World class research is just one of the factors driving a technology boom in Adelaide

Simon Lucey Headshot

Professor Simon Lucey, Director of the Australian Institute for Machine Learning

Story written by Dr Sarah Keenihan, AIML

Adelaide is a magnet for global talent in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning expertise – and that brings economic benefits for the whole country say two of the nation’s leading experts Professor Simon Lucey and Professor Anton van den Hengel. 

“We welcome bright young people coming to Adelaide with backgrounds in machine learning and AI, and taking up positions here,” says Simon Lucey, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide and Director at the Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML). 

“What’s wonderful about these positions is that they’re ‘knowledge jobs’, so they create economic opportunities for the rest of the country.” 

Lucey says the recruitment of talent from all over the world delivers a vital injection of creativity too. 

“In research, diversity accelerates innovation,” Lucey says.

“What we want is people from all sorts of different backgrounds bringing their own experiences to problem solving.”

“I think this is part of the secret sauce that makes Australia so good at scientific innovation,” adds Lucey. 

Professor Anton van den Hengel

Professor Anton van den Hengel, Director of Applied Science at Amazon and Director of the Centre of Augmented Reasoning

Top three in the world

Lucey says Adelaide punches above its weight in AI research and development. 

“Here at AIML, we are ranked within the top three of all global research groups in computer vision, one of the fastest developing areas of AI,” he says. 

“That carries enormous weight globally, and it means researchers, and companies, want to come and work with us.” 

Lucey himself was recruited to the directorship at AIML from the USA, where he was Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute and Principal Scientist at Argo AI, a company that builds technology for self-driving cars. 

He says the combination of world class research institutions plus lifestyle factors make South Australia irresistible. 

“I know the pull that Adelaide has – and now top tech companies from around the world are seeing it too, with Amazon, Google and Canadian building management company BGIS now working as our neighbours within LotFourteen.” 

The Silicon Valley approach

Anton van den Hengel is Director Applied Science at Amazon, and Director of the Centre for Augmented Reasoning at the University of Adelaide. 

“The competition for the global talent pool in AI and machine learning is immense. When you combine world-class employment opportunities with the great lifestyle we have here in Adelaide, then you’re able to attract the best people from around the world,” van den Hengel says.

“Some of the world’s most recognisable companies are coming to South Australia because it is a great place to attract people with the skills they need to achieve their research and development goals.” 

Van den Hengel says there are a number of factors that contribute to Australia being an attractive location for technology innovation.

“We've got an incredible education system, a wonderful quality of life, great organizations and top quality research institutions,” he says.  

“The competition for talented staff is global, but we have the great advantage that people really want to live here.”

“And we're also in a very good time zone for China and India in terms of business development opportunities,” he adds.  

Australia is producing only around 10% of the post-graduates we need to fill current and future jobs. Van den Hengel says its vital for Australia’s future that we’re able to attract top research talent through pathways such as the Global Talent Visa Program. 

“If we find the right people, this can work for Australia in the same way that Silicon Valley attracted top global technology talent to the USA for enormous economic benefit,” he says. 

“Those who have expertise in machine learning and AI; these are the people who envisage the next generation of Australian companies – maybe the next Google, the next Facebook, the next Uber.” 

“The opportunity for Australia is to bring these incredibly qualified, creative people here, and have them thinking of the next generation of genius ideas right here for us in our economy,” Professor van den Hengel says. 

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