Q&A with Peter Woodgate

By on 15 August, 2018

This article was originally published in the June/July 2018 issue of Position magazine.

Peter Woodgate should need no introduction to readers of Position. Presiding over the CRC for Spatial Information for 14 years, he now chairs the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN), among a myriad of current credits. A brief selection of highlights: he chairs the bid for the SmartSat CRC and proposed board, and the Open Digital Earth Foundation, is co-chair of the 2026 Spatial Industry Growth and Transformation Agenda, a member of Charles Sturt University’s Council and a member of the editorial committee of the International Journal of Digital Earth — and still remains engaged with the CRCSI (now FrontierSI) as an advisor. It was our pleasure to sit down with him for Position. 

It’s been quite a year for you so far – your role with the CRCSI changed at the end of last year, you now  chair AURIN (the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network ), but maintain a strong presence within the CRCSI as an advisor, among a range of other roles. What can you tell us about this change, and how are the new roles treating you?

I’ve really enjoyed the shift. The CRCSI has developed very pleasing momentum now as it transitions to its next phase. After 15 years it is soon to move beyond the CRC Programme as FrontierSI, a new permanent entity. The next generation of leadership will shape its future in close collaboration with the many great partnering organisations that have signed up. I’m playing a support role helping design and bed down the new governance model.

In recent months I’ve also been most fortunate to pick up a small number of other roles and am finding great satisfaction in helping other organisations by drawing on my love of spatial, strategy, development and research generally.

The 2018 budget contained some historic allocations for the spatial industry – a huge award of $262 million to Geoscience Australia to radically scale up positioning infrastructure, with full funding also awarded to Digital Earth Australia. How do you respond to this, having headed the CRCSI for 14 years and presided over some of the developmental stages of these initiatives?

I had always hoped that in time we’d see these developments, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the size and the speed at which this budget has progressed them. They are truly going to shape this nation for the better and the benefits will be huge, far outstripping the costs.

We are now in a precision world, where people want their information product immediately, wherever they are located. These initiatives put Australia at the forefront of the world in delivering real-time, centimetre-level accuracy based on all constellations of global and regional navigation satellite systems, supported by a dedicated augmentation satellite for Australia and New Zealand. The super computer sitting behind DEA and its 40-year satellite image archive creates a whole new vista of great opportunities for product generation, unlocking new insights across the continent while opening up brand new opportunities for commercialisation. Congratulations to the government and all those involved, especially at Geoscience Australia and the current team at the CRCSI. 

What do you feel this represents for the relationship of the CRCSI with government, and its profile going forward?

We are witnessing a step change in the relationship between government and research organisations. Collaboration on large and complex issues, of nation building importance, that involves policy, long term (decadal) strategy and advanced science capability is increasingly requiring more sophisticated types of collaboration. Over the last few years the CRCSI has grown into this role and FrontierSI is poised to grow it much further.

Stay up to date by getting stories like this delivered to your mailbox.
Sign up to receive our free weekly Spatial Source newsletter.

Like so many other organisations, FrontierSI will be aided by the activities of the 2026 Spatial Agenda which is helping steward collaboration and strategic intent on a much broader scale throughout Australia to transform and grow the industry. Great synergies are being built through collaboration on many of the big-ticket items like a coordinated national positioning system (the NPI and SBAS), the introduction of the dynamic datum, the future role of the DEA, and the Foundation Spatial Data Framework, to name a few. FrontierSI will be pleased to make a contribution to these and others.

AURIN looks to be in good stead after this budget, with the announcement of a further $1.9 billion over the next 12 years for the NCRIS [National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy -which AURIN operates under], on top of the $1.5 billion committed in 2015. What’s on the horizon for the years ahead, and how might this announcement affect those plans?

Indeed. We look to have nearly doubled our budget to just over $4 million a year for the next four years. With the program being extended for 12 years there are also good prospects for funding over the next decade or more.

AURIN supports research into Australia’s urban settlements to improve urban resource policy, planning, management and practice. It supports academics, government and, in the future, the private sector. It does this by providing research infrastructure, enabling discovery and visualisation of open and secured access data — with over 4000 datasets now and rising rapidly. AURIN has over 90 collaborating organisations in its network.

Now with a clear funding allocation, AURIN is recasting its strategy for the next five to 10 years. It will increasingly address the pressing need for more evidenced-based and informed decision making in planning, energy supply, sustainable resource use, and many, many more challenges for our built environment. Key priorities including significantly strengthening its collaboration with policy makers across the governments of Australia, and growing a much more sophisticated model of private sector engagement.

You are now an honorary fellow of SSSI, the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute. Firstly, congratulations. How do you see the role of the institute and its relationship to professionals working in geospatial fields in 2018?

Thank you. All professions worthy of the name have a peak professional body to represent them. Its very existence makes an important statement to the world; that there are standards, expectations and values that govern members. They offer a sense of stability in a rapidly changing world. The SSSI does this for its membership. Through the Locate conference the SSSI, in partnership with SIBA-GITA, and in its many other activities, serves to support and grow the profile of our profession. Its members recognise the importance of this role.

Building upon that idea, you have just co-authored the CRCSI’s bi-annual Global Outlook report 2018. What are the key lessons that spatial professionals should live by to develop an agility for the industry changes to come?

Awareness. Context. These are two key take home messages. The rate of change of our own technologies is accelerating rapidly. The rise in scope of influence that we are having is profound, across all sectors of all economies, society and the environment, globally. So long as we follow these developments as students of change then we will be well equipped as individuals, practitioners and collectively to manage their impact and to take advantage of their opportunities.

Another lesson; the relationship between the spatial and space communities in Australia is set to grow much closer together, especially with the announcement of the creation of an Australian Space Agency. Together they form the basis of a powerful value chain; remote sensing, positioning, navigation and timing, and communications. Watch this space!

Respect for our future role is growing significantly too with policy makers, entrepreneurs, academics at all levels, as well as the general public. This brings with it an expectation of trust that we as professionals will diligently work to help society, including as protectors. National security and personal privacy are two most immediate issues that will act to define our place in the future.

Stay up to date by getting stories like this delivered to your mailbox.
Sign up to receive our free weekly Spatial Source newsletter.

You may also like to read:

, , , , , ,


Sign up now to stay up to date about all the news from Spatial Source. You will get a newsletter every week with the latest news.

How spatial data saves time and money
MetroMap gives access to super high-resolution and accurate ...
Bennett and Bennett expands service capabilities
Bennett and Bennett selects NavVis VLX mobile scanning and d...
Q&A with FIG President, Rudolf Staiger
Staiger reflects on his four years at the helm of FIG and th...
CASA releases RPAS roadmap for the next decade
The roadmap sets out the Authority’s intended approach to ...
OGC joins new Metaverse Standards Forum
The Forum aims to foster open standards collaboration betwee...