QUEX Institute

The QUEX Institute of Global Sustainability and Wellbeing was officially launched in mid-2017 as a high-profile strategic partnership between the University of Exeter and The University of Queensland.

Operating as a virtual institute, QUEX seeks to address major global challenges through interdisciplinary collaborative research; academic, student and professional staff mobility; high impact policy publications; and engagement of industry and community. An initial investment of AUD $4.5 million ($2.25million per institution) was committed to supporting the Institute’s activities over 2018 – 2020.

Central to achieving the QUEX vision is nurturing a strong pipeline of the next generation of researchers, who benefit from our combined strengths in teaching, research, business engagement and entrepreneurship. The QUEX Institute has therefore directed the bulk of funding to sustain three cohorts of research students, a total of 29by early 2020. These QUEX students are helping to strengthen connections between research groups at the partner universities.

Seed funding has been allocated to new collaborative research projects through 18 Initiator and eight Accelerator Grants awarded to date. QUEX also encourages links between professional services teams to promote sharing of best practice and staff development, with 15 Professional Services Fellowships awarded thus far.

Despite disruptions to 2020 calls for these schemes as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions, these figures still represent excellent progress against the key performance indicators (KPIs) set under the original Implementation Plan 2018 – 2020.

This second Implementation Plan for 2021-2023 builds on the foundations and achievements to date. Three years into the partnership, it offers an opportunity to reflect upon successes and lessons learned and define the future strategic direction. A number of successful initiatives will continue, for example, the joint PhD program and professional staff mobility; others such as the Initiator and Accelerator Grants Schemes may be reframed, and there will also be scope for development of new initiatives in response to the Institute’s evolving, and newly emerging, objectives.

QUEX achievements to date

Data range from 2018 to 2020 (Sept), unless stated otherwise. UQ Internal Document.

New Thematic Areas

Collaboration during the first three years of the QUEX Institute was focussed around three interdisciplinary themes: Healthy Ageing; Physical Activity and Nutrition; and Environmental Sustainability, each led by an academic theme lead at each institution. These themes were chosen based on a review of synergistic and world-leading research and teaching strengths, where combining each institution’s respective expertise and resources would enable the QUEX partnership to find solutions to issues of global significance.

The 2019 QUEX Institute Symposium presented an opportunity to review these themes. The first two have been consolidated under one health-related theme: Healthy Living. The Environmental Sustainability theme has evolved into Global Environmental Futures.  A new third theme, Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies will explore the technology and behavioural elements of digital change.

Healthy Living

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all is fundamental to building thriving societies. Across rich and poor countries alike, a health crisis has the potential to tip individuals, communities and societies into bankruptcy, poverty and/or civil unrest. In short, healthy people are the foundation of productive economies and happy societies. While progress has been made in the realms of child and maternal health, global life expectancy, and in our understanding of serious diseases such as HIV/AIDs and cancers, a concerted effort is still required to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable health coverage for all, regardless of geography, class or wealth.

The Universities of Queensland and Exeter are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all. Both institutions are world leaders in relevant fields of research ranging across dementia, diabetes, health economics, genomics, gerontology, and human movement and nutrition. This Healthy Living theme will allow us to join forces and expertise in order to lead the way in supporting global health and wellbeing through innovative ground-breaking research and translation into policy and practice for impact. In addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goal (3) Good Health and Wellbeing, this theme will seek to engage a multi-disciplinary range of research areas including, but not limited to, biomedical science; biophysics and engineering; [health] economics; cultures of health; medicine and nursing; health technologies; psychology, human movement and health policy.

Global Environmental Futures

Exploring new science frontiers, finding solutions to intractable problems, and influencing public policy, are at the heart of the QUEX program on Global Environmental Futures. The Universities of Exeter and Queensland are both world-leading in environmental science, delivering research breakthroughs across many environmental challenges such as climate change, clean energy, marine, coastal and reef science, biodiversity, air and water pollution, antimicrobial resistance, food security and sustainable agriculture.

By combining the strengths of the two universities, there is an opportunity for the QUEX partnership to deliver impactful research on a range of environmental futures, including the sustainable management of natural resources, understanding weather systems, improving the resilience of climate-vulnerable communities, promoting effective environmental governance, and examining the agency of social movements (such as Extinction Rebellion) who are committed to tackling the potentially catastrophic threat of climate breakdown. This theme is closely aligned to a number of UN sustainable development goals, with a particular focus on Zero Hunger; Clean Water and Sanitation; Affordable and Clean Energy; Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Climate Action; Life Below Water; and Life on Land.

Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies

Digitalisation is transforming who we are, what we do, and how we act. Present and future digital worlds mean that wars can be fought without soldiers, medical procedures can be undertaken without surgeons, travel can occur without the physical movement of people from place to place, societies can be powered without iron, coal and oil, and education can take place with a teacher on one continent and students on another. At the same time, new digital worlds present challenges to older industries and technologies, threats to businesses, governments and societies through cyber-attacks and question the future of work and workplaces. What will be the next sector to be wholly disrupted, as the media industry has been? Accounting, retail, healthcare, supply chains, transport, even democracy, are being disrupted by new technologies and new behaviours.

This QUEX theme brings together a range of interdisciplinary research areas to explore these twin elements of digital change. On the technology side, both Exeter and UQ have world-leading capabilities in Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Machine Learning, Cyber Security and Virtual Reality. On the behavioural side, both universities have teams across their social sciences and humanities scholars who are looking at the social, cultural and economic elements of this digital transformation. Cross-disciplinary teams will seek to address some of the challenges and opportunities related to digital change.

Governance and Management Arrangements

QUEX Board


Professor Mark Goodwin
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Innovation and External Engagement)

Professor Andrew McRae
Dean of Postgraduate Research
Director, Doctoral College

Mr Peter Clack
Head, Global Engagement

Dr Sean Fielding
Director of Innovation, Impact and Business


Professor Tim Dunne

Professor Al McEwan
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research Training) and Dean, Graduate School

Dr Jessica Gallagher
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement and Entrepreneurship)

Dr Mark Ashton
Executive Director of Intellectual Property Commercialisation

Theme leads

Healthy Living Associate Professor Rob Anderson

Assoc. Prof. of Health Services and Implementation Research, Director of Research Impact (Institute of Health Research)

Director of ESMI

Professor John Cairney

Head of School

School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences

Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences

Global Environmental Futures Professor Catriona McKinnon

Professor of Political Theory

Department of Politics

Professor Peter Mumby

VC Research and Teaching Fellowship

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Science

Dr Sarit Kaserzon

Research Fellow

Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences

Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences

Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies


Associate Professor Naomi Hawkins

Associate Professor, Director of the Science, Culture and the Law research group

Associate Professor Stephen Viller

Associate Professor

School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering

Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology