Engagement is key to innovation

With its impressive global footprint, Monash University is leading the way for research-based problem-solving around the world – the recent ranking by Reuters Top 75: Asia Pacific’s Most Innovative Universities has seen it named the most innovative university in Australia. Over in Malaysia, the Monash campus is pioneering a vision of innovation based on meaningful involvement with the surrounding community and the wider Southeast Asian region.

“To me, the real innovation at the heart of this campus is engagement,” says Professor Andrew Walker, President and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Monash University Malaysia. "Engagement is the key to what we do here. Our location here in the heart of the Klang Valley means that we are perfectly situated to engage with industries, and to shape a research agenda that will meet the productivity challenges of industry in the new Malaysia.”

Professor Andrew WalkerMuch of the campus’ innovative engagement with industry is accomplished through collaborative research partnerships that have significant social impacts. An example of this can be found in the recent launch of sustainability grants centred around improving the eco-credentials of Sunway City, where Monash Malaysia is based. The Monash Malaysia Community Grant Scheme currently has five projects in the works that will utilise the university’s research skills towards improving urban sustainability. These include the Sustainable Intelligent Transportation Ecosystem, which will use adaptive technology to meet the city’s transportation needs, and the Sunway City ‘River of Sustainability’, that aims to conserve and manage the water canal that runs through the city. “The sustainability grants really sum up what we’re trying to do here,” Professor Walker points out. “We supply world leading research, working with a major corporation, in order to have an impact in our local community where we want to be deeply engaged.”

Monash Malaysia is also investing in educational innovation to ensure that students become active participants in the learning process. The campus, which was recently awarded a 6-star SETARA rating for outstanding teaching and learning, is committed to putting students’ needs first in the classroom. The days of having a single teacher standing before rows of desks will soon be a thing of the past, as the campus moves slowly towards equipping its students with new skills using innovative educational methods. As Professor Walker puts it, the new focus is not on teaching, but on learning – students will be given opportunities in the classroom to start developing the critical and cross-cultural skills they will need to transition smoothly into the working world.

Monash recently reached a new high of #59 on the QS 2019 World University Rankings, and the Malaysia campus will use this momentum to continue to spearhead innovation in the region. Professor Walker sees the improved ranking as an opportunity to put Monash’s research expertise into action. “The ranking places us in the top league of research universities in the world,” he says. “My vision is for Monash Malaysia to form a research platform in Southeast Asia. There is a huge opportunity for Monash's research might to create linkages with industry, government, and civil society here. For instance, our advanced engineering researchers are working on smart manufacturing to help industry in Malaysia respond to the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. That to me is a recipe for meaningful engagement and innovation.”

Such innovation from the Malaysia campus is not slowing down anytime soon. As the campus celebrates its twentieth anniversary, Professor Walker reflects that the roots of its trailblazing reach all the way back to its establishment in 1998. “We were born out of innovation,” he says. “Twenty years ago, Monash University took a bold step to set up a comprehensive campus here in Asia, and we’re still the only major research-intensive Australian university to have a comprehensive campus here. Innovation is part of our DNA.”