One hundred years ago our nation changed forever when Prime Minister Billy Hughes established the Advisory Council of Science and Industry.
Over the past century, the council evolved to become the CSIRO we know today, but deeply tied to his vision delivered in a parliamentary speech in 1916: ‘Science will lead the manufacturer into green pastures by solving for him problems that seemed to him insoluble.’ Over time, the obstacles facing our nation have evolved, but our mission to overcome those obstacles has held. Our Strategy 2020 embraces excellent science to solve Australia’s challenges, to make life better for all Australians. We invent with science, we solve by innovation.
I am proud to be part of CSIRO, especially this year when we celebrate the truly remarkable 100 year milestone of government investment in science. CSIRO has delivered great benefits to Australia and the world over the years, but just as we stand on the shoulders of our great forebears – building on the scientific advances of the past and forming new collaborations around the world – so too our contribution will be greater into the future. As technology takes science into every corner of our lives, now more than ever we have an opportunity to channel that science into the tools and techniques to tackle today’s challenges and to plan for what’s next.
This year we’ve mobilised our organisation to tackle these problems. We’re harnessing digital opportunities with the unification of our Digital Productivity team with NICTA to form the digital powerhouse Data61, helping Australia navigate digital disruption and particularly job re-creation. We’ve invested in STEM education to help. We’re driving Australia’s only national deep-science and tech accelerator with the ON Program, collaborating across the research sector to realise value from our inventions and ignite the spirit of customer-first entrepreneurialism. We’ve created our new OneHealth-focused Health and Biosecurity business unit, to keep Australia healthy. We’re protecting jobs and security by contributing to the new Cybersecurity Growth Centre. We’re dedicating a significant amount of our resources to the threats of environmental disruption, and helping industry and environment to become partners. Our incisive forecasting and modelling are mapping the future with reports like the Australian National Outlook, Australia 2030 and Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce. We’re working with business, industry, government and the community to respond to today’s disruptions and be sure we’re ready to face tomorrow’s.
Over the last year, we’ve made some tough decisions to reposition our expertise and enable new investment in emerging areas of scientific research, building a more sustainable CSIRO for the future. The greatest strength of our Strategy 2020 is that it was developed through our unique OurCSIRO crowd platform that gave voice to every one of our staff and affiliates. Our people are our greatest asset, a formidable brains trust passionate about the power of excellent science to change lives. We will continue finding new ways to fully enable, support and empower their creativity, risk taking and innovation.
In November 2015, we were honoured to be entrusted with a number of core elements in the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. So far this year, nearly 20 innovations with the potential to disrupt industries and solve major challenges have been through the ON Program. The next round will see new heights of collaboration across the research sector, translating more of our bright ideas into impact. The CSIRO Innovation Fund will invest in the development of science-driven innovation, carrying invention from the lab bench into real world prototypes and then into the hands of new startups and existing SMEs. The newly formed digital powerhouse Data61 has been given a mandate to drive Australia’s digitisation, from protecting against cyberattack to realising the potential of our new big data future.
Our Strategy 2020 committed to increasing our investment in breakthrough science to be $52 million per year in Future Science Platforms by 2020. In 2016–17, we are investing $17 million in these six new Future Science Platforms. These six areas represent an investment that has the potential to help overcome profound challenges for Australia. Some will draw on digital technologies to make strides forward for health and environment, some use our precision science to transform biological systems, and others focus on our deep knowledge of resources and manufacturing to create more sustainable industries.
Collaboration is the key
We must collaborate to innovate. We’re strengthening the bridge connecting research, industry, government and the community, and we are focused on supporting the national innovation system to improve its performance. Collaborative approaches ensure we can tackle big challenges together and shift Australia towards open innovation for the nation, powering our future prosperity and sustainability.
Internationally, we accelerate engagement between Australia and the global innovation system to create positive economic, environmental and social impact. Not only does Australia benefit from working alongside the world’s best and brightest, but as global citizens we contribute to life-changing solutions such as improved agricultural productivity in Indonesia and more sustainable water management in Cambodia. Some of these relationships open up new markets and access, like our agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which enables greater connectivity with industry in the greater Pearl River Delta Economic Zone.
As we reflect on a big year for the organisation and chart the course for a busy and exciting year ahead, I would like to thank Simon McKeon, who served as Chairman until 2015 and welcome our new Chairman David Thodey. I would also like to thank my fellow Board members and our staff who work tirelessly for the delivery of CSIRO goals and achievements. I am lucky to work amongst a remarkable group of people, who make the national benefit delivered by CSIRO a priority in their busy lives. Together we will be able to realise the great promises and successes that will add to our proud track record. I invite you to read more about CSIRO’s accomplishments and milestones in this annual report for 2015–2016.
Dr Larry Marshall
Chief Executive of the CSIRO