Sydney Smart Seeds showcases new approaches to infrastructure

The historic Great Hall at University of Sydney resounded with clever ideas for the city’s future, as teams of young professionals took centre stage for the Smart Seeds Showcase.

The winning team, as chosen by the judges, faced the challenge of making the most of data models generated during planning, design and construction. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is rapidly becoming the industry standard for how the built environment and infrastructure are delivered, but the model is rarely used once the project is complete. At the same time, lack of data sharing, management and common standards for models contributes to errors, inefficiencies and waste on construction projects, estimated to cost Australia $30 billion per year.

The winning idea proposed a centralised organisation covering all of Australia that would provide the framework for how information should be collected and shared by private and public sector organisations. It would also act as a marketplace so companies have a financial incentive to sell access to their data, while the buyer would avoid the cost of having to re-do relevant work from scratch.


The audience, made up of more than 150 people, made a different decision to the judges, voting the People’s Choice Award to ‘Floatus’, a modular structure which can be installed to create floating public spaces. With the City of Sydney’s open space per person predicted to decline by 40 percent between 2006 and 2036, Floatus can turn underutilised canals and waterways, like the Alexandra Canal, into flexible public spaces that can expand or contract for different uses.

Smart Seeds is an innovation program for young professionals focused on solving real challenges in the urban design and infrastructure sectors. Participating organisations set the infrastructure challenges that reflected their industry and evoked creative thinking. With help from industry mentors, seven teams made up of young professionals from different organisations and disciplines then had 10 weeks to come up with a solution to each challenge.

At the Showcase event, the teams presented their ideas to a judging panel of made up of industry leaders: Tim Reardon (Transport for NSW), Julian Frecklington (UrbanGrowth NSW), Dr Marlene Kanga (Sydney Water and Innovation Australia Board member), Kevin Young (Sydney Water), Prof Peter Phibbs (University of Sydney) and Simon Vatcher (Optus).


Along the journey to the Showcase event, the participants developed innovation, presentation and teamwork skills, strengthened their professional networks, learned from mentors and each other, and got a buzz from creating and sharing new ideas.

Jeremy Stone, Group Manager Innovation at GHD, says, “There is an increasing need for young professionals to learn innovation skills and collaborate to solve increasingly complex and interconnected urban infrastructure challenges. Smart Seeds provides a platform for people from different disciplines and organisations to see a problem with new eyes and work together to develop and refine fresh solutions. Some of the ideas from previous Smart Seeds events are now being considered for commercialisation and we look forward to more organisations adopting and realising some of these solutions.”

The two winning teams have been invited to present their ideas at the Festival of Urbanism at the University of Sydney, hosted by the Henry Halloran Trust.

This year’s Smart Seeds program is bigger than ever, also running in Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle and Perth, bringing together more than 200 young professionals in total. Planning is under way to expand the program to other global cities facing infrastructure challenges in 2017.

The major sponsors of Smart Seeds are GHD, Veolia, Optus, Engineers Australia and Innovation Interchange. The City Sponsors in Sydney are Transport for NSW and UrbanGrowth NSW. Other Sydney participants include Sydney Water, Lendlease, Ventia, Commonwealth Bank, Engineers Without Borders, and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.

Judges’ choice winner: Intelligent Super Models



Parneet Bhatia (Transport for NSW)

Andrew Hooley (Transport for NSW)

Sama Akram (UrbanGrowth NSW)

Raymon Wu (Vision Stream)

Mentors: Eric Bugeja (GHD), Simon Vaux (Transport for NSW), Brett Casson (Autodesk)


People’s choice winner: Diamonds from Drains



Tim Arnold (Lendlease)

Tony Curry (Ventia)

Kathryne Glover (GHD)

Zach Noel-Strang (Ventia)

Christa Zacharia (Lendlease)

Mentors: Catherine Port (Sydney Water), Bernard Clancy (GHD)

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