By Penelope Thomas, Project Manager - Applied Industry Research for Innovation, Australian Film Televesion and Radio School. Penelope was a guest speaker at the 2017 Service Improvement and Innovation in Universities Conference held by the LH Martin Institute.

Although the Information Age is connecting billions of people, ideas and resources — achieving an astounding pace of technological change and even suggesting a future where human and machine become one — it also offers a renewal of the promise and value of something centuries old.

More than ever, the connectedness between the Arts and Sciences enables us to be dynamic in our cognitive reach, yet maintain a human-centred focus to the technological design of our future. This human-centred focus is driven by our innate desire to communicate and, as History suggests, we communicate most effectively (and most captivatingly) through the power of Story.

Screen and broadcast have always explored Art and Science for communication and storytelling. Today, as seen with virtual and augmented realities, a combination of vastly improved processing power and new media forms provides a way for us to reimagine and create more impactful content for future audiences. It is important to share successful approaches to this endeavour for the benefit of all.

The Approach and a Case Study
This presentation shares an applied research leadership approach to collaboration for innovation titled AIR-4-I (Applied Industry Research — 4 components — for Innovation; Thomas, P. 2017), connecting the Arts and Sciences. The approach can be adapted for different group profiles and a range of projects across education, community, industry and commerce. The presentation draws on The Precipice Project1 (2017) as a case study to demonstrate the approach and how it led practitioners, students, industry specialists and partners to achieve innovative ‘firsts’ and create an extraordinary pilot entertainment experience for global audiences.

The presentation begins with a brief philosophical musing about important ideas and observations that underpin the approach, including a question for IBM's Watson and a story about Danish in reverse. It will then outline the four (4) key components that comprise AIR-4-I, as follows:

1) 'Agile with Rigour'
AIR-4-I's 'Agile with Rigour' is how to design an interrogative framework around a project to define what success in innovation looks like and how to measure it. The framework backs Agile with Rigor across every stage of a project. The 'Agile' is in being quick to adapt and change: to invert models, try new methods, modify existing practices and importantly, to look for the anomaly. The 'Rigour' is in testing the results of Agility against the innovation criteria and against external feedback.

AIR-4-I is an iterative approach that values 'High Risk for High Reward' in the guise of mess, muddle and failure. Samples from Precipice demonstrate this across experimentation, audience testing, fieldwork, writing, composing, blind auditions, and rehearsal and performance methods. The presentation will draw on results of experimentation such as the potential of a bifurcating podcasting format and the adaptation of filmmaking techniques for innovation in an all audio production.

2) 'Pan-Collaboration’
The AIR-4-I approach to project leadership is holistic: inclusive teams spanning student, practitioner, academic, industry, organization and global partnerships. It provides an environment where excellence will rise to the surface and quickly become the 'DNA' of a project. The presentation profiles Precipice Project collaborators and stakeholders, and describes the way a diverse group of scientists, artists, technicians, scholars, film practitioners, broadcast specialists, musicians and choristers, worked together to produce a highly-textured and immersive composition.

This component includes an approach to identifying and establishing partnerships. It suggests how to be generous and how to acquire resources that seem out of reach. The Vivid Ideas 2017 showcase of Precipice enabled an expansion of collaboration at school, industry, community, national and international level. The event was designed to enable people with varied skill sets and interests to participate in the project and make important networking connections. The event created media interest around the project and provided a way to share project outcomes with the public.

3) ‘Digital Dissemination’
The AIR-4-I approach aims to produce a set of outcomes for 'real world' application in the form of a set of digital assets with global reach for education, industry, media and commercial use. These assets are collateral to the project and provide a way to share project outcomes effectively, dynamically and strategically. They establish a record of research, a live discussion of findings and a body of work for future research.

The presentation will sample the digital dissemination of Precipice Project outcomes: Podcast Pilot – Episode 1; Non-Linear Trilogy: A Series Overview; White Paper: Precipice Project, a world-first binaural narrative podcast; UX Survey Report: A Measure of Success Survey; A How to Guide for Binaural Production; A Glossary of Terms; A Making of Precipice (An Animation); Choir in 360; Choir Pure; video diary; and software bi-product.

4) 'Measure of Success'
The AIR-4-I approach includes an assessment of project outcomes against project aims. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the project. The presentation will provide an example and look at the live measure of success used for Precipice at Vivid Ideas 2017.

AIR-4-I provides a dynamic approach to achieving firsts in applied research. It backs agile with rigour across every stage of a project. It can be adapted for specific group profiles and applied to a range of endeavours. It is designed to produce a set of collateral assets that provide a record of research and a way to share research findings and recommendations in a captivating format to achieve global reach. AIR-4-I offers a proven approach to applied research leadership that draws on the power of future-focused collaboration and pays homage to the connectedness of the Arts and Sciences for Innovation.


1. Produced at The Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Precipice is a binaural podcast narrative that has gained significant media attention as a pilot for the medium's commercial potential.

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Penelope Thomas