In February 2019, our director Professor Mark Burry AO launched a new thought leadership series with an invited lecture by Nicholas Gruen (policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on economy, society and innovation).

The forum also saw the launch of our associate members program. Over 50 associates gathered to discuss our four research programs – bringing their diverse backgrounds and skills to showcase transdisciplinary collaborations and opportunities.

Attendees were invited to meet the associates to investigate possible future partnerships to tackle the challenges of a digitalised urban future – working together with federal, state and local government, industry and service providers, and professional practice.

Associate Members program launch

Associate members program launch

At the inaugural event in our thought leadership series, Professor Mark Burry AO launched the institute's associate members program.

In October 2020, the Smart Cities Research Institute hosted Nicholas Gruen – a policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on our economy, society and innovation from Lateral Economics – in a participatory workshop on Citizen Juries. As commentator for the workshop, Nicholas discussed how Swinburne University of Technology and the wider Australian community could benefit from Citizen Juries.

While people are familiar with the concept of a jury in a legal sense, Citizen Juries are less well-known. They consist of randomly selected people – representative of the demographics in an area – that come together to reach a collective decision or recommendation on a policy issue through informed deliberation. This concept aligns well with the iHUB, a world-leading smart decision support platform at Swinburne designed for applied urban research, synthesis and engagement. Swinburne’s iHUB is an ideal facility to host Citizen Juries.

Nicholas explained to workshop participants that Citizen Juries embody the dynamic of unitary democracy. The benefits are that the majority of jurors feel the process is fair and helps inform them on the issues. Participants often comment on the benefits of discussing ideas with ordinary people to assist in paving the best way forward.

After Nicholas explored how Citizen Juries could provide much needed ‘equality of speech’ for all aspects of society, workshop participants were randomly formed into breakout groups to do activities around identifying potential biases people might bring to decision making by discussing six very different personas (imaginary possible members) of a Citizen Jury. They also examined how Citizen Juries could be formed to make them fair and discussed issues around the demographics and diversity of Citizen Jury members.

The workshop, facilitated by Professor Simone Taffe, who leads the Future Urban Decision Making program, and Professor Jeni Paay, program leader of the Future Spaces for Living program, proved a lively, thought-provoking and stimulating initial exploration of the enormous potential of Citizen Juries. A further workshop is planned for the near future to activate a citizen jury toward finding a collaborative solution to a real problem to help individuals make a difference.

In February 2021, the Smart Cities Research Institute held its first workshop for the year and the third workshop in its Smart Campus series titled "It’s Time: Transitioning onto a Smarter Campus".

This session focused on contributions that individuals can make in establishing transdisciplinary research opportunities around a smarter, sustainable campus, as the Swinburne community transitions back to a campus operating under the “new normal”.

To recap the workshop series facilitated by Professor Simone Taffe and Professor Jeni Paay, the first workshop (June 2020) featured a brainstorming session, producing ideas on key issues and shovel-ready projects for transforming Swinburne into a smart campus living lab.

In the second workshop (July 2020), participants used the key issues from the first workshop to discuss and co-design plans for actionable projects for making the campus smart. As a result, the four focus areas were identified: Safe Campus, Digital Campus, Zero Emissions and Placemaking. 

This third workshop explored:

  • the four focus areas (Safe Campus, Digital Campus, Zero Emissions and Placemaking)
  • where the collective quest for Hawthorn campus as a living lab is headed in 2021
  • Swinburne’s planned rooftop living laboratory
  • the latest in sustainable transport options

Joining this workshop was Matt Pirrie, Senior Associate from NH Architecture, who is working with Swinburne to develop an urban design framework and space management strategy for the Hawthorn campus. Two key areas being looked at are hybrid learning and working from home.

Professor Richard Manasseh gave an overview of the Swinburne Integrated Rooftop Laboratory project (SWIRLL) – an idea that grew out of a team of researchers and campus facilities people discussing what could be achieved by pairing radically different disciplines to serve contemporary issues. 

Professor Hussein Dia gave an overview of smart mobility initiatives, looking at sustainable transport options that allow people and goods to move to, from and within campus alongside flexible working solutions such as one to three days per week working from home.

These descriptors for the four focus areas (developed from the second workshop) were shared with the participants:

  • Safe Campus: new pathways into campus, covered ways, community, safe link to trains, wellbeing
  • Digital Campus: flexible spaces, monitoring energy savings, virtual spaces, hybrid learning
  • Zero Emission: reuse of spaces, energy efficiency, working from home, low footprint travel modes, green points app or game
  • Placemaking: sense of arrival, welcoming, social spaces to stay connected to campus, sense of community

Workshop participants were then randomly allocated to four breakout rooms – one for each of the four focus areas – to discuss and cooperatively design on-the-ground actions that the Swinburne community can take now to reshape and reinvigorate the drive towards a smart campus. 

The activities they participated in included:

  • “what if” scenario – each participant responded to the proposition “imagine only 25 per cent of students and staff are allowed on campus at the same time; what would help make it a positive place to be for you?”
  • brainstorming – each participant provided two keywords representing the most important considerations for making the Smart Campus concept work with respect to that group's focus area They were asked to look at all the words produced, group similar concepts, combine ideas, discuss the most likely to succeed, and at the end of the breakout session, decide on the best idea as a group.

The groups then came back to the main forum to share their ideas:

Safe Campus:

  • better ventilation (windows that open)
  • outdoor classrooms 
  • consideration for those with accessibility issues (e.g. sitting on the ground)
  • redesign outdoors (to enable the design of the outdoor classrooms)

Digital Campus:

  • robots on campus
  • interesting online presence 24/7
  • interactivity (incentivise students to engage)
  • randomly meet others – virtual water cooler
  • buddy system (build collegiality particularly for first years)
  • guest speakers
  • gamification

Zero Emission:

  • using outdoor space 
  • mixed virtual and physical presence in spaces
  • cohorts together – groups attend on particular days, so you know everyone


  • most happy working at home
  • existing outdoor spaces (particularly with undercover shelter)
  • help people come together in these spaces
  • outdoor events and presentations in the new spaces
  • data on campus showing how spaces are being used
  • open airy campus – knock down all ground-level walls
  • structured outdoor spaces – incentivise meandering
  • campus as a huge park setting
  • upper floors for meetings, tutorials, and labs as they block interaction with other humans
  • outdoor power points
  • mobile coffee cart

These responses have been collected for the consideration by the Smart Campus working group.

In a bid to find new ways to get citizens involved in urban design and focus our activity on real-world challenges, we partnered with the MIT Senseable City Lab to workshop Melbourne's future urban infrastructure in the session “Reimagining Urban Infrastructure for Smart Cities”.

Over 30 Swinburne PhD and master students took part in a week-long workshop during October 2018 with MIT staff. It culminated in the opportunity to pitch ideas to city officials, partners and other interested parties at MPavilion in the Melbourne CBD.

Read more about how the MIT Senseable City Lab and our institute collaborate

Read more about this topic via this news article

Our collaboration with MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab at MPavilion

Our collaboration with MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab at MPavilion

We partnered with MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab to workshop future urban infrastructure ideas, pitching the final ideas to a panel of government and industry experts.

In November 2019 we hosted a series of panel sessions at MPavilion — Data in Urban Environments, exploring the future of data use in our urban environments

Designing Better Lives

Designing Better Lives

Our panel discusses how co-design and data visualisation can help citizens participate in the development of our future cities.

Steering our Cities Towards ‘Zero’

Steering our Cities Towards ‘Zero’

Our panel explores the changing landscape of urban mobility, the challenges facing our cities and opportunities that will shape the future directions of urban transport.

Densification and Future Decision-Making for Housing

Densification and Future Decision-Making for Housing

Our panel discusses the challenges, incentives and enabling equity for individuals and society in densification.

Trees — Rooting for a Smart City?

Trees — Rooting for a Smart City?

Our panel discusses the role of trees in cities as living natural assets.

In response to changes we all experienced in 2020, the Smart Cities Research Institute hosted panel discussions where academics, government and industry experts analysed the future of the city across themes of decision-making and participation, mobility and public transport, design of places for living, and energy and infrastructure.

"MTalks: Exploring New Ways of Urban Living for a Post-Pandemic World" was held at MPavilion on 29 March 2021 with facilitated audience participation to identify cooperatively better ways of urban living for a post-pandemic world.

Panel discussion topics:

  • A Citizen Jury: Striving for Zero Emissions in Urban Living
  • The Hydrogen Promise in Transport: Hope or Hype? – view video
  • The Future of Social Spaces – read more
  • Sounding Out the City
The Hydrogen Promise in Transport: Hope or Hype?

The Hydrogen Promise in Transport: Hope or Hype?

Panel discussion from MTalks: Exploring New Ways of Urban Living for a Post-Pandemic World held on 29 March 2021 at MPavilion, chaired by Professor Hussein Dia. 

In November 2018, we hosted Carlo Ratti (architect, engineer and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab) and Professor Rob Adams AM (city design director at City of Melbourne) for the "MTalk: Digital Media and Social Innovation” at MPavilion.

The pair held an informed discussion on the impact of the technological revolution on architecture, engineering and city planning. Associate Professor Jeni Paay was the MC for this event.

October 2018 heralded the first Smart Cities Week in Australia. We partnered with organisers of the Sydney event to hold a Research Forum as the inaugural national gathering of smart cities researchers, government and industry.

The forum had over 50 participants from diverse backgrounds who worked to build researcher-practitioner collaboration across Australia and New Zealand and beyond. The forum involved diving into critical research needs for advancing and accelerating the smart cities movement.


As technology continues to improve and become more accessible, so too must planners diversify the tools they use to develop, conceptualise, and present planning documents. This Geodesign toolbox reviews the various programs, applications, software and hardware resources needed to create plans and graphics that are easily legible, appealing and able to visually communicate important information.

These tools continue to evolve and develop solutions to meet challenges facing the planning profession. As the field or practice of geodesign emerges, 3D tools work with GIS to helps us visualise data and concepts – providing an exciting and extremely informative layer of detail and insight.

At its foundation, these tools aim to do two things: inform planning with the data, analysis, public engagement and research necessary to create viable and exciting plans, and utilise a graphic approach to planning that allows those plans to tell compelling stories, communicate complex ideas and engage with those for whom planning will mean real world change.

  • Professor Hussein Dia, Chair, Department of Civil and Construction Engineering; Deputy Director and Program Leader, Smart Cities Research Institute
  • Devin Lavigne, Principal and Co-founder of Houseal Lavigne Associates
Webinar - Geodesign for Project Planning

Webinar - Geodesign for Project Planning

Devin Lavigne, Principal and Co-founder of Houseal Lavigne Associates, discusses Geodesign and how digital innovations in this space can inform planning and enhance public engagement.

Sound in the city has traditionally been regarded as noise: unwelcome, intrusive and stressful, to be eliminated by engineering or administrative controls. However, recent developments have emphasised the pleasant and invigorating aspects of urban sounds, and the design of urban soundscapes has emerged as a discipline.  

What do people need and want to hear in the city, both consciously and subconsciously? What is the role of bird calls, water sounds, or the ding of tram bells? Moreover, our senses are not isolated from each other. 

Designs need to incorporate thermal microclimates, the visual and the tactile, with acoustic elements. Acoustic engineers, architects, musicians and healthcare experts all have a role to play.  Held as a webinar in April 2021, a panel of experts probed these concepts examining them in detai.

  • Professor Richard Manasseh (Program Leader, Future Urban Infrastructure, Smart Cities Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology)
  • Associate Professor Lawrence Harvey (SIAL Sound Studios, School of Design, RMIT University)
  • Ida Larrazabal (Senior Acoustic Consultant, Acoustics, Audio Visual and Theatre, ARUP)
  • Dr Mehrnoush Latifi Khorasgani (Lecturer, Department of Interior Architecture and Industrial Design, Theme Leader of Smart Skins, Smart Cities Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology)

What is post COVID Urbanism, and why do we need to discuss it? Everything about 'place' is changing, and the COVID pandemic has highlighted this.

On Tuesday 6 October, the Smart Cities Council hosted a discovery session with an online audience of 100 to discuss what our cities need to consider with respect to new mobility, e-commerce, and related innovations and disruptions within our communities, and what might be the urban planning and design impacts of this.

  • Professor Hussein Dia (Chair, Department of Civil and Construction Engineering; Deputy Director and Program Leader, Smart Cities Research Institute)
  • Jessica Christiansen-Franks (Co-Founder, Neighbourlytics)
  • Chris Isles (Economic Development Manager, Brisbane City Council)
  • Sara Stace (Manager Walking and Cycling Strategy, Transport for NSW)

Professor Mark Burry AO, Director of Swinburne University of Technology’s Smart Cities Research Institute, was guest editor for the May/June 2020 issue of the prestigious Architectural Design (AD), titled ‘Urban Futures: Designing the Digitalised City’. Given the rapid evolution of concepts such as smart cities, the edition explores:

  • who the architects are that are riding the wave of new possibilities for urban design
  • how contemporary agencies can find pathways to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by evolving urban technology
  • how architecture engages with the expanding pool of associated disciplines
  • how schools of architecture and urban design should engage with radical digitalised urbanism.

Professor Burry discussed his work on the edition with Professor Neil Spiller (Hawksmoor Chair of Architecture and Landscape; Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Greenwich) from publisher Wiley. They explored how the issue identifies visionaries who combine sociology, geography, logistics and systems theories with the challenges of mobility, sustainable materials, food, water and energy supply, and waste disposal to ensure a better urban experience. 

The discussion also examined:

  • how the pandemic would have changed the way the publication was put together if it was done now
  • whether current architectural education is fit for the purpose in terms of urban futures
  • the role of data in the design of the digitalised city
  • the most crucial research agendas in the next five years
  • how Barcelona’s example of the precinct as a compact administrative district with everything at hand could be a model for cities around the world.

Professor Burry stated that it is now time for cities “to be designed with people, instead of for people.”

The interview was followed by a Q&A session with a panel featuring leading Smart Cities thought leaders and researchers as Professor Burry was joined by Dr Sarah Barns (Research Consultant and Advisor), Professor Marcus Foth (Professor of Urban Informatics, the Design Lab Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology) and Meredith Hodgman (Chair, Smart Cities Workstream for the Internet of Things Alliance Australia).

The discussion was chaired by Professor Jeni Paay (Program Leader, Future Spaces for Living, Smart Cities Research Institute). The panel discussed issues arising from the interview between Professor Burry and Professor Spiller and the future of urban design, the role of sustainability, the importance of data sharing and who owns data, the potential of citizen juries to generate trust and involve citizens, and who should be designing the digitalised city.

Webinar - Urban Futures: Designing the Digitalised City

Webinar - Urban Futures: Designing the Digitalised City

Join Professor Mark Burry AO, guest editor for the May/June 2020 issue of the prestigious, Architectural Design (AD), titled ‘Urban Futures: Designing the Digitalised City’. 

Public lectures

In February 2019, our director Professor Mark Burry AO launched a new thought leadership series with an invited lecture by Nicholas Gruen (policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on economy, society and innovation). 

Nicholas explored the landscape of the private and the shared within the scope of digital collaboration in the 21st century. Examining how this digital collaboration is resulting in a rapid development of open source software (while in the analogue world, the public good of our social fabric is coming under immense pressure), the lecture sought to find new ways of understanding these things to help create the world we would like to see. 

The Public Goods of the 21st Century by Nicholas Gruen

The Public Goods of the 21st Century by Nicholas Gruen

Our inaugural thought leadership series began with a lecture from Nicholas Gruen — policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on economy, society and innovation.

We hosted a public lecture at Engineers Australia in November 2019 featuring Professor Margot Brereton (Professor of Engineering and Interaction Design, Queensland University of Technology) exploring the future of smart cities from the dual perspectives of engineering and human interaction.

Contact the Innovative Planet Research Institute

If your organisation would like to collaborate with us to solve a complex problem, or you simply want to contact our team, get in touch by calling +61 3 9214 5177 or emailing

Contact us