Australia has some of the best minds in the world, and many of them are right here at CSIRO. But around the country, there is a bigger opportunity to work together to harness this brainpower for the benefit of our nation. I’m so proud to reflect on the past year and see the significant strides forward we’ve taken to bring more of our cutting-edge thinking together to solve our nation’s biggest challenges as we deliver on our Strategy 2020

Collaboration to drive innovation

Dr Larry Marshall, Chief Executive of the CSIRO.

Our mission to become Australia’s innovation catalyst is not just about our own brilliant science and customer-focused outcomes, but also about bringing together Team Australia’s research talent and diverse business sectors to deliver tangible outcomes. In last year’s annual report, I wrote that we stood on the shoulders of our great forebears in forging science’s next legacy. Reflecting on this year, I think we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with our partners as we forged stronger collaboration throughout the Australian innovation ecosystem.

Across CSIRO, our scientists have been transforming the face of research translation through our ON program, and by extension, fostering a strong and collaborative Australian innovation ecosystem. From an initial intake of a handful of great CSIRO concepts, we now have formal, signed partnerships with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Defence Science and Technology Group, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and 30 universities, including all Australian Technology Network and the Group of Eight universities. ON has taken 135 teams through customer-ready programs, with only 48 of those from CSIRO and the rest coming from our partner organisations. ON has delivered profound public good opportunities, from emissions reductions through FutureFeed, to protecting the Great Barrier Reef from sedimentary runoff and saving water with Transpirational, to helping farmers manage climate variability through YieldProphet, just to name a few.

The brilliant science at the heart of our organisation has been strengthened by greater collaboration as well. Our joint publications are up across nearly all metrics: the total number is up again, two per cent on last year; and we’ve increased collaborations with international organisations to 60 per cent of the total. This is even more impressive considering the rate of publications per CSIRO scientist is higher than previous years. Capping it off, this year we placed 18th in the Reuters list of Top Global Innovators, and in the top 20 of IEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) innovation index of all research institutions alongside Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We’ve also grown our global partnerships in key strategic regions this year. Our US office in San Mateo, California, is about to open its doors, creating new pathways for Australian research to enter the innovation-hungry US market. Our relationships in Chile are expanding into environmental partnerships. And in China, we’ve capped off a year of new contracts with the opening of our Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, based in our new Climate Science Centre in Hobart. While the focus on key regions is new for CSIRO, the science at the heart of our partnerships builds on decades of expertise and world-class capability. This same reputation secured us long term research contracts with many valuable partners with international customers, including Boeing, Swisse and Cotton Seed Distributors.

Investing in our future

To secure our future prosperity, we’ll continue to invest in the breakthrough science of the future. Our investment in our Future Science Platforms increased to a total of $21 million in 2016–17, and will continue to grow each year until 2019–20. And we’re planting the seeds that will yield funding to reinvest in our science, with active licences also up again this year.

From a business perspective, our results are even better than last year. Our external revenue is up again, both in dollar value and in share of our budget compared with appropriation. We delivered three out of five of our market roadmaps in collaboration with the Growth Centres – with the final two to be released by September – and they are guiding our science roadmaps to greater success by getting ahead of the nation’s challenges and leveraging our unique multi-disciplinary capabilities to keep us globally competitive. The STEM+ Business Fellowship, funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), has added another 17 early career researchers to the cohort, working on over $5 million worth of projects in long-term collaborations with small-to-medium enterprise. More than 94 per cent of SIEF-funded projects involve collaborations with more than one partner organisation. Our external collaboration is up, and following reorganisation of our teams, the need for transferring our people across silos is down. Perhaps most important for our sustainability, our customers are showing their appreciation. Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) has leaped to +34.

None of this would have been possible if not for our people, so it’s great to see the number of CSIRO people continuing last year’s trend of growth – the first time we’ve achieved multi-year growth in people in a decade. In fact, if we continue to deliver we’ll earn growth that hasn’t been seen in over 20 years. We’ve also invested in our next generation of scientists, with sponsored postgraduates up 30 per cent this year. We continue to drive better ways of working together, strengthening our internal collaboration and fuelling next year’s successes. Our CSIRO Connect workshops have reached people leaders in five states this financial year, and will roll out around the rest of the country before the end of 2017. The workshops connect our people to our strategy, share more about our achievements and drive a deeper understanding of the culture we are creating. Our Reconciliation Action Plan was formally launched last year, signalling a renewed and deeper commitment to the first people of our nation. And our Balance initiative is challenging cultural norms around how we work, giving our people more flexibility and creating the innovative workplaces of the future.

Driving this success is our solidly maintained world-class science, our culture of diversity and inclusion, a commitment to health and safety first, and always delivering on our commitments. These core values will see us continue to shine a beacon across the innovation ecosystem, bringing together partners from research, industry, government and the community, to solve our biggest national challenges and secure our future success and prosperity. But our strategy is just a clever idea without our people who bring it to life, so I thank each and every one of them.

Dr Larry Marshall
Chief Executive of the CSIRO

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