Our mission-directed research and development delivers economic, social and environmental impacts.

Table 3.1: Summary of our Performance for Activity 1.
KPI and metric Target Result
Triple bottom line impacts:
  • Collection of externally validated case studies
  • Maintain or increase the assessment on impact criteria from independent Business Unit reviews in the top two rating levels
  • An external ‘Value of CSIRO’ impact assessment
Minimum of 6 case studies G We completed 36 impact case studies across 5 Business Units and one government and industry research alliance this year.
Rated 80% either benchmark or strong on the impact criteria G Of the Business Units reviewed, the panel rated 89% of the research programs as strong to benchmark on impact delivered to the nation.
Benefit Cost Ratio = 5:1 G The benefit cost ratio across 43 impact case studies is 6:1, delivering total annual benefits of over $9 billion per year.
Evidence of outcomes and impacts of SIEF funded projects Minimum of 1 impact case study G One impact case study completed on the Distal Footprints project. The project has developed an innovative approach that could allow resource discovery rates of very deep resources to increase significantly. (See the SIEF report on page 146 for details.)
Science excellence: Maintain or increase normalised citation rate relative to global average performance Top quartile of Australian universities & >50% global average G Citation rate >50% of the global average and CSIRO remained ranked in the top quartile of Australian universities.
Strategic innovation investment:
  • Direct science investment including future science platforms, capability development and centrally competitive funds
  • Pipeline of investable propositions from the CSIRO Innovation Fund from the Publicly Funded Research Agencies (PFRA) research institutions
$18m invested in Future Science Platforms P $16.7 million invested in Future Science this year. We commenced two new FSPs this year, with a prudent approach to funding the early stages of the FSPs accounting for the shortfall in investment against the target.
At least 5 investable propositions pursued G Nine investments made in deep technology companies from the publicly funded research sector.
University engagement: Feedback from the universities involved in the ON program – maintain or increase their willingness to recommend (4 or higher on 5-pointscale) 80% of university participants highly recommend the program G 93% of university participants highly recommend the ON program, demonstrating its relevance and effectiveness.
Customer and user satisfaction: Customer net promoter score (NPS) +16 G The NPS for 2017–18 was +40, which is a solid improvement over the +34 favourable result achieved last year.
Research partnerships: Proportion of Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) research projects involving more than one organisation >93% projects involve more than one organisation G SIEF has reached its target of 93% of projects involving more than one organisation. Since 2009, SIEF has successfully facilitated collaboration among 105 different organisations (see the SIEF report for details).

Green shading indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved.
Purple shading indicates some challenges have occurred during the year, but they were managed.

The present value of benefits from 21 impact case studies totalled 1.28 billion

Triple bottom line impacts

To provide the evidence that our work delivers economic, social and environmental impacts, we undertake impact case studies annually1, Business Unit Reviews every three to four years and ‘Value of-CSIRO’ impact assessments.

In 2018, ACIL Allen Consulting (ACIL Allen) conducted an assessment of the impact and value delivered to the economy and the innovation system by the public investment in CSIRO.

The report quantified the benefits of 21 impact case studies and assessed their present value at $1.28 billion per year. This result builds on the assessment from 2017, which examined 22 case studies, estimating that CSIRO was delivering more than $3.2 billion per year in benefits to the nation, and a 5:1 return on investment. Combining the 2017 and 2018 results, and adjusting to current-dollar terms, this increases our estimate of the annual value CSIRO delivers to the nation to at least $4.5 billion per year.

Furthermore, ACIL Allen concluded in their 2017 assessment that it is reasonable to assume that the annual value delivered by all other CSIRO research would at least match that delivered by the case studies. Therefore, based on the 42 externally validated case studies, the total annual benefits from CSIRO’s research would exceed $9 billion per year. This suggests that the full CSIRO research portfolio is providing a return on investment of over 6:1.

In addition, it is recognised that CSIRO provides value through our ‘standing capabilities’, i.e. the ability to quickly respond to new and sometimes urgent demands for scientific information; through options and royalties generated by our research; our training, education and advisory services; support for STEM talent development; innovation system investments; and national infrastructure and facilities. While it is generally difficult to quantify the potential benefits delivered by these other pathways to value, it is reasonable to argue that they have the potential to deliver considerable additional value.

CSIRO’s Business Unit Reviews independently assess progress against the objectives outlined in each Business Unit’s strategic plan. Reviews employ a panel of scientific and industry experts from Australia and overseas to assess performance against three dimensions: Impact, Science Excellence and Innovation Capacity. In 2017–18, CSIRO undertook Business Unit Reviews of the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), Energy, Health and Biosecurity, Land and Water, Manufacturing, and Mineral Resources Business Units. For 2017–18, 89 per cent of research programs achieved a strong or benchmark rating on the impact criteria. Overall, the external panels recognised CSIRO’s unique role and value in addressing Australia’s national challenges. They highlighted that our people are passionate and talented, the excellence of our science and that the capacity to integrate across disciplines enables innovations of national importance for Australia.

The Panel commended CASS for the world-leading research conducted by excellent scientists and engineers, and rated the impact as strong to benchmark, indicating a distinguishing and leading contribution to the users of our research. The Panel also saw large potential for commercialisation of technology and services, already evident in the supply of instruments to international customers.

The Panel commended the Manufacturing Business Unit on partnerships with the Australian Venture Capital sector, which has led to the creation of several successful startup companies, and the incubator environment for its contribution to the knowledge exchange environment. The Panel assessment of impact was favourable, signifying that outputs enable stakeholders to improve their position relative to peers and competitors.

Health and Biosecurity was found to have widespread evidence for societal and/or economic benefit across the Business Unit, with the Total Wellbeing Diet highlighted for contributing very significant social impact and the Australian E-Health Research Centre recognised as world-class, operating in a growth industry in which Australia is leading the world. The overall assessment by the external panel of our impact was benchmark.

The Panel was impressed by the Energy Business Unit’s research breadth, from fundamental enquiry projects to delivery of commercial technologies. The impact was assessed as strong to benchmark, representing a distinguishing to leading role in enabling stakeholders to achieve value creation from our work. In particular, the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) program was applauded as a model for building stakeholder knowledge and trust in areas of public controversy.

The Panel highlighted the transdisciplinary capabilities and excellence of science of Land and Water as contributing to outputs across CSIRO.  The impact of the work was assessed as strong to benchmark, recognising the effective application of a differentiated professional skill set in creating benefits for Australia, significantly through co-design of projects with stakeholders in their domain and collaboration with other parts of CSIRO.

Overall, the Panel found outstanding scientific capability and very strong national and international collaborative partnerships for Mineral Resources, assessing the impact as strong to benchmark. The research was assessed as well aligned with the needs of the mining industry and well placed to deliver the significant changes required for the industry to flourish.

In 2017–18, CSIRO undertook 36 impact case studies across the Health and Biosecurity, Manufacturing, Minerals, Energy, Agriculture and Food, and Land and Water Business Units, and one cross-Business Unit body of work.

The following examples from our Business Units demonstrate how our world-class research is achieving our purpose to provide benefits to the nation.

Scatter chart displaying CSIRO investment in socio-economic objectives in 2017-18.

  • Economic $794M (62 per cent)
    • plant production and plant primary products 12.5 per cent
    • manufacturing 11.4 per cent
    • energy 10.4 per cent
    • animal production and animal primary products 8.6 per cent
    • mineral resources (excl. energy resources) 8 per cent
    • information and communication services 7.4 per cent
    • economic framework 1.2 per cent
    • transport 0.9 per cent
    • commercial services and tourism 0.7 per cent
  • Environmental $261M (20 per cent)
    • ecosystem 8.7 per cent
    • land and water 6.3 per cent
    • climate 4.6 per cent
    • other 0.5 per cent
  • Social $77M (6 per cent)
    • health 4.4 per cent
    • law, politics and community services 0.7 per cent
    • cultural understanding 0.5 per cent
    • education and training 0.3 per cent
  • Defence $7M (0.6 per cent)
  • Expanding knowledge $160M (12 per cent)
Bubble size represents 2017-18 expenditure. Total expenditure includes all BUs and National Facilities excluding CSIRO Services.

Figure 3.1: CSIRO investment in Socio-economic objectives in 2017–18

Agriculture and Food

Life cycle assessment proves environmental credentials, secures lucrative export market

Environmentally sustainable products and services are in high demand by consumers and governments across the globe. Increasingly, suppliers must demonstrate robust evidence of their environmental credentials: are they really as ‘green’ as they claim? Life cycle assessments provide the necessary framework to account for the environmental impacts of each stage of the life cycle – from production all the way through to disposal.

To protect their industry and maintain market access, the Australian Oilseeds Federation and Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre engaged CSIRO to validate the environmental credentials of the Australian canola industry. New policy, enacted in January 2018 by the European Union (EU), requires biodiesel feedstock to display a 50per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (CO2-e) compared to fossil-fuel derived counterparts.

In 2016–17, this market was worth $1.8 billion to the Australian farming and export industry, with more than 3.1 million tonnes of Australian canola bound for the EU. The EU market is also worth in the order of an additional $100 million to the Australian industry each year due to premiums offered for non-genetically modified canola, which constitutes the bulk of Australian canola production. Approximately 91 per cent of this canola would be used as a biofuel feedstock, necessitating compliance with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

A life cycle assessment, commissioned by industry and performed by CSIRO, secured access to the largest export market for Australian canola.

To measure the environmental impact of the nation’s third largest broad acre crop (behind wheat and barley), CSIRO partnered with Victorian firm Lifecycles to calculate the greenhouse gases produced in each process required to deliver canola seed to the farm gate. The research team were supported by the canola industry in Australia and advice from agencies in Europe. The largest emission sources came from the manufacture of fertiliser, followed by nitrous oxide released from crop residues. Values were calculated for each Australian state and across different cropping systems (e.g. irrigated and dryland canola).

A tonne of dry-weight Australian canola seed was found to have on average 497 kg of CO2-e emissions. EU legislation allows the equivalent of 1,092 kg of CO2 per tonne of dry grain, making Australian canola an attractive input for biofuel producers, and offering a significant tolerance for additional post-farm gate emissions, such as transporting and refining the canola seed into a sustainable biofuel.

In December 2017, with support from Australian trade officials in Brussels, the European Commission accepted the CSIRO-prepared Australian canola industry report, securing access to this valuable market. The life cycle assessment successfully validated the sustainability of Australia’s canola industry.

While Australian canola growers and exporters celebrated the successful outcome, pressure is mounting for other exporting industries to meet similar requirements. Governments are introducing legislation that limit environmental damage caused by pollutants and chemicals released into the ground, air and water. This is coupled with demands from environmentally conscious consumers for industries to supply resources sustainably and ethically, with demonstrated resource efficiency.

CSIRO’s life cycle assessment capabilities are available to assist Australia’s ~$60 billion agricultural sector to assess its environmental impacts, and to certify compliance of its domestic and global responsibilities amid a changing international backdrop.


Accelerating Australia’s cyber readiness

An estimated 75 billion devices will connect to the Internet by 2025. As the Internet of Things expands and economies become more data-driven, malicious cyber activity is a growing challenge for governments, organisations and individuals worldwide. The need to protect our data and infrastructure is a tremendous economic opportunity, with the cyber security industry itself estimated to reach US $170 billion worldwide by 2020.

Under the Commonwealth’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, CSIRO developed a cyber security program to tackle this challenge and support research, commercialisation and collaboration across Australia’s cyber sector. Outside of the Australian Department of Defence, we are Australia’s preeminent capability in cyber security research. Our research focuses on three forward-looking areas – confidential computing, trustworthy systems and distributed systems security – which have been adopted and recognised internationally.

Since our mathematically proven seL4 microkernel was commercialised in 2006, it has attracted international attention. We are currently collaborating with the US Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and American multinational company Rockwell Collins on a joint Cyber Assured Systems Engineering project, which is trialling the seL4 microkernel in defence applications.

The seL4 microkernel also secures the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor prototype, developed in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST), which provides a means to safely access multiple isolated networks while maintaining system security. The technology received a National Award for research and development at the iAwards in September 2017.

Furthermore, we formalised a $9.3 million partnership with DST, with 17 joint research projects established as a result. The projects were delivered in conjunction with 12 Australian universities across a range of research themes including cyber influence and data analytics, and system design for resilience.

Our cyber security research and development has generated new research outputs and technology, now being trialled and implemented by government and corporates.  ©iStock

From international partners to Australian collaborators, we are accelerating national innovation by fostering collaboration in the cyber sector worldwide. Our newly established Victorian Cyber Security and Innovation Hub brings together industry, academia and government to tackle national challenges. In 2017, we also successfully launched SINET61 (Security Innovation Network), a global cyber security conference attracting 200 executives from industry and government. Both platforms are crucial to opening up global commercialisation pathways for Australian cyber firms.

However, our achievements in cyber security would be incomplete without ensuring the right skills are in place for the nation’s future. To foster the next generation of cyber specialists, we have supported 60 Cyber PhD Scholarships in conjunction with Australian universities.

Ribit, our matchmaking platform for students and startups, held a cyber-security-focused event in April connecting 130 students with entrepreneurs from 25 organisations to kick-start their careers. We also created a nationally recognised cyber security curriculum in November in partnership with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. The ‘Cyber for Directors’ program improves cyber readiness and knowledge in Australia’s executives. Over a dozen executives have completed the course to date.


Lowering emissions from carbon-produced electricity: the Direct Injection Carbon Engine

Global warming, largely caused by increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is a modern challenge. The associated impacts are significant and require a mix of responses to reduce emissions.

Coal-based electricity provides about 65 per cent of Australia’s National Electricity Market supply. Since our current technologies are carbon intensive, we need to implement cleaner and more efficient ways to generate energy from coal, providing an opportunity to build on some of our coal-based infrastructure to increase the penetration of renewable bioenergy into the mix.

The major challenge for coal-fired power generation is to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. While CO2 capture and storage (CCS) has the potential to reduce emissions, both the costs and amount of CO2 that would need to be captured and stored is high, and multiple technology pathways are needed. Increasing the efficiency of energy generation is one such pathway, and CSIRO has been developing technologies for low-emissions electricity from coal and biomass through the Direct Injection Carbon Engine (DICE) project.

DICE is a modified diesel engine running on a mix of coal or treated biomass and water. This advanced technology produces a water-based slurry—a fuel called micronised refined carbon—that is directly injected into a large, specially-adapted diesel engine. This provides power at very high efficiencies.

The impacts and benefits of DICE are broad. The high efficiency of power generation, and the ability to work on coal, biomass, or blends of these materials, can bring significant reductions to CO2 emissions from the power sector without the need for large-scale CCS. Since DICE can start up and turn down quickly, it is well-suited to supporting a high penetration of intermittent renewables—such as wind and solar—by smoothing out generation curves or responding to rapid changes in demand. DICE technologies are also modular, providing opportunities for efficient, low-cost power from coal or biomass in remote locations. DICE generation has low water use and low running costs.

Efficient, distributed coal-based power is attractive for Australian applications because it provides a low-emissions role for coal resources. And the renewable bioDICE technology offers a pathway for low-cost power from biomass and waste resources.

CSIRO has collaborations along the technology chain: coal and biomass producers, coal and bioenergy industry bodies, and engine manufacturers to ensure multiple applications for DICE and bioDICE research. With our industry partners, including MAN Diesel and Turbo, and Australia’s coal industry, DICE technology will enable Australia’s lowest-cost, lowest-CO2 electricity to be produced from coal.

Advanced instrumentation and diagnostic tools to support the use of micronised refined carbon in DICE engines.

We are also working with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to show how forestry residue can be used in DICE engines. With ARENA's support, this year we commenced the first stage of the commercialisation of bioDICE—including pilot-scale engine tests, business planning and demonstration plant design.

The adoption of DICE technology has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency and reduce the emissions from coal-sourced electricity generation, both nationally and internationally, and enable the increased penetration of renewable energy from a range of sources.

Health and Biosecurity

Life-saving new blood test for bowel cancer wins Eureka award

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, causes more than 600,000 deaths worldwide each year. In Australia, it is the second most common cause of death from cancer, with 16,000 cases diagnosed annually.

Up to half of the patients diagnosed with the disease will have a recurrence within the first two to three years following initial diagnosis and treatment. Current practice to identify bowel cancer recurrence is via the detection of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) proteins in the blood, in combination with CT scans and other clinical assessments. While CEA is a widely known marker for gastrointestinal tract diseases including bowel cancer, it can give false-positive results, which can increase the strain on the healthcare system and lead to delays in detection for others, lowering the chance of successful treatment. A more reliable test was needed to help improve the health outcomes for people with the disease.

In 2004, CSIRO began a collaboration with Flinders University and Australian-founded biotechnology company Clinical Genomics to identify the genes that were activated or repressed in patients suffering from bowel cancer. This work built on CSIRO’s long history in gene expression in an attempt to develop a next-generation approach to diagnosis of recurrent bowel cancer.

The team developed unique technologies for genomic analysis and were able to discover molecular changes that occurred in bowel cancer. By characterising these genomic changes, they were able to develop highly specific tests to detect the cancer-derived DNA – tests which led to a new blood test known as Colvera.

Clinical trials of Colvera show that it is twice as sensitive at detecting recurrence of bowel cancer when compared to the existing CEA test. This more accurate tool improves patients’ chances of receiving timely treatment, potentially increasing survival rates.

Clinical Genomics successfully launched Colvera in the US market in December 2016, with the test available through Clinical Genomics' lab in Bridgewater, New Jersey, for monitoring cancer recurrence after initial primary treatment (usually surgery). Cinical trials are in progress for commercialisation of a blood test for primary diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Commercialising this product could increase the potential to save the lives of people affected by colorectal cancer through its early detection.

CSIRO’s Dr Peter Molloy, Clinical Genomics’ Dr Susanne Pedersen and Flinders University’s Professor Ross McKinnon accepting Colvera’s 2017 Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research.  ©Australian Museum

In 2017, the scientific discovery and life-saving potential of the Colvera team’s work was awarded the Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research in Australia, a prize reserved for ‘innovation in medical research that is working toward a healthcare solution that has the potential to change and improve people’s lives’.

Colvera also took out the 2017 CSIRO Entrepreneurship Award in recognition of the team’s entrepreneurial approach and use of passion, persistence and resourcefulness to turn an opportunity into reality.

The Colvera team's success demonstrates how science and industry can create life-saving impact. They hope the test will make it to Australian shores soon.

Land and Water

Collaborative research assesses potential coal resource impacts on water assets

Development of Australia’s estimated $2,600 billion of prospective coal and coal seam gas resources in the nation’s central and eastern coal-bearing regions ignites passionate debate about the potential impacts on our water resources, and the wetlands, bores and other reliant ecological, economic and sociocultural assets.

This has created a science challenge of unprecedented proportions – to provide the nation’s decision makers with transparent scientific information about the potential cumulative impacts of coal resource development on water and the assets that rely on them.

The Australian Government looked to the world-class capabilities of CSIRO in collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology and Geoscience Australia to undertake the Bioregional Assessment Programme.

This $62 million technical research programme covered more than 860,000 square kilometres of assessment area, over 13 bioregions and subregions across four states and the Northern Territory.

It provided integrated, regional-scale assessments of the cumulative impacts of resource development to inform the government’s approach to managing the environmental impacts of coal and coal seam gas development likely to be developed in the foreseeable future, and to support the Commonwealth and states in their development and regulatory decisions.

More than 160 CSIRO scientists and technical experts carried out the assessments alongside state and local agencies, which included more than 50 workshops with industry, government and scientific experts.

Australia is the first country to gather and analyse such a wide range of information on this scale, gathering data about the ecology, geology, hydrology and hydrogeology of the regions. The Programme has produced 104 reports and syntheses, and developed more than 150 terabytes of data, including hydrological models run tens of thousands of times to produce a range of probabilistic analysis of impacts.

Penrith Weir on the Nepean River, NSW, is part of the Sydney Basin Bioregion, one of 13 bioregions assessed in the Bioregional Assessment Programme.

The Programme was completed in June 2018, and its findings are already helping governments, industry and the community by providing information for regulatory, water management and planning decisions. Importantly, the Programme leaves a legacy of publicly accessible data and reports that can be built on to further improve knowledge in key areas and for future resource developments and assessments.

Results of each assessment and all underlying data, models, maps and methods are made publicly available on a Bioregional Assessment Information Platform. This website allows an unprecedented level of transparency, providing the underpinning methods, workflows, data and models that deliver the scientific outputs. The Programme’s approach to transparency has led the way for future assessments commissioned by government. Similarly, the Programme’s comprehensive uncertainty analysis has become an adopted guideline for groundwater modelling by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on major coal and coal seam gas developments. A robust uncertainty analysis is important for regulatory decision-making to ensure management options and approaches are in line with the level of risk and its likelihood for any particular impact.


Carbon fibre – a lightweight, strong and expensive material in growing demand

The carbon fibre composites market will be worth over $31 billion by 2024 according to a recent Global Market Insights Inc. report. Carbon fibre combines high rigidity, tensile strength and chemical resistance with low weight, and is increasingly used across industries like aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, clean energy and sporting goods to replace traditional materials like steel and aluminium. Demand for this expensive material, which is often combined with other materials to form composites, is rapidly increasing within Australia.

Carbon fibre is made by a handful of manufacturers around the world, each of whom hold their own secret, patented recipes for the polymeric feedstock, or precursor required to make the material. To make carbon fibre more affordable for Australian manufacturers, we are collaborating with industry and the research sector to develop carbon fibre that is both cost effective and high performing for Australian companies.

Through the government-supported Australian Future Fibre Research and Innovation Centre, we have collaborated with Deakin University to develop carbon fibre technologies that will produce high-quality, low-energy carbon fibre at low cost. This will allow the technology to be broadly adopted across a range of industries.

Our carbon fibre experts are co-located at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong where they have access to Deakin’s globally unique, open-access carbon fibre/composite research facility, Carbon Nexus. We recently developed our own precursor using our patented Reversible Addition-Fragmentation chain Transfer (RAFT) polymer technology that enables the production of high-quality bespoke materials. This breakthrough allows us to create carbon fibre from the actual starting molecules; a first for Australia. Our 100 per cent Australian carbon fibre was created using CSIRO-produced polymer and white fibre spun on the joint CSIRO/Deakin University wet spinning line, then carbonised at Carbon Nexus.

This collaboration is a significant leap forward in transforming Geelong into an internationally recognised carbon fibre hub. Geelong is already home to companies like Carbon Revolution and Quickstep Holdings Ltd, and we see this breakthrough as an important chapter in the region’s innovation story.

Recently, Deakin University licensed its low-energy carbon fibre technology to LeMond Composites in a multi-million-dollar deal that will see LeMond build a carbon fibre manufacturing facility in Geelong. Complementing this is the novel carbon fibre feedstock material that CSIRO is developing. We envisage in the next two years our research will be in a position to attract suitable investment to build a 250 tonne per annum polymer precursor plant, and a 200 tonne per annum white fibre manufacturing plant to directly feed the Carbon Nexus facility and generate 100 per cent Australian made carbon fibre ready for application.

Australia’s first ever carbon fibre being manufactured in Geelong, where the breakthrough was made.

From wind turbines to aerospace, even the latest Mustang wheels, a carbon fibre industry signals the kind of reinvention needed across Australian industry, shifting Australia’s focus from raw exports to high-value products to retain its global competitive advantage.

Australia’s first entirely home-grown carbon fibre will pave the way for Australian industry to mass produce the next generation materials, growing our manufacturing industry and generating jobs of the future built on home-grown innovation.

Mineral Resources

Technology solution improving trust between communities and the mining industry

Australia’s mining industry contributes significantly to the nation’s economy as its biggest export earner. However, at home and around the world, the industry is facing growing community expectations and must gain and maintain ‘a social licence to operate’ if it’s to have a productive future.

CSIRO research shows that trust between companies and the communities they work alongside is a key factor influencing a social licence to operate. When companies lose community trust, conflict can occur. However, it is difficult for companies to systematically understand the complex sets of issues and concerns held by diverse communities, and communities have few constructive ways to feel heard.

Using world-leading social science methodology, CSIRO has developed a sophisticated solution called Reflexivity, which helps companies and communities engage in a meaningful way and build greater trust.

Reflexivity captures community sentiment and issues in real time via periodic surveys that can be completed via a mobile phone or computer, using sophisticated analytics to translate this data into a language that companies can engage with and respond to. Insights are quickly reported to the community and the company, identifying the factors that build and reduce trust, as well as practical steps that can be taken to address issues.

An important aspect of Reflexivity is that survey data are collected, managed and owned independently by CSIRO. The community sees the same information as the company, providing greater transparency and a new voice that is heard at various levels of management.

As a result, companies can invest resources into the issues that matter most to communities. For the first time, it also provides companies with insights that they can use to benchmark and track their social performance at individual operations and across the enterprise.

Major mining companies are adopting our solution as the world-leading model for building better community relationships. Reflexivity is on a strong commercial footing to grow in the future. Rio Tinto engaged CSIRO in 2017 to roll out Reflexivity through a three-year project in the towns surrounding its iron ore operations in the Pilbara. Several rounds of survey data have since been collected and shared with the community.

Rio Tinto has engaged CSIRO in a three-year project to roll out our Reflexivity solution in the communities surrounding its iron ore operations in the Pilbara. The project is headed up by Dr Kieren Moffat (R).

Other companies seeking to engage Reflexivity include Terramin, which is testing the solution at a proposed mine site in the Adelaide Hills, and Yamana Gold in Brazil. The solution is applicable beyond the extractive industries and our social licence to operate work has attracted engagement from groups in other sectors such as Australian Eggs in agriculture.

Reflexivity provides a real opportunity for people to voice their opinions and concerns and mining companies with an evidence-based approach to engaging with communities. It provides a foundation from which companies and communities can build social value, while being able to realise the economic benefits that flow from mining and other industrial activity.

Oceans and Atmosphere

Australian breakthrough to estimate white shark populations

The white shark, also known as the great white shark, is an iconic species that is internationally protected and listed as vulnerable in Australia. White sharks are long living (up to 60 years) and females have an 18-month gestation cycle, with up to 10 young per cycle. As such, they are slow to recover among depleted stocks. While a National Recovery Plan is underway to protect the population, we still need an estimate of white shark numbers in Australian waters to inform future policy and balance conservation with public safety.

In Australia, white sharks are composed of two populations: an eastern population ranging from eastern Victoria to central Queensland and across to New Zealand, and a southern-western population ranging from western Victoria to north-western Western Australia. As sharks are widely distributed, it has been difficult to provide a scientifically reliable estimate of adult white sharks – until now.

CSIRO has developed a world-first genetic analysis technique to estimate adult white shark numbers for both the eastern Australasian and southern-western white shark populations, all without having to catch or even see any adult white sharks. Instead, we locate the tell-tale marks of the parents in the DNA collected from juveniles, a method known as close-kin mark recapture.

Close-kin mark recapture first involves taking a tissue sample from a juvenile shark and obtaining a genetic profile of that animal; this is then compared to all of the other sharks to determine if the shark is related, and how. This highly detailed genetic data sampling is then combined with a breakthrough statistical method to estimate adult white shark numbers.

Extensive acoustic and satellite tagging of juveniles at two identified nurseries on Australia’s east coast provided the scientific evidence to estimate juvenile survival for the eastern population. An estimate of the juvenile survival rates for the southern-western population is not yet known and requires an expanded tagging effort and associated data collection.

Research into juvenile white sharks combined with a breakthrough in DNA sampling has provided the final pieces of information needed to estimate the size of white shark populations in Australian waters.

This CSIRO research published in 2018 reveals that there are about 750 adults in the eastern Australasian white shark population (with a range from 470 to 1,030), with a total eastern population of 5,460 (with a potential range between 2,909 and 12,802). For the southern-western population, the estimate is 1,460 adult white sharks (with a range of 760 to 2,250).

The research is led by CSIRO and is part of the Australian Government National Environmental Science Program – Marine Biodiversity Hub. As part of this work, we are collaborating with scientists from WA Fisheries, NSW Department of Primary Industries, University of Technology Sydney, Flinders University, South Australia Research and Development Institute and South Australia’s Department of Environment and Water and Natural Resources.

This innovative research gives government, industry and the community new scientific insight into white shark populations to better understand their movements and is being used to evaluate the success of Australia’s white shark National Recovery Plan. While it provides a scientific basis for the Plan, the research is also informing future policy to manage white shark numbers as well as how other conservation-dependent species are assessed.

Science excellence

CSIRO’s science excellence can be measured by looking at the frequency with which our work is cited by other research, normalised for subject patterns and the age of the material. This Normalised Citation Impact (NCI) is a standard indicator and allows for global comparison.2

CSIRO’s NCI is just over 50 per cent higher than the global average, based on publications produced from 2013 to 2017. In comparison, publications from 2012 to 2016 were cited 51 per cent more than the global average. As there is a margin of error of a few percentage points, our citation level is effectively stable.

Bar chart displaying CSIRO journal output by year 2013–174 and number of publication:

  • 2013 = 3,216
  • 2014 = 3,313
  • 2015 = 3,461
  • 2016 = 3,227
  • 2017 = 3,098.

Figure 3.2 CSIRO journal output by year 2013–174

CSIRO remains in the top quartile when compared with Australian universities, being ranked joint 8th. Last year, the organisation was ranked 7th and the year before was ranked 3rd. The decline in ranking is due to a rapid increase in the NCI of some universities. Another way by which research organisations judge the quality of research is by evaluating research publications.

Overall, the total number of recorded refereed publications has remained steady. The number of refereed CSIRO journal articles and reviews published remains at more than 3,000 per year but has been trending downwards since 2015 (see Figure 3.2). 2016 saw a decline of 234 publications and 2017 a decline of 129 to 3,098 publications.3 This decline is due to the fall in CSIRO’s research staff count in earlier years, lagging that change because of the time it takes to conduct and publish research. However, productivity has not fallen – the total number of refereed papers is still greater than earlier years when staff numbers were higher. For example, in 2012, there were 3,074 publications for 6,477 staff, compared to the current result of 3,098 for 5,767 staff.

Pie chart: Book / book chapter 175; journal article 2,380; conference paper 676; client report 683; technical report 278

Pie chart depicting the percentage of CSIRO publications by type in 2017:

  • book / book chapter = 175
  • journal article = 2,380
  • conference paper = 676
  • client report = 683
  • technical report = 278.

Figure 3.3: Percentage of publications by type, 2017

The number of refereed conference papers recorded in the ePublish system has increased from 364 in 2016 to 500 in 2017, with the effect that refereed publication output overall is stable.

Journal articles are the main type of research publication produced by CSIRO, followed by conference papers and client reports (see Figure 3.3). CSIRO produced 682 client reports and 278 technical reports during 2017; this was 103 more client reports than last year, but 124 fewer technical reports.

We produce publications in a range of research fields. Figure 3.4 shows CSIRO’s focus on, and strength in, each of the 14 fields in which we are consistently ranked in the top 1 per cent of institutions globally. On the horizontal axis, a value of 2 would show that CSIRO specialises in this field two times as much as the global average, while on the vertical axis a result of 2 would show CSIRO is cited two times as strongly as the global average. The size of each bubble corresponds to the level of CSIRO output in that field.

Fifty-two per cent of our publications are in the four fields for which we are most strongly ranked for total citations, appearing in the top 0.1 per cent of institutions globally, which are marked in green. We have held this position in these four fields for 13 years – as long as CSIRO has tracked this performance.

Scatter chart showing CSIRO Publication Focus and citation impact by research field 2008–17. The chart shows CSIRO’s focus on, and strength in, each of the 14 fields in which we are consistently ranked in the top one per cent of institutions globally:

  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Biology and Biochemistry
  • Chemistry
  • Clinical Medicine
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Environment/Ecology
  • Geosciences
  • Materials Science
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Plant and Animal Science
  • Social Sciences, general
  • Space Science

Figure 3.4 CSIRO Publication Focus and citation impact by research field 2008–17

CSIRO Publishing

CSIRO Publishing operates as an editorially independent science publisher within CSIRO on behalf of authors and customers in Australia and overseas. Our publishing program covers a wide range of scientific disciplines, including agriculture, chemistry, plant and animal sciences, and the environment. We are Australia’s only endemic, scholarly science publisher with a significant digital capability. We provide a viable, local publishing option for authors, CSIRO itself, and for learned and professional societies to publish scholarly content that champions Australian research.

During 2017–18, we published 27 journal titles. Fourteen titles were published in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science, a successful relationship dating back to 1948. Thirteen journals were produced under agreements with Australian and international societies or institutions. Additionally, special issues of journals were published in connection with societies and international conferences.

These journals are available free to developing countries through the United Nations program Research4Life. This program fosters scientific understanding and education in developing nations. Online use of the journals resulted in 2,780,877 articles being downloaded.


2015–16 2016–17 2017–18

CSIRO Publishing journals* (downloads)




Double Helix Magazine (subscribers)




Double Helix Extra** (email subscribers)




*Downloads in 2016–17 were inflated by robotic crawlers that have been filtered out in 2017–18
**Previously Science by Email

Collaborations and awards

During 2017–18, CSIRO Publishing released 30 book titles in print and digital formats. The digital books comprised approximately 8 per cent of sales.

We continued collaborations with The Natural History Museum, London, Cornell University Press, Princeton University Press, Bloomsbury and CRC Press, co-publishing books that had significant international relevance.

Industry and professional recognition for our program was highlighted by the awards won by our bestselling title The Australian Bird Guide. This important work won the 2017 Whitley Medal and the Australian Book Industry Awards Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year.

Net profit

CSIRO Publishing delivered a net profit of $550,894 for 2017–18. Total revenue for the period was $9,915,200.

Strategic innovation investment

Our aim as Australia’s innovation catalyst is to help reinvent existing industries, create new industries for Australia and deliver public good. A key mechanism to achieving this is our investment in cutting-edge, potentially transformative science through our Future Science Platforms (FSPs) and to help translate such science into commercial opportunities through the CSIRO Innovation Fund.

In 2017–18 investment in FSPs grew to 151 per cent of the 2014–15 baseline, representing growth of $16.7 million. The investment was slightly less than the target of $18 million, with a prudent approach taken to the allocation of funding in the early stages of two new FSPs established during the year.

This year we created the Hydrogen Energy Systems and Precision Health FSPs. Both these new FSPs are aligned with government direction as key fields for scientific focus and investment. The Synthetic Biology FSP hosts a new ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ activity, which supports all FSPs in ensuring their research is socially responsible.

Our Future Science Platforms are:

Probing Biosystems

A revolution in healthcare and agriculture through devices and systems to obtain real-time information from living organisms about their health and wellbeing. This will lead to the ability to provide health and medical interventions that are timely, customised and highly specific.


Harnessing the digital revolution for Australian farmers and land managers. We will solve multiple real-life knowledge shortfalls in the land sector simultaneously by building a common big data infrastructure that will support next generation decision-making and transform agricultural industries and environmental action.

Synthetic Biology

The application of engineering principles to biology. It involves the design and construction of biological systems and devices, based on DNA-encoded componentry, and their application, where appropriate, to advances in areas including manufacturing, industrial biotechnology, environmental remediation, biosecurity, agriculture and healthcare research.


Australia’s environment is immensely valuable but difficult to manage because of its size and complexity. Capitalising on the genome sequencing revolution and big data science, Environomics is reinventing how we measure and monitor ecosystem health, predict biodiversity responses to environmental change and find new resources in nature.

Deep Earth Imaging

Our ability to find and exploit Australia’s future minerals, energy and water resources from far greater depths in the Earth and from deep offshore sources is limited by the deep and complex cover of sediments and weathered material that covers 80 per cent of Australia’s land mass. This science will help us more precisely image subsurface rock properties to unlock the potential of this vast and relatively under-explored area.

Active Integrated Matter

A new technology platform combining materials, robotics, processing and sensing technologies, and autonomous science to lead ground-breaking advances at the interface of big data, advanced autonomous systems and materials science. Advances at these interfaces will drive the i-manufacturing or manufacturing 4.0 revolution and put early adopter industries ahead of the competition.

Hydrogen Energy Systems

Australia has access to vast energy resources through sun, wind, biomass, natural gas and coal, all of which can be used to produce hydrogen and/or the desired energy carrier compound. The fuel could be used domestically in transport, power generation and to offset more carbon-intensive resources, and Australia could also become a world-leading exporter of low emissions hydrogen.

Precision Health

Australia’s healthcare system is focused on treating illnesses, but to keep up with our ageing population the focus needs to switch to keeping healthy people healthy. Through engagement with the community to a more tailored healthcare paradigm and building on programs already underway in the medical field, we will focus on creating an integrated platform to proactively manage a person’s health throughout their life.

The CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, LP aims to improve the translation of publicly funded research into commercial outcomes and stimulate innovation in Australia. In 2017–18, we focused on continuing the establishment of the Fund, managed by CSIRO subsidiary Main Sequence Ventures. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission approved Main Sequence Ventures’ Australian Financial Services Licence in July 2017, and nine investments have been made. The team has been engaged in sourcing investable opportunities from the publicly funded research sector as well as seeking private sector investment to match CSIRO and government contributions to the Fund. Innovation and Science Australia unconditionally registered the Fund as an early stage venture capital limited partnership in February 2018. Private sector investors have been identified and informally committed to the Fund, with formal commitments to be finalised by the end of July 2018.

University engagement

CSIRO partners with universities to ensure the best available research is used to deliver outcomes in areas of national priority. Our engagement with universities takes multiple forms, such a collaborative research and co-publication, student supervision (see page 51) and partnering with 20 Australian universities on the ON program, creating a truly national sci-tech accelerator.

ON conducted three formal programs and associated activities throughout the year. Along with supporting runway and ecosystem services, these included one ON Accelerate program (70 per cent university teams, 30 per cent CSIRO teams) and two ON Prime pre-accelerator programs (delivered over 15 hubs and serving 439 participants nationally) designed to support teams from across CSIRO, the university sector and other publicly funded research agencies. More than 300 participants were from Australian universities; over 93 per cent of these participants reported a high willingness to recommend ON programs to their colleagues and other prospective participants. We believe this to be an indicator of the need for science accelerator and associated programs in the research sector and the proficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of the programs by CSIRO. A high willingness to recommend is expected to continue into the future as the program offerings are developed and expanded in response to the needs of Australian researchers.

Other highlights of our university collaboration this year included:

  • Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub: Funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program, CSIRO is partnering with six Australian universities to help address major challenges that the changing climate poses for Australia. During 2017–2018 the Hub built its early career researcher (ECR) cohort and established the PhD affiliate initiative to provide university-based ECRs and PhD students with access to expert capabilities and professional development opportunities by virtue of the collaboration between Hub partners.
  • Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research (CSHOR): A research partnership between the Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, CSIRO, the University of New South Wales and the University of Tasmania, the goal of CSHOR is to improve our understanding of how the southern hemisphere oceans influence global and regional climate. In 2017–18, the Centre recruited 10 scientist and held its first joint Steering Committee and Advisory Committee meeting. Six papers were published during the year in the prestigious journal Nature.
  • Pawsey Supercomputing Centre: Based in Perth, Pawsey is one of two peak high-performance computing facilities in Australia. We own and operate the Centre in a joint venture with Western Australia’s four universities and with support from the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and Western Australian Government. In 2018, the Australian Government awarded $70 million to the Centre to replace its existing infrastructure, which has enabled us to drive innovation and accelerate discoveries in several areas including medical science, astronomy, geoscience, marine science, chemistry, food and agriculture.
  • Industry PhD program: This industry-focused applied research training program aims to produce the next generation of work-ready research and innovation leaders in Australia. We piloted the program with the University of New South Wales in March and are in discussions with another four universities to involve them in the program from early 2019.

Customer and user satisfaction

Relationships we build with our customers are fundamental to our success as an innovation organisation. During 2017–18, CSIRO again used the comprehensive industry benchmark, Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology, to determine customer satisfaction. The NPS for 2017–18 was +40, which is a significant improvement from +34 last year and +11 the year before.

$671.5 million worth of commercial agreements this financial year

Customers affirmed CSIRO’s excellence, professionalism and role as trusted partner. They like the way they are treated (87 per cent), that we are willing to help (83 per cent) and that we value their opinion (80 per cent). Seventy-three per cent say we offer innovative solutions and 78 per cent say they will stay with CSIRO in the next twelve months. Of the key metrics, customers say that CSIRO is better (compared to last year) in our empathy and reliability, ethics and science quality. Their trust in, and commitment to, CSIRO has increased and overall satisfaction (with price, quality and service) is higher at 70 per cent.

However, there are areas where we can continue to improve: response times, staff availability and length of contract and legal processes. Our customers are facing challenging industry conditions and are looking to CSIRO to partner with them for solutions. They notice improvements in relationships and that we have become more customer focused with a greater willingness to collaborate.

Deal sizes were over 80% higher than past 5-year average

The consistent high levels of satisfaction and advocacy from customers reflects CSIRO’s value add and impact to our customers and partners.

In 2017–18, CSIRO engaged with 2,400 customers, generating over $400 million of revenue from research, consultancy and testing services, and earning $43 million as royalty and licence revenue from applied technology. We entered into nearly 2,000 new commercial agreements totalling $671.5 million. The average contract value was over 80 per cent higher than the previous five-year average. CSIRO’s top ten contracts in 2017–18 were valued at $157 million, representing 24 per cent of the total of all commercial contracts signed this year.

85% of customers think we perform ethically
85% of customers think our science is high quality
87% of customers like the way they are treated

Industry partnerships

Applying our research directly to industry is central to our purpose. In 2017–18, CSIRO worked with 355 large corporates, 488 international customers and over 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Highlights of our industry collaboration this year included:

  • Chrysos: In 2016, we partnered with a network of experienced investors and industry professionals to create Chrysos Corporation Limited (Chrysos) to commercialise our PhotonAssay technology, which enables mining companies to rapidly detect small traces of gold, allowing them to optimise their mining and mineral processing operations. In 2017, Chrysos and CSIRO, with manufacturing partner Nuctech Company Ltd, delivered the first operational photon assay system to Ausdrill’s MinAnalytical facility in Perth, with two more systems to be established in the Kalgoorlie goldfields in the coming months.
  • Amfora: A CSIRO-developed technology has made it possible to produce oil in the leaves, stems and other biomass of plants. This opens up new opportunities in the global production of renewable oils for human food, stock feed, biofuels and other industrial uses. In 2017, we joined forces with Amfora, a US-based company, to further develop and commercialise this technology to produce high-energy feed for livestock. The agreement with Amfora is the first major application for the vegetative oil technology. CSIRO is a significant shareholder with a royalty-bearing licence and research and development contract funding ongoing science, especially into the production of biofuels.
  • Boeing: 2017–18 was the second consecutive year that CSIRO picked up the Technology Supplier of the Year award from Boeing. Selected from a field of more than 13,000 suppliers from 50 countries, CSIRO was one of 13 organisations, and the only one from Australia to be recognised this year.

CSIRO strives to align our world-class science with key industry sectors. The Industry Growth Centres Initiative is an industry-led approach to focus science and research in key areas with an aim of delivering commercial outcomes. The initiative covers six industry sectors:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Cyber Security
  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals
  • Mining Equipment, Technology and Services
  • Oil, Gas and Energy Resources.

In 2017–18, CSIRO delivered Industry Roadmaps for two sectors: Oil, Gas and Energy Resources, and Food and Agribusiness. We completed roadmaps for the other sectors in 2016–17, except for the Cyber Security roadmap – the last in the series – which we will deliver in 2018–19. These roadmaps are an important step in working with Australian industry to understand current and future trends.

Another way CSIRO supports collaboration between industry and research institutions is through our SME Connect programs, designed to bring together SMEs with Australia’s best researchers and facilities. The goal is to help SMEs become Australia’s next innovation success stories. In 2017–18, SME Connect facilitated 200 research projects nationally, injecting over $25 million into research and development. In addition, 138 SMEs were connected with 33 Australian research organisations, including 24 universities as well as CSIRO. We also facilitated 32 graduate placement grants.

SME Connect

Supporting an Australian business to create value in the global supply chain

One of the successes of SME Connect this year was our partnership with Air Radiators. As a key component supplier to a major global mining equipment customer, the business was presented with an opportunity to supply a number of large heat exchanger unit prototypes for testing, in a tight deadline and to certain specifications. The opportunity depended on Air Radiators arriving at an innovative solution that overcame some perceived challenges. Firstly, they identified that their existing solder may not be able to withstand the higher temperatures that had been specified by the customer, potentially compromising their heat exchange product. With some metallurgy capabilities and a small lab Air Radiators went as far as they could to understand the mechanism of failure. After realising they didn’t have the metallurgy capabilities in-house to fully understand this problem, CSIRO’s SME Connect team was called in to help.

Through the Federal Government’s Innovation Connections program, SME Connect facilitated a grant that partnered Air Radiators with a CSIRO research team on a project to fast-track and better understand what was happening with their solder alloys at a microscopic level.

Together CSIRO and Air Radiators developed a simple benchtop test in order to reduce overall validation testing times of the solder. The former test, which involved running SEM (scanning electronic microscopic) images of the solder regions after the radiator had accumulated 1 million temperature cycles, historically took a month or two to complete – an unviable timeframe to meet their customer deadline. Using the newly designed test, this time was vastly reduced to 1-10 days.

The more efficient testing quickly revealed that structural changes to the alloy during the heating process meant Air Radiators’ current process technology was in fact able to meet the requirements of their customer.

Senior Experimental Scientist Teresa Kittel examines microscopic images of metal composites at CSIRO’s Metal Industries labs.  ©Nick Pitsas

From the collaborative research project, Air Radiators discovered that their own core baked process changed that solder alloy such that it actually created a leaded concentrated layer. ‘With this new knowledge the testing and validation revealed an elevation in the melting point from about 189 degrees through until somewhere in the vicinity of 240-250 degrees’ (Air Radiators Product Development). Once they were able to run 1 million cycles and validate the existing product, Air Radiators shipped their product to the satisfied key customer, meeting their deadline and reinforcing Air Radiators’ value in the global supply chain.

The search is now on in Phase 2 of the project for an alternative to solder that withstands the same high temperatures. Together CSIRO and Air Radiators are continuing to create new knowledge and produce new and substantially improved products designed to meet global requirements.


Cooperative Research Centres

The Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program supports collaborations between researchers, industry and the community to foster high quality research in areas identified by industry. The Australian Government has funded 221 CRCs since the program was established in 1991, with 32 CRCs active in 2017–18. Over the years, CSIRO has contributed to over 150 CRCs and participated in 14 during 2017–18.

A key highlight for us this year was becoming a member of the CRC for Developing Northern Australia Ltd (CRCNA). CRCNA was formed in July to create a prosperous, sustainable, vibrant and healthy Northern Australia. This year CSIRO-CRCNA worked on two key areas:

  • Our first project uses CSIRO’s new healthcare technology, Remote-I, via satellite broadband to help prevent blindness in remote communities. It’s a high tech but simple solution to a widespread problem known as diabetic retinopathy, or DR, experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In collaboration with CRCNA, we will use this technology for eye screening and testing in Northern Australia.
  • We are also working with CRCNA to scope and build traditional owner-led bush products. CSIRO is researching potential opportunities in areas such as investment and supply chain, and helping frame key development priorities.

CRC-P grants were announced in 2015–16 to support short-term, industry-led research. CRC-Ps are generally small collaborations that operate on project timelines of up to three years and grants of up to $3 million. CSIRO participated in three during 2017–18.

CRC-Ps 1st Selection Round Projects:

  • Printed Solar Films for Value-added Building Products for Australia CRC-P

CRC-Ps 2nd Selection Round Projects:

  • Large Area Glass Perovskite CRC-P
  • Oventus CRC-P (targeted therapy for sleep apnoea).

In 2017–18, the total cash and in-kind contribution to CRCs and CRC-Ps was $13.5 million.

Government partnerships

In 2017–18, CSIRO worked with 311 Australian Government customers.

One of our key customers this year was the Department of Environment and Energy. We helped this Department to develop policies and programs to address some of the major environmental and energy issues facing Australia. This included work on:

  • The Great Barrier Reef – we are developing the new Reef Restoration and Adaptation program with partners such as Australian Institute of Marine Science. This program will deploy existing and novel technologies to help recovery and repair, and build resilience of the Reef.
  • Hydrogen – we are working with the Department on a Hydrogen Challenge, established within Mission Innovation, a global initiative of 23 countries and the European Union to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation.
  • Data Integrative Partnerships for Australia – we are playing a lead role in supporting the Department to coordinate environmental data and use this data effectively to better manage Australia’s environmental assets.

Intellectual property

35% increase in revenue from licenses this year

At the end of June 2018, CSIRO had 686 patent families, 420 trademarks and 86 Plant Breeder’s Rights. While the number of new inventions filed observed a slight decrease over the previous financial year, it remains consistent with the last five years, and the number of live patent cases and granted patent rights has experienced good growth. This is the result of an increase in overseas patent filings during the financial year, which is a good indicator of investment into existing technology making its way through the pipeline.

An increase in overseas trademark filings highlights our focus on global strategy. Of the intellectual property (IP) assets listed in Table 3.3, 49 per cent of our patent portfolio is either subject to a research right, arose as a result of collaborative activity, was used as background IP in a collaboration or evaluation, or is the subject of a commercial licence.

Technology licences are used as a key indicator of research and development uptake and adoption by customers and collaborators. The total number of active licences recorded as at 30 June 2018 was 497,275 of which have generated revenue. This represents a 2 per cent increase in the number of revenue-generating licences and a 7 per cent decrease in the number of non-revenue-generating licences compared to the previous financial year. Underlying IP revenue has increased 35 per cent this year, demonstrating that commercial utilisation of our intellectual assets is increasing. This does not include revenue from WLAN since 2016–17, which was received through a settlement process.

Table 3.3: CSIRO intellectual property portfolio
IP category Sub category 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18


Current Cooperation Treaty (PCT)applications












Live cases







Patent families






New provisional and direct filings






Trademarks (live)













Plant Breeder’s Rights (live)













Registered designs (live)













Pie chart: Total patents 3,690: Africa 109; Asia 879; Australia, NZ and PNG 594; Central America and the Caribbean 3; Eurasia 102; Eurpoe 892; Middle East 22; North America 799; South America 200.

Pie chart showing CSIRO’s standard patent cases8 by geographic region:

  • Total patents 3,690
  • Africa 109
  • Asia 879
  • Australia, NZ and PNG 594
  • Central America and the Caribbean 3
  • Eurasia 102
  • Eurpoe 892
  • Middle East 22
  • North America 799
  • South America 200.

Figure 3.5: CSIRO’s standard patent cases5 by geographic region

As shown in Figure 3.5, Asia, North America and Australian patent filings remain at the forefront of CSIRO’s IP Strategy, with these three regions accounting for 64 per cent of CSIRO’s patent portfolio. The total number of live patent cases in Asia has been increasing steadily over recent years, with approximately 25 per cent in Japan, China, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. Notably, there was a significant increase in South American filing during 2017–18. There has been a slight decrease in the number of filings in regions such as Africa and South America. These regions represent a relatively small portion of our patent portfolio.

Equity portfolio

We systematically partner with companies, large and small, best placed to take new technologies to market and deliver positive outcomes for Australia. CSIRO licenses technology to companies where it is deemed the most likely to maximise IP value. We also directly create new high-technology SMEs through spinning out IP when we consider this to be the best pathway to commercialisation.

CSIRO’s equity holdings are represented by ordinary shares, convertible notes and investments in the CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, LP and units in a pre-seed investment fund. Currently, CSIRO has interest in 29 listed and unlisted companies with a total market value of $1,366 million (total market value increases to $1,454 million with the addition of CSIRO special purpose vehicles).

CSIRO’s shareholding interest in this equity portfolio (Table 3.4) at 30 June 2018 was $98.7 million, representing an increase of $28.9 million from June 2017, $49.3 million in the two years since June 2016 and $86.1 million in the last three years. A major contributing factor of the increased valuation of the total portfolio was additional investments in unlisted companies, followed by an increase in fair value of the unlisted and listed companies. During 2017–18, the CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, LP increased by $10 million in government funding.


2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18

Listed and unlisted companies





Unlisted special purpose vehicles (SPV), CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, LP and Unlisted Unit Trust





Total $12,600,918 $49,445,841 $69,820,231 $98,714,613

*Includes only SPV

8x increase of our total equity holdings over the past three years

CSIRO established the company Digital Agricultural Services Pty Ltd, which provides business intelligence, property data, farm management analytics and real-time monitoring to banks, insurers, real estate, government, agricultural product suppliers, trading houses and farmers.

CSIRO became a shareholder in Coogee Titanium Pty Ltd, which produces a wide range of industrial, agricultural and mineral processing chemicals or supply to both the Australian and international market. CSIRO became a registered holder of 7,711,496 unsecured convertible notes valued at $7.7 million.

In March 2017, CSIRO converted its two convertible notes (including interest) and coupon rates (total value of $5.3 million) in Biofiba Pty Ltd into 123,777,082 shares, resulting in a shareholding of 20.7 per cent. In June 2018, various investors made further investment in the company at $0.025 per share. This revalued the company at $3.1 million.

CSIRO became a shareholder in Energy OS Pty Ltd (formerly HabiDapt Pty Ltd), an Australian company creating the most advanced mass-market energy services infrastructure of its kind for the residential and SME sectors. CSIRO became a registered holder of 281,028 shares valued at $0.6 million.

HySILL Pty Ltd deregistered on 19 July 2017. The IP was transferred back into CSIRO for commercialisation.

  1. Each case study is assessed within the context of a common framework, as outlined in the CSIRO Impact Evaluation Guide. See https://www.csiro.au/en/About/Our-impact/Evaluating-our-impact 
  2. The data are taken from the citation index Web of Science.
  3. These totals have changed since the last annual report as more content has been indexed on Web of Science.
  4.  Publications are reported on a calendar years basis, as accurate publication counts are not available until significantly after the end of a financial year, due to the time lag between a publication being published and it being indexed.
  5. The total patents reported excludes Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) and Provisional Application filings, as these by themselves do not give rise to a patent right. The total number of ‘live cases’ reported in Table 3.3 does include PCT and Provisional filings.

Contact us

Your contact details
0 / 100
0 / 1900
You shouldn't be able to see this field. Please try again and leave the field blank.

For security reasons attachments are not accepted.