National AusiSTAR Hub to provide data science boost for Aussie athletes

QUT will invest $4.5 million into sports data science over the next five years as part of a new national research hub that will help build better athletes in the lead-up to the 2032 Games and beyond.

The Australian Sports Tech Analytics & AI Research (AusiSTAR) Hub was launched today (May 14) at its QUT headquarters in Brisbane – the host city of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The hub is a consortium of universities, sports associations, government agencies and private companies.

It will train a new generation of sports data analysts to help address a national shortage of these experts, who provide vital insights into areas including performance and injury prevention.

AusiSTAR will benefit athletes of all ages and abilities across Australia – from elite athletics to community sports and esports – and also showcase how sports can positively impact public health, economics, and society.

Today’s launch in Brisbane was attracted representatives from QUT’s AusiSTAR partners, including the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), CSIRO, and Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS).

Sam Cordingley from the Queensland Reds (General Manager, Professional Rugby) addresses the AusiSTAR launch.

The hub also includes peak sports bodies such as Rugby Australia, Queensland Rugby Union, Cricket New South Wales and Disability Sports Australia, along with the South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian institutes of sport, and teams including the Brisbane Bullets.

Companies in the sports tech and med tech space were also represented at the launch.

Malcolm Watts, CEO of the Brisbane Bullets, speaks at the launch.

AusiSTAR is led by internationally recognised statistician Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen, who also leads the QUT Centre for Data Science.

Other key QUT researchers include data scientist Associate Professor Paul Wu from the School of Mathematical Sciences, biostatistician Professor Divya Mehta from the School of Biomedical Sciences, sports scientist Professor Glen Lichtwark, Head of the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, and Associate Professor Dimitri Perrin from the School of Computer Science and Dr Simon Denman from the School of Electrical Engineering and Robotics.

Professor Kerrie Mengersen discusses the importance of data analytics at the AusiSTAR launch.

Professor Mengersen said AusiSTAR aimed to be a national and global leader in sports, eSports, sport tech analytics, and AI research and translation.

“With Brisbane, and Australia, getting ready to host the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics, there is a huge focus on the crucial importance of data in sport and the science-based insights it can provide our elite athletes in areas including performance and injury prevention,” she said.

“But, at the same time, Australia has a critical lack of sports data analysts.

“We urgently need more experts to manage and analyse the data which underpins the predictions of how Australian Olympians, Paralympians and all athletes will perform at their best, prevent injury and protect their mental health.

“Elite athletes and teams across Australia now have vast amounts of data from wearable sensors, instrumented equipment, and the increasing use of computer vision to extract more granular information from video.

“But our capabilities to analyse and action this explosion of data have not kept pace with hardware development.

“One of the big roles of the AusiSTAR Hub will be to train up a cohort of sports data scientists in high performance sports and para-sports.

“This will help meet the urgent demand from sports organisations – and also provide data experts whose skills can transfer to a range of industries including defence, business, health, social sciences and other data-focused fields.”

Researchers, sports executives and industry members attended the AusiSTAR launch at QUT in Brisbane.

One of the hub’s first practical ways of achieving this will be training 25 postgraduate researchers through the Next Generation Graduates Program – funded by CSIRO and coordinated by QUT.

These researchers are already working on industry projects in rugby, rowing, athletics, swimming, wheelchair basketball and other sports.

Their work is being carried out at QUT, the University of New South Wales (UNSW), UTS, and La Trobe University.

The $4.5 million QUT investment over five years will fund three research chair positions in QUT’s Faculty of Science, Faculty of Health and Faculty of Business and Law, and fund additional postdoctoral and PhD researchers.

The vision for a national sports data hub was first proposed to the Australia’s sports sector by Professor Mengersen at the AIS’ STARS Conference in late 2021, where she argued for its critical value to sports and received an enthusiastic response to the concept.

The Australian Government estimates sport is now a $32 billion industry in Australia, with our nation ranked fifth in the global sports tech industry.

“Data science, which embraces analytics and AI, is the number one major strategic opportunity in Australia,” Professor Mengersen said.

Main photo at top: National AusiSTAR Hub launch guests (left to right) Malcolm Watts (CEO Brisbane Bullets), Sam Cordingley (General Manager, Professional Rugby, Queensland Reds), Distinguished Professor Kerrie Mengersen (AusiSTAR, QUT), Dr Megan Shephard (Research Partnerships Manager, QAS), Associate Professor Paul Wu (AusiSTAR, QUT) and Tim Kelly, (AIS Manager, Research & Innovation).

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