MERCon 2016


Prof. Monte Cassim

Ritsumeikan Research Center for Sustainability Science, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan.

Title: Regaining Sri Lanka Through Science and Technology Innovation - Engineering Research and the J-SLIP Initiative

Abstract: Regaining Sri Lanka implies mobilizing our strengths as a diverse nation of peoples with a rich cultural heritage to face the future with creativity and optimism. The presentation views science and technology innovation (STI) as a neutral platform that can bring our peoples together in shaping such a future. Engineering research is a key ingredient of this endeavour and MERCon 2016 offers us an opportunity to explore into and initiate this transformation. This presentation is structured into three parts, viz. (1) The transdisciplinary context of future engineering research and STI; (2) The prospects offered by the J-SLIP initiative for balanced regional development; and (3) The design and execution of two propulsive projects related to human health and well-being.

The first part outlines the transdisciplinary context in which this new era for engineering research and STI in Sri Lanka has to be fostered. Sri Lanka’s transition to good governance (‘yahapalanaya’) has to overcome some formidable political hurdles but this burden will be eased considerably if it takes against a background of balanced spatial development and sustainable economic growth. It is noteworthy that the government has committed itself to steer this growth in keeping with the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). Legislation to facilitate this in developing the five development regions delineated in the government’s 60-month programme is currently being initiated, possibly the first country in the world to make such an explicit commitment to the SDGs. The Sri Lankan President’s presentation to the G7 summit members in May this year, where Japan as Chair has suggested taking up Sri Lanka’s development challenges in a special session, is likely to discuss the progress of this 60-month programme in the context of the SDGs and quality infrastructure development.

The second part looks at STI in the context of balanced regional development. Recognizing that if left unaddressed regions where STI talent gravitates to, conventionally the large metropolitan regions, will link up quickly with the global value chain and draw away from the rest of the nation’s hinterland regions, which could rapidly depopulate and lose economic impetus. Articulating a circulatory relationship between Technology Driver regions and Technology Test Bed regions, this section proposes a solution to the issue of spatial disparities in well being in the national landscape. STI-driven engineering research, if coupled with global partnerships of excellence, can hasten Sri Lanka’s entry into the global value chain. Towards this end, this section will outline the ideas underlying the Japan-Sri Lanka Innovation Platform (J-SLIP), born out of the recent Declaration of Joint Comprehensive Partnership between the Prime Ministers of Japan and Sri Lanka in October 2015. Plans are under way for presenting the projects incubated under the J-SLIP initiative at a forum of scientists, both domestic and international, from 8-10 September this year. At this Forum, the Science and Technology for Society (STS) Forum in Sri Lanka (2016), organized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research, the prospects for engineering research to power Sri Lanka’s development towards an advanced economy will be the focus of much discussion.

Against the above background of Sri Lanka’s national development and the J-SLIP initiative, two propulsive projects from the speaker’s laboratories will be discussed from the perspective of: (a) Inspiration and the timeline of evolution; (b) the underlying science and trans-disciplinary project design; and (c) anticipated outcomes and their societal and environmental impacts. The first project is in the emerging field of agro-photonics. It originated with an STI-driven search for agricultural adaptation to climate change but has since evolved into what could well become an important preventive health initiative. The second project aims at alleviating hardships associated with debilitating disease. Stroke treatment in the acute care phase is the focus of this project, which has tremendous implications for downstream treatment and patient outcomes. Both these projects involve the marriage of engineering and medical research in driving the STI. Of particular relevance to this conference is how both projects navigate between fundamental and applied research, involve partnerships between advanced and emerging/developing economies, using the concept of ‘creative utilitarianism’, an imperative for driving innovative research in developing and emerging economies. The modalities common to both projects, although they are from widely different subject areas, will be discussed with a view towards replicability and up-scaling as well as implementation in a local, customized context. Such propulsive projects, address several SDGs simultaneously.

The presentation concludes by emphasizing why technologically advanced economies, like Japan, need to partner with developing and emerging economies. The above projects indicate how this might be done under the umbrella of an STI platform like J-SLIP.

Prof. Saman K. Halgamuge

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne.

Title: Data Engineering Meets Health

Abstract: Data Engineering promotes an engineering approach to anlyse big “imperfect” data by creating and using new smart algorithms such as Unsupervised Deep Learning, appropriate electronic hardware platforms and mechanical/mechatronic/material/chemical-based approaches to interrogate and acquire missing data or information. The talk will focus on this paradigm and provide example algorithms and applications from the health sector, for example, neural engineering research on epilepsy and other brain deceases, biomechanical approaches and bioinformatics approaches attempting to find solutions to hard problems in cancer genomics, plat metabolomics, virus detection and drug characterization introducing about 10 on-going PhD projects. Other applications of data engineering, for example, operational optimization of smart grids and business analytics will also be briefly presented. At the conclusion of the talk information about the UGC-University of Melbourne Elite PhD program will also be provided.

Prof. Karu Esselle

Department of Engineering, Macquarie University, Australia.

Title: Engineering Radio Waves for Future Wireless Communication and Biomedical Systems

Abstract: Radio-frequency waves, including microwaves, play a crucial role in current wireless systems, both communication and biomedical. Millimetre-waves are being seriously considered for the next-generation (5G and beyond) communication systems because the expected improvement in throughput cannot be achieved only from improvement to coding and other “soft” techniques and a significant improvement in the physical layer enhancement (i.e. hardware) is required. Wi-Fi is reaching its limit in 2.5 GHz band and faster millimetre-wave systems such as Wi-Gig will become common in households. Recent discoveries and advances in photonic crystals, electromagnetic band gap, metamaterials and metasurfaces have inspired researchers to consider periodic structures when engineering wave propagation and radiation. This keynote speech will outline selected recent developments in these areas of research. It indicates how bulky dish antennas in communication systems may be replaced by aesthetically appealing flat high-gain antennas, how flexible wearable antennas and implantable antennas can provide comprehensive health monitoring in real-time and how steerable beams can provide a better quality of service in future wireless networks in homes and offices, including millimetre-wave networks.

Prof. Jagath K. Samarabandu

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Western University, Canada.

Title: Dynamic Network Security- Intrusion Detection and Response

Abstract: Use of internet based application in modern society is growing exponentially. Rapid development of service automation, social networking and connected devices continues to expand the human activities in cyber space resulting in vast quantities of security-critical data being accessible over internet. This has in turn caused an explosion of illegal activities such as unauthorized data access, data theft, data modification, fraud and various other intrusion activities. To mitigate such risks, intrusion detection and response techniques are becoming increasingly critical. We will explore the state of the art in advanced intrusion detection as well as intrusion response processes that aim to provide real time protection to current computer systems and networks.

Engineering Research Unit, Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

Telephone: +94 11 265 0286 ext. 3044, Facsimile: +94 11 265 0622, Email:

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