Australia’s sustainable transport future gets $7.9 million boost

Alumnus Neil Smith, internationally recognised transport business owner.

Alumnus Neil Smith, internationally recognised transport business owner.

Neil Smith, an internationally successful transport business owner, envisions a green transport future for Australia and is donating $7.9m to the University to help make that a reality.

A $7.9m donation to the Business School will support research to drive government and industry action on sustainable transport.

The gift from alumnus Neil Smith, an internationally recognised transport business owner, establishes a ten-year Chair in Sustainable Transport Futures in the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) at the University of Sydney Business School.

It will fund research, education and scholarship in the field of sustainable transport technology. The Neil Smith Chair of Sustainable Transport Futures will work towards generating the knowledge that underpins a transition to a green future for Australia’s transport industry. The chair will provide leadership and translation of research with a view to influencing policy at all levels of Australian government.

Transport worldwide currently contributes 20-30 percent of global carbon emissions.

"I believe Australia urgently needs to keep pace with other countries, such as Great Britain, on sustainable transport development. Through research and leadership there is an urgent need to stimulate action to address the ongoing issues of how transport contributes to climate issues," said Neil Smith.

"My greatest hope for this gift is that, within a decade, sustainable transport is no longer a politically polarising issue in Australia but a shared goal. I am confident that positive change is possible with investment and I hope this gift will help instigate that change."

The Chair aims to:

  • advance understanding of the challenges and barriers government and industry face in adopting green transport technology
  • encourage government and industry engagement, with each other and with other key stakeholders such as academia
  • promote optimum decarbonisation practices, technologies and strategies
  • suggest and foster the changes required to the regulatory environment

Generous donation

"Neil Smith’s generous gift, the largest ever made to the Business School, promises to influence and educate policymakers through evidence-based research and providing education to the next generations of transport and logistics students. It is an inspiring example of a former student motivated to give back to both the University and to Australian society," said Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Mark Scott.

Professor David Hensher , Professor of Management and Founding Director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies said, "This is a magnificent gift in recognition of the role that ITLS has played in the formative years of Neil’s education (through the Master of Transport Management) that opened up his intellect in pursing competitive opportunities in the bus industry."

Neil Smith background

Neil Smith’s career in transport began as a trainee manager with the Busways Group in western Sydney in 1972, after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney. In 1974 he formed a partnership that purchased Manly Bus Service in Sydney and in 1975 he established Urban Transport Systems. He went on to purchase an extensive network of bus services in NSW and Queensland.

Neil completed a Masters in Transport with the Institute of Transport and Logistics studies in 1995 and credits what he learnt from the degree with his success in business and transport. He has been a lecturer and consultant at the Institute and continues his association through conference presentations.

Mr Smith re-entered the bus operations business in 1995, eventually owning a third share of Transit Systems, the largest privately-owned bus operation in Australia. Concurrently with this growth in Australia, Mr Smith moved to London in 2012 where he participated in the acquisition of further bus operations, both in London (2013) and Singapore (2016). In 2020 his interests were purchased by SeaLink Travel Group (now the Kelsian Group), an international leader in the transition from diesel to electric for urban buses and in hydrogen power trains. Mr Smith is a Non-Executive Director and major shareholder in the Kelsian Group.

Mr Smith also has a strong personal interest in the development of leadership training in countries facing economic and political challenges. Through the establishment of the Relay Trust in the UK, he has facilitated the construction and operation of colleges in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.

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