This blog was co-written by Chris Girdler and Lucy Blakemore

It’s no stranger to Instagram and known by many names: the Business building, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, the Gehry building, the Paper Bag. But for last week’s SXSW Sydney festival, Building 8 was dubbed UTS House.

Future trends and emerging technology from leading academics and industry experts were explored at this central point of the Goods Line. Representatives of the LX.lab team reached new highs in their step-counts as they took multiple trips down the never-working escalators to attend discussions on Tuesday and Thursday, with themes ranging from Fail Whale emojis and AI in Industry to super reefs and sticky, smelly biomaterials.


UTS all-stars Yiying Lu and Murray Hurps shared their first-hand experience of creativity, entrepreneurship and what it means to be successful in the startup space. Yiying Lu started out as an international student at UTS and quickly found ways for her visual art work to pay off expensive student fees. Her illustration for a birthday card made waves over a decade ago as the ‘Fail Whale’ on Twitter, and she is one of the founders of the emoji-democratising Emojination.

This ‘fire-side chat’ showed how art and entrepreneurship can make for a great partnership – if you’re willing to put yourself out there. Likewise, technology should not be the enemy of art, even in a GenAI world.

If we use tech wisely, it can enhance human connection; if we only focus on fast results, we lose insights and the reasons we’re here.

Yiying Lu, emoji creator and award-winning artist

AI in Enterprise

What could a psychologist, a banker, and an academic have in common when it comes to the potential of AI in enterprise? Quite a bit, actually.

Embracing the Power of AI in Enterprise brought together Luiz Pizzato (Executive Manager AI Labs at Commonwealth Bank), Libby Roberts (Founder, Leap Forward) and Jie Lu (Director of UTS Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute (AAII). Collectively they gave us insights into the latest advancements, challenges and exciting potential that AI offers to revolutionise sectors such as manufacturing, transport, healthcare, finance and more. 

The session covered their entry points and current focus on AI, as well as ethics challenges and where things might go in the future. Their wide-ranging conversation included:

  • Using AI in the design & delivery of programs to support mental health & wellbeing
  • AI across the whole banking system, from forecasting future bills to flagging potential abuse in banking transactions
  • What AI can’t do (show authentic, human care and make judgements in context)
  • Protecting privacy and robust ethics (not ‘can we…?’ but ‘should we do it?’)


In Searching for the world’s super corals, Emma Camp from the Future Reefs Team presented an active intervention strategy for slowing the trajectory of the decline of coral reefs. Super corals were shown to be a key part of this, and the scaling up of restoration using mangrove corals involves learning from other systems and continued trials in controlled settings. We will be sharing more on this optimisation in the new year, as Emma is our current AiR (Academic in Residence) in collaboration with the LX.lab.

FASS (Dr Stefan Lie, Kate Scardifield) and the Faculty of Science (Professor Peter Ralph) have joined forces to transform our material landscape using responsible design. At Sticky, smelly, moist: The future of new materials, we were asked to think beyond the shiny, smooth world of plastics, and attendees got touch-feely with biogenic alternatives made out of materials such as oyster shells, seaweed foam and recycled glass waste. The panel explained that, although this explorative experimentation was a slow, iterative process, the success of this cross-faculty innovation was due to factors such as building a shared vocabulary and celebrating the small wins.


It’s hard to ignore a discussion with a hook like The Future of Death, and death – from disease management to the care that comes after death – remains a confronting topic for many. This session was a fascinating way to bring the conversation into the open and embrace the topic by understanding professionals’ stages throughout a very personal journey.

Prof. Christina Caperchione from the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation noted that many preventable conditions are modifiable; it’s never too late to have an active lifestyle, and taking care of social/emotional health is an important part of prevention. Both Christina and Palliative Care Specialist Dr Deborah Parker noted that industry partnerships are critical to their work. Forensic Specialist Dr Maiken Ueland discussed simulations and training to find missing persons (living and deceased) with the outcome of providing closure to loved ones, while Dr Istvan Szentmariay opened us up to the levels and frequency of autopsies. It was refreshing to get thoughtful insights on a challenging subject – a lot to consider on the sun-dappled walk home past the buzzing music stages and trade shows in the final days of SXSW Sydney.

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