERC. For more information, please contact us. Currently, the SERC is working on collaborative research projects with the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science and Software Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics, the School of Forestry, and the Department of Geography.

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