Scholarship winner looking for new value in data

Published 17 May 2018

Matthew Wysel, the inaugural winner of the Arthur Rickards Scholarship for Innovation in Agribusiness, is working to help academics and professionals unlock latent value in their data sharing platforms.

An aerospace engineer currently studying at the intersection of economics and computational science, Matthew is working with Professor Derek Baker and Dr William Billingsley on developing a straightforward framework that enables owners of data sharing platforms to interrogate them for less-obvious ways of producing – and retaining – value.

This research won Matthew the $50,000 a year, three-year scholarship, presented on Sunday by Arthur Rickards, the award’s namesake and founder of the pioneering livestock data platform the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI).

The scholarship supports research into the development of products and services from data associated with livestock consumption, marketing and production.

The three-year position is co-funded by the University of New England’s (UNE’s) Centre for Agribusiness and the Agricultural Business Research Institute, and involves linkages to UNE’s School of Environmental and Rural Science, Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, and the Centre for Agricultural Law.

The research will build on industry networks and deliver commercial data products and data management systems for the private sector.

Armidale born-and-bred, Matthew studied aerospace engineering at the University of NSW, and then at Purdue University, where he worked with NASA on refuelling old satellites so they could stay in orbit for longer.

“This fusion between high-technology and real-world value creation has always been a passion of mine,” Matthew told the audience at his scholarship presentation.

“I love seeing the innovation that happens when people are empowered with technology – often that they already own – and not just pushed another solution.”

“While at UNSW, I recognised business management was the key to creating a sustainable pipeline of technology that people would want to adopt, so I also studied a Master of Technology Management, focusing on how technology could fuel international entrepreneurship and thereby maximise the potential for both tech- and non-tech businesses.”

“Technology-enabled value creation was central to my post-study work here in Australia with The Boeing Company and Qantas, where I designed military and commercial aircraft. Following a job offer in the UK, I continued this focus on technology-enabled value creation while working with Medtronic, where I trained neurosurgeons to use operate computers with greater safety and speed..”

Data sharing platforms are, in essence, a construct that enables a community to make valuable decisions — “decisions like: I wish I could find a fee-paying passenger as I drive to the airport; I’d like to find somewhere to sleep in Sydney next month; or, I want to find a polled Hereford bull with a certain suite of genetics”.

Most data-sharing platforms are being driven with this sort of tangible effect in mind, to power a business model. Matthew is looking at them from a different perspective.

“Nobody else is taking a step back and asking the question, ’what are those core value characteristics that the most valuable platforms possess? How do those same value characteristics look in my data sharing platform’”?

“Our research is the first time data-sharing platforms are being broken down into real-world, value-drivers such as data governance, or the effectiveness of the community’s utilisation of their data.”

“Is this data we hold even aligned with the needs of the community?”

Arthur Rickards, for whom the scholarship is named, founded ABRI (with UNE as a key partner) as one of the world’s first value-driven data platforms for livestock.

The organisation still revolves around the livestock genetic evaluation programs it was built on, but it has evolved to also offer a range of other information services to the global agricultural sector.