Collaboration, connections and advice

CSIRO partners with 37 of the 39 public universities in Australia and with universities from more than 120 countries.

These partnerships enable CSIRO to remain a key player in the training of future researchers, which will help build Australia’s scientific capability and capacity.

CSIRO and partners are developing a number of innovation precincts, with the aim of increasing the proportion of CSIRO researchers co-located with our research partners. To support this, over 50 per cent of CSIRO staff are now located on, or adjacent to, an Australian university.

Some examples of collaborations during 2011–12 include:

  • the successful completion of the South-East Queensland Climate Adaptation Research Initiative, the first comprehensive, regional study of climate change adaptation in Australia
  • the signing of a strategic relationship agreement to encourage collaboration in human life sciences, water and materials with the University of Melbourne
  • working with the University of Western Australia and Curtin University to understand the impact of extreme weather events on Western Australia’s world heritage listed Shark Bay
  • applying mathematics and computing to improve the management of mining supply chains with the University of Newcastle
  • research with Swinburne University and other astronomers from Australia, Germany, Italy, America and the United Kingdom that identified a planet made of ‘diamonds’
  • ongoing support for a number of joint PhD programs including the Quantitative Marine Science program with the University of Tasmania and the Integrated Natural Resource Management Science program with the University of Queensland.

Cooperative research centres

CSIRO remains the largest single participant in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program. Throughout the life of the program, CSIRO has been a participant in 134 of the 190 CRCs that have existed (rounds 1–13 inclusive). CSIRO’s direct contribution to CRCs was $27 million in 2011–12.

CSIRO will participate in five of the six successful Round 14 CRCs and will conduct research for a total cost of $59 million over the lifetime of the CRCs, receiving $34 million from the CRCs over the same period. This represents a total net investment by CSIRO of $25 million. The new CRCs commenced operations on 1 July 2012.

CSIRO engages in CRCs to build critical mass in research ventures, which tackle clearly articulated major challenges for end-users and Australia.

Customer engagement

CSIRO aims to be a Trusted Advisor to its partners – increasingly undertaking longer-term and more strategic research partnerships. Between 2008–09 and 2011–12, there was a 17 per cent increase in clients co-funding research worth $1 million or more annually with CSIRO.

CSIRO added to its strategic research alliances in 2012 with the formation of a five-year, $25 million strategic research program with Boeing, building on a 23-year relationship. CSIRO’s long-standing partnership with Cotton Seed Distributors was further cemented with a five-year, $35 million extension. CSIRO’s existing alliances continued with clients including Orica Ltd, AusAID, Bayer and General Electric.

In 2011–12, CSIRO engaged with more than 2,500 clients, including more than 1,000 Australian small- to-medium enterprises. CSIRO’s top five clients are Cotton Seed Distributors, NASA, AusAID, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

CSIRO realigned its Business Development capability around five Group Business Development Leaders, resulting in integrated strategic planning and coordination of activities. CSIRO also conducted a review in 2012 of engagement with major corporate and Government clients and identified a series of initiatives to improve relationship management, to be implemented in 2012–13.

Flagship Collaboration Fund

The Flagship Collaboration Fund supports CSIRO’s National Research Flagships Program, which addresses issues of national significance. In 2011–12, the Fund provided $17 million to external partners, including support for three new collaborative research clusters, spanning more than ten Australian and international universities. The clusters will address issues around minerals exploration, flexible electronics and measuring methane. There are currently 12 operational clusters of the 27 that have been funded by CSIRO.

During the year, the Fund advertised its seventh competitive cluster round that will result in new work around climate engineering for extreme events, a future energy network and improved understanding of ocean carbon. Over 20 new projects and several visiting fellowships were also funded to the value of $1 million, as well as the highly successful student scholarships program. Over 30 new scholarships were supported which span well over 20 different national and international research partners.

International engagement

During 2011–12, CSIRO participated in more than 800 international activities in 76 countries, including scientific collaborations, commercial partnerships, capacity building, representational activities and the provision of advice on scientific matters to Government and other key stakeholders.

In December 2011, the CSIRO-Chile International Centre of Excellence in Mining and Mineral Processing was officially opened in Chile. The Centre will address major challenges facing both the Australian and Chilean mining industries.

CSIRO also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and have extended already strong relationships with key partners such as Boeing, AusAID and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Our participation in global knowledge networks also continues to grow through leading roles in programs such as the African Food Security Initiative and the Global Research Alliance (GRA), whose secretariat is now based at CSIRO. The GRA is an international organisation promoting the application of science and technology to solve large-scale issues facing developing countries. CSIRO is a founding member, along with eight of the world’s leading applied-research agencies.

Indigenous Engagement Strategy

During 2011–12, the Indigenous Engagement Strategy focused on recruiting Indigenous cadets and trainees. CSIRO entered into an agreement with an Indigenous employment organisation, Habitat Personnel, to develop an advertising and recruitment campaign. Ten positions were identified for traineeships and 25 for cadetships across Australia, with candidates filling traineeship positions in September 2012 and cadetships later in 2012.

Additionally, CSIRO recruited one Indigenous cadet in our Astronomy and Space Science Division, two in the Division of Ecosystem Sciences, one in Human Resources, and provided temporary employment for one candidate in Communications.

In 2011–12, Strategic Cultural Awareness programs were held in Brisbane, Canberra and Perth, engaging staff in scenarios aimed at experiencing contemporary Australian Indigenous societal issues.

The Indigenous Engagement Steering Committee met three times during the year. A review of the governance arrangements of the Indigenous Engagement Strategy was considered by the Committee in order to engage more effectively in seeking input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts.

An officer of CSIRO’s Office of Indigenous Engagement was appointed by the Minister to an Indigenous Expert Working Group on Indigenous Engagement with Sciences (EWGIES). The EWGIES project ensures the:

  • development of a national strategy, aligned with Government and Inspiring Australia priorities, which will strengthen science engagement with Indigenous Australians
  • facilitation of collaboration between stakeholders including government, business, academia, research, community groups and the broader community
  • analysis of opportunities to improve and encourage science engagement with Indigenous Australians.

The Indigenous Expert Working Group’s goal was to clearly outline recommendations for new and improved science engagement strategies for the science community.

Government engagement

A critical part of CSIRO’s broader relationship with Government is its role as a Trusted Advisor, providing relevant scientific and technical input and advice to decision-makers. Key activities during 2011–12 included:

  • Regular meetings with Ministers and parliamentarians and with senior staff from relevant government departments to provide scientific information and advice to inform policy development and program implementation and evaluation. Examples include ongoing engagement on issues of sustainability and carbon management, as well as the development of the National Plan for Environmental Information, the National Food Plan and the National Innovation System. CSIRO’s Chief Executive has also been active in a number of Government forums including the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council and the Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Manufacturing.
  • CSIRO made six submissions to Federal parliamentary inquiries and CSIRO officers attended ten hearings to provide further evidence to these inquiries.
  • CSIRO held four Science for Breakfast briefings at Parliament House.

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