The use of big data to measure where existing infrastructure could be more effective is a vital next step for the Australian economy, says the former Chief Executive of Infrastructure Australia.

Philip Davies has just accepted the role as Chairman of the SMART Advisory Council at the University of Wollongong.

He takes over from Dr Ian Watt AC, who was in the role for three years.

“I am most passionate about making sure that we are making best use of the infrastructure that we already have,” Mr Davies said.

“Over the past 20 years, we have been very good at building new infrastructure, but not so good at making the best use of what we already have.

“I see the role of the SMART Infrastructure Facility as providing and analysing the data to maximise the potential of our infrastructure systems.”

He said infrastructure should be seen as much more than simply roads and rail.

“Infrastructure is roads, rail, ports, water, energy, telecommunications, hospitals, schools, universities, prisons, stadia, art galleries … and much more,” he said.

“The data systems that SMART is developing can therefore transform the way we live.”

Mr Davies is a Chartered Professional Engineer and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, with over 25 years of global infrastructure experience. His roles have involved shaping policy, delivering nationally significant infrastructure projects and leading reform.

Before arriving in Australia, he was a Director of Transport for London, where he transformed the effectiveness of that city’s traffic control systems, including reducing the frequency of signal timing reviews from 27 years to 3 years and using real time data to take a proactive and real time approach to transport system management.

Outgoing chair Dr Ian Watt said that SMART – which was founded in 2011 – was poised to make a greater national and international contribution with its team of researchers.

He praised the work of SMART director, Senior Professor Pascal Perez, which has seen the facility work on a wide range of projects from mass transits systems in Hong Kong, flood mitigation in Jakarta and a Digital Living Lab that has transformed Wollongong into a smart city.

University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings said the appointment of Mr Davies marked an exciting new chapter for SMART.

“The work being done by the SMART Infrastructure Facility is needed now like it’s never been needed before,” Professor Wellings said.

“We are very fortunate to have someone of the calibre and expertise that Philip Davies offers to steer SMART to the next chapter, and to the next level.”