Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, together with innovation and infrastructure, can unleash dynamic and competitive economic forces that generate employment and income. They play a key role in introducing and promoting new technologies, facilitating international trade and enabling the efficient use of resources.
– United Nations

Through our Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities (ISILC), we aim to create resilient built environments, globally competitive industries and socially inclusive communities.

We conduct real-world research in developing smart technology, sustainable packaging, and innovative infrastructure to achieve better, cleaner industries and communities.

 9 Industry, innovation and infrastrucutre (building block icons)

Research, engagement & education 2020-21

Research with impact

We promote efforts towards a circular economy and sustainable infrastructure through targeted, practical research initiatives.

Milk proteins have the potential to be used as natural product polymers, a sustainable active edible packaging for food, in place of conventional plastics. Members of the Advanced Food Systems group at VU joined researchers from Australia, New Zealand and Ireland to look the challenges to using milk as edible packaging with the extra benefit of added nutritional value. In addition to the question of consumer demand, regulatory and economic issues will need to be resolved for the use of edible forms of packaging.

The Built Environment and Infrastructure research team is focused on sustainable construction and infrastructure development. The building and construction industry is one of the main generators of waste and the manufacture of concrete a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, second only to fossil fuels. Members of the team:

  • Investigated the potential of biomimicry, the application of natural design to made objects, to provide sustainable solutions to human challenges, especially designing and constructing structures. Zora Vrcelj and Elmira Jamei reviewed the applications of biomimicry to building and construction. The review revealed there is a need for greater professional knowledge of biomimicry’s potential for design and construction solutions and for the evaluation of sustainability. Incorporation of biomimicry whereby structures are adapted to and enhanced by their environment will need greater recognition among designers and developers and changes to the planning frameworks.
  • Conducted an extensive review of 874 research publications which indicated that whilst the use of cardboard is seldom considered, kraft fibres within cardboard can be recycled into building materials. Use of new materials in building is consuming excessive quantities of finite resources. After glass and plastic, cardboard is considered as the most prominent recycled waste material that could possess potential use in mortar and concrete applications, reducing the use of new materials. The team also Matrix modification and fibre pre-treatment of the cardboard are needed to enhance the mechanical values and durability; however, further research is required for a solution to prevent the degradation of the fibre.
  • Dr Malindu Sandanayake collaborated with researchers from China and Australia to investigate the application of sustainable materials for infrastructure construction projects, to reduce environmental impacts and costs, for the development of sustainable transportation systems.

The complexity, length and impact on local communities of infrastructure projects makes sustainable development a priority. VU and Deakin university researchers conducted a review of sustainable infrastructure research to identify directions and gaps in current thinking. The research findings also contribute to recognising research gaps in the sustainable infrastructure studies and therefore provide directions for future research. 'Smart city' has emerged as a new research area from 2018, where information drives efficiencies and reduction of wastage.  There is a focus on environmental sustainability, with the other two dimensions in the triple bottom line for sustainable development – social and economic – neglected in the research focus. There is also a lack of multidisciplinary focus in applying sustainability principles. Specific research gaps are the rural sustainable infrastructure, life cycle assessment, and transport infrastructure.

Impact of smart logistics on smart city sustainable performance by Himanshu Kumar Shee, Shah J. Miah and Tharaka De Vass concludes that smart logistic functionalities are likely to have a positive impact on smart city sustainability, and that future research is necessary to consider a wider pool of technologies in improving sustainability of logistics operations.

Smart City-Ranking of Major Australian Cities to Achieve a Smarter Future concluded Canberra is Australia’s leading ‘smart city’ based on a series of indicators using Australian Bureau of Statistics data. T. The analysis was undertaken by Bachelor of Engineering students, Muhammad Laiq Ur Rahman Shahid, Alavaiola Faumatu, and Maha Hussein, as their capstone research project, together with researchers Muhammad Atiq Ur Rehman Tariq and Nitin Muttil.

Florian Schiffmann from the Centre of Policy Studies collaborated with twenty nine researchers from around the world to develop an open source software package CP2K for computer simulation of atomistic behaviour and dynamics of solid- state, liquid, molecular, and biological systems.


Working with local and state government, we address issues of sustainability in building materials.

VU researchers from the College of Engineering and Science are developing solutions using recycled materials to backfill utilities trenches metres below busy city roads. The current practice is to use natural aggregates for backfill that needs to be excavated, crushed and often trucked in from great distances. Dr Ehsan YaghoubiProfessor Sam Fragomeni and Associate Professor Maurice Guerrieri received a Sustainability Victoria grant for the Recycling Victoria Research and Development Fund – Materials to look at using an alternative of crushed recycled concrete aggregates from demolished structures, such as buildings and bridges, that normally go to landfill. This project follows the team’s successful delivery in 2020 of another Sustainability Victoria-funded project at a demonstration site in Wyndham. It showed that a blend of recycled plastic, glass and tyres with self-compacting properties could serve as backfill in ‘non-trafficked’ trenches.

Falling by older people and stroke patients is estimated to cost the Australian health system up to $3.9 billion by 2050. Dr Soheil Bajelan, of the Institute for Health & Sport, has developed the Self-Powered Ankle Exoskeleton (SPAE), which minimises the risk of tripping and falling by actively controlling foot-ground clearance and obstacle crossing. The SPAE is a breakthrough in medical exoskeletons – it is lightweight, relatively low cost, does not require batteries or sensors, and looks like a running shoe. The exoskeleton harvests energy from the body movement of the user. The SPAE was developed using biomechanical experiments, computerised modelling and simulation using cutting-edge biomechanical technologies.

The Sustainable Futures Innovation Hub, at the Werribee Campus will develop leading-edge solutions to sustainability challenges associated with waste, packaging, construction and water management. The creation of the Innovation Hub was supported by the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund for universities to work with their communities as they recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The hub is part of a broader research initiative VU RISE (Recover, Innovate, Sustain, Evolve) to assist with COVID recovery, aimed at improving the west of Melbourne’s long-term productivity and workforce needs, and supporting economic and social development. The hub will draw on VU research and expertise in partnership with government, community and industry in four priority areas:

  • Next generation water management in the Werribee River catchment: Creating relationships with Traditional Owner Groups of the west of Melbourne who have boundaries along the Werribee River, as well as working with communities and industry to inform water management decisions, stormwater harvesting treatment process design, and development of strategies for water loss reduction from water supply pipes.
  • Smart construction tools: The development of prototype smart technology tools which improve quality control and inspection procedures in construction, while transforming education and training on health and safety risks in construction to minimise workplace accidents and injuries.
  • Innovative construction using recycled materials: Development of contemporary solutions that use recycled glass, plastic and demolition waste for pavements and house foundations to improve the engineering properties and performance on reactive soils in Melbourne’s west.
  • Sustainable packaging solutions: Creation of new bio-packaging from agricultural waste materials and by-products and practical strategies to reduce supply-chain hazards that drive protective packaging demand.

Victoria University and Maribyrnong City Council completed the Footscray Smart City for Social Cohesion Project to transform Footscray into a digitally connected smart city. The ongoing program features many environmentally responsible initiatives to enhance sustainability and wellbeing. The infrastructure rollout features free WiFi and interactive information for people in Footscray and gathers data on urban area usage, transport and air quality for better city planning and design and health advocacy.

It has been estimated by the World Health Organization that over 2 billion food-borne diseases episodes world- wide are a result of unsafe food practices. Fatah Ahtesh, Jack Feehan, Maximilian de Courten and Vasso Apostolopoulos from IHES joined researchers from the United Arab Emirates and industry partner, The Product Makers, to establish patented natural polyphenol rich sugar cane extract (PRSE), which is an efficient antimicrobial. PRSE could be included at differing dosages to target a range of food-borne and environmental pathogens and has the potential to be used in place of thermal processing or chemical processing which results in diminished nutritional properties.

Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos was appointed to the Board of Nobel Laureates Australia Innovation.


Learning at VU addresses sustainable construction and design for building projects.

VU’s suite of built environment courses includes learning for sustainable construction and design of building projects. The suite comprises the university courses:

And the vocational education and training courses:

The Master of Supply Chain Management offers the skills and expertise for current global supply-chain models, concepts and strategies, specialising in:

  • global procurement and operations management
  • green logistics and supply chain strategies in a global context.

The course involves internships and industry visits and access to SAP-SCM and SAP-PP (production and planning) software for real-world, best-practice learning for the planning, sourcing and delivery of goods.

The Graduate Certificate in Transport Systems course offers a pathway into the Master of Supply Chain Management.

In response to inquiries about the significance of planetary health, the Learning Hub created a study module on the topic. Initially for first-year students, the module examines what a commitment to people, place and planet means for our studies and careers.

This one-hour online module is available for students, and will be available for staff.

Download information about the module.

Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos was appointed to the Board of Nobel Laureates Australia Innovation.

VU City Tower

Sustainability on campus

VU’s new City Tower, a vertical campus building, used 90% recycled materials in its construction.

Research groups addressing Goal 9