Establishing a place-based data lab at Griffith University

Dr Tom Nik Verhelst1, Malcolm Wolski2, Linda O’Brien3

1Griffith University, Regional Innovation Data Lab, Meadowbrook, Australia,

2Griffith University, Brisbane,

3Griffith University, Logan,


THE REGIONAL Innovation Data LAB

Data is being collected at an increased pace with 90 percent of all current data created within the last 2 years. New technologies in the IoT space are capable of creating an enormous amount of machine generated data. All this data holds a promise, the promise of a better world, where through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence insights can be created for the betterment of humankind. Yet most of this data is housed in data islands which are unconnected. There are great analytics tools for structured tabular data but analytics tools for exploring non-tabular data, such as messaging data, pictures, video and a whole series of industry specific data are still emergent. The challenges of data volume, variety, velocity and veracity risks are drowning us in data while we are starving for insight.

The Regional Innovation Data Lab (RIDL) is an initiative based at Griffith University Logan Campus, a campus which blends Griffith’s research, teaching and engagement strengths into meaningful impact and influence within a specific community as a true example of a Civic University. Through deep engagement with government, business and the broader community, we put our academic knowledge, creativity and expertise to work, to develop innovations and solutions that make a positive difference within our community.

RIDL was created to facilitate insight through data for policy makers, researchers, NGO’s and individuals and to inspire the next generation of data entrepreneurs. It provides easy access to a series of trusted data sources. We use multiple linked data sources to help policy makers make informed decisions and ideally prevent problems in our cities and regions before they happen.








Figure 1: RIDL Vision

How and Who?

Together with AURIN (Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network) and QCIF (Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation) we have created a rich holistic data set with an initial primary focus on Logan City and direct surroundings. Aggregated data is collected and integrated by our spatial data experts. Our team of web developers creates easy to use dashboards that are topic specific. These apps allow easy analysis of changes in socio- economic parameters of interest. By releasing apps with easy to use, limited functionality we increase the appetite and expertise of data analysis and data exploration within our application community and gradually build more complexity into our solutions.

We provide direct data access via data science tools like R and Python by using R Studio and Jupyter for our researchers that contribute to answer specific socio-economic questions or require data for their research projects.

Figure 2: RIDL Sweet Spot

Use cases

Logan Together is a 10 year collective impact project that is changing the lives of kids and families in Logan for the better. RIDL provides accurate data to track the Logan Together community initiatives, by using a holistic place-based data sets we can identify and quantify secondary and tertiary effects of the Logan Together initiatives.

In collaboration with Griffith’s Policy Innovation Hub and our academic groups we use the lessons learned from Logan Together and the comprehensive data sets we have collected to provide insight into other communities within Queensland. By leveraging multi parameters data sets that range from social service data, health data, financial data to education data (not an exhaustive list) we provide unprecedented insight into communities and help cities, community centers and NGO’s direct their energy and efforts more effectively.

Figure 3: RIDL app example

Through the Policy Innovation Hub we are working together with local, state and federal government agencies to enable evidence-based policy making. By combining a large as possible relevant data set we can track changes in socio-economic parameters that are effected by new policies. Together with our researchers and data scientists we apply algorithms to simulate and predict policy outcomes and provide local, state and federal policy makers with insights into optimal policy implementation.



Dr Tom Verhelst is the Program Director, Regional Innovation Data Lab at Griffith University, Logan Campus. Tom comes to from Belgium with a strong university and industry R&D experience in applying novel platform technologies towards scientific advancement to generate beneficial socioeconomic impacts. Tom has experience in the fields of digital platform technologies, wearables, data science, virtual & augmented reality.

Tom is driven to make a positive change in the world and hopes to achieve this by bringing people and technology together for the better. As Program Director of the Regional Innovation Data Lab he hopes to improve the lives of people in Logan, Queensland and Australia. Our place based initiative will focus on using different trusted data sources to create insight into real world challenges and inform policy development. We want to detect and prevent problems in our cities and regions before they happen.

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