The Asian Smart Cities Research and Innovation Network (ASCRIN), developed by La Trobe along with partners - the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT Kanpur) and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS Pilani) - was recently announced during a visit to India by La Trobe's Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar.

The aim of the large-scale initiative is to build a critical mass of resources, know-how and targeted research strength from the three universities, along with close engagement with industry and local government, to deliver impact for the sustainability, liveability and efficiency of cities across Asia.

The research network will include La Trobe - IIT Kanpur Research Academy and a joint PhD and research framework with BITS Pilani, supported and guided by a network of "industry champions." The Industry Champions will comprise senior leaders from corporates, consulting houses, small and medium businesses and Government.

According to Dewar, the Australian university has already had existing partnerships with the two institutions and this initiative is an attempt to strengthen these ties while contributing to the critical contemporary issue of smart cities. "We will be able to make some very targeted research outcomes that will support the smart city challenges in India with the unique thing about this partnership is the scale and the critical mass," he added.

More than 70 academics from the three universities have already joined the research and innovation network, with the aim of creating new joint research professorships and a joint PhD program with more than 50 PhD scholarships offered. Funds from other stakeholders such as industry sponsors are also expected as part of the initiative.

Abhay Karandikar, director, IIT Kanpur said the Institute specialises in smart energy grids which are the backbone of any Smart City. "We are not only conducting state-of-the-art research in this area but have also put our work into practice by implementing a smart energy grid in our very own campus," he said.

Souvik Bhattacharyya, vice-chancellor, BITS Pilani said the university is collaborating with La Trobe on various smart cties themes.

"We are complementing and combining our expertise to address existing and new challenges in Smart Cities. This covers many areas, from mobility and transport to sanitation and waste management, using disruptive technologies such as IoT, AI, Machine Learning, blockchain and real-time data analytics," he added.

In 2018 La Trobe also launched an innovation competition called Technology Infusion Grand Challenge where undergraduate students apply skills gained in their studies to solve some of today's pressing societal or industry problems in Smart Cities. Entries to the second year of this annual competition are now open.