We deliver science in collaboration with our research and industry partners and through strategic investments to help translate scientific discoveries into practical applications for Australia and the world.

Introductory statement

The CSIRO Board, as the accountable authority of CSIRO, presents the 2018–19 annual performance statements as required under s39 (1) (b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). These annual performance statements are based on properly maintained records, and accurately present CSIRO’s performance in accordance with s39 (2) of the PGPA Act.

Purpose

CSIRO’s purpose is to provide innovative scientific and technology solutions to national challenges and opportunities to benefit industry, the environment and the community, through scientific research and capability development, services and advice.

To deliver our purpose we:

  • Conduct, and encourage the uptake of world-class scientific research
  • Mobilise and develop the best talent, for the benefit of Australia
  • Manage research infrastructure on behalf of the nation.

Results

This section of our annual report provides evidence of our results against the activities and performance measures set out in our Corporate Plan 2018–191 and the Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19 2.

Read our performance statements:

  • mission-directed research and development
  • managing national research infrastructure
  • developing national science talent
  • enabling a healthy and sustainable organisation.

Mission-directed research and development

We deliver science in collaboration with our research and industry partners and through strategic investments to help translate scientific discoveries into practical applications for Australia and the world (Table 3.1). We work to achieve this through three functions:

  • Conduct and facilitate the uptake of excellent scientific and technology solutions to deliver impact to the nation.
  • Connect to global science, technology and innovation to access new opportunities for Australian innovation.
  • Manage funding for industrial scientific research activities and assist industry through research collaboration and capacity building.
Table 3.1: Mission-directed research and development performance
Our delivery of mission-directed research and development is measured in these ways.
KPI and metric Target Result

Demonstrate triple bottom line impacts through:

  • externally validated impact case studies
  • assessment of impact in independent Business Unit reviews
  • a biennial external ‘Value of CSIRO’ impact assessment (not due in 18–19)

Demonstrate impact with a minimum of 6 externally validated impact case studies

G

Substantial triple bottom line benefits have resulted from our work and are demonstrated by 31 impact case studies completed across the CSIRO portfolio, also including an industry and government research alliance.

At least 80% of programs are rated in the top two categories, benchmark or strong, on the impact criteria, in external reviews of Business Units

G

The external panels assessed the impact of the research programs in external reviews of three of our Business Units. 94% were assessed in the top two rating categories, strong and benchmark, indicating exceeding and leading international standards.

Science excellence: Normalised Citation Impact relative to global average performance

Top quartile of Australian universities & >50% global average

P

CSIRO is ranked in the second quartile compared to Australian universities, at 13 of 41 institutions. The Normalised Citation Impact of 1.49 is 49% above the global average and materially consistent with recent years’ results.

Strategic innovation investment: direct science investment including Future Science Platforms, capability development and centrally competitive funds

$62m invested in Future Science Platforms, capability development and internally competitive funds

P

The growth of direct investment was constrained to $51.2m for 2018–19. This was the result of a prudent approach to growing funding of the program, while investing in other enabling platforms like digital, and the temporary suspension of the Science Leaders Program while it was being reviewed.

Pipeline of investable propositions for the “CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, LP” from publicly funded research institutions (Function 1.3 in our Corporate Plan)

At least 5 investable propositions pursued

G

Investments in 14 deep technology companies linked to the publicly funded research sector have been made across all focus areas for the Fund in 2018–19 to a total of 19 since September 2017.

Evidence of triple-bottom line impacts from global activities, with demonstrated benefits to Australia (Function 1.2 in our Corporate Plan)

Minimum of 6 externally validated impact case studies

G

Our global activities and engagements have generated national benefits, as demonstrated with nine impact case studies.

Establishing new, significant and strategic level Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) (Function 1.2 in our Corporate Plan)

8 negotiated per year

G

Strategic MoU have been established to facilitate collaboration and enable the research business with 26 organisations from 19 countries.

University engagement: feedback from the universities involved in the ON program – willingness to recommend (4 or higher on 5-point scale)

80% of university participants highly recommend the program

G

Universities have engaged with CSIRO through the ON program, with 96% of participants in university-led teams recommending the ON program, demonstrating its continuing relevance and effectiveness and an improvement on the previous result of 93%.

Public perception of CSIRO

Increase positive public perception of CSIRO to 80%

G

Public awareness of CSIRO at 87% remains high and consistent with recent years. Perceptions also remains consistent with last year, as 64% of Australians view CSIRO positively.

Customer and user satisfaction: Customer Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promotor Score: +18

G

The NPS of +45 improves on the +40 achieved last year on a 10% increased base of survey responses.

Additional KPIs relating to Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) are found in the SIEF Annual Report Part 6.

Green shading indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved.
Purple shading indicates progress through the year was less than anticipated and continues to be closely monitored.

Triple bottom line impacts

The triple bottom line impact we deliver for Australia is evaluated in several ways. We conduct several externally validated impact case studies each year; engage external reviews of our Business Units every three to five years; and commission a biennial ‘Value of CSIRO’ impact assessment. The last assessment by ACIL Allen Consulting in 2018 quantified the aggregate benefits of impact case studies and determined that we provide more than $3.2 billion per year in benefits to the nation.

In addition, it is recognised that we provide value through our ‘standing capabilities’ such as the ability to quickly respond to new or urgent demands for scientific information and our national infrastructure and facilities. Value is also derived from our training, education and advisory services, support for STEM talent development, innovation system investments and through options and royalties generated by our research. While it is difficult to quantify, these benefits were assessed as representing considerable additional value to the nation.

External reviews

The regular external reviews of our Business Units 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 2018–19, we undertook external reviews of the Agriculture and Food, Data61 and Oceans and Atmosphere Business Units. Across these reviews, 94 per cent of research programs achieved a rating on the impact criteria in the top two categories of strong to benchmark, indicating exceeding and leading international standards.

The panels recognised our unique role and value in addressing Australia’s national challenges. They highlighted the excellence of our science, that our people are passionate and talented, and that the capacity to integrate across disciplines enables innovations of national importance for Australia.

The external panel was impressed by Agriculture and Food’s scientific achievements and the positive impact that the focus on innovation and impact has had on staff morale and performance, and its interaction with key stakeholders. This was achieved through the committed leadership team, which has provided outstanding support to the staff while maintaining high-quality, interdisciplinary research programs.

The panel reviewing Data61 recognised it as a leading data science and innovation group in Australia that is positioned to contribute substantially to the nation’s future. The panel acknowledged the success of integrating the previous NICTA organisation into CSIRO with strong leadership. The overall assessment ratings were strong on all three dimensions, with the impact of each program rated from strong to benchmark.

Oceans and Atmosphere was praised by the external panel for delivering its science with innovation and impact. In every respect, the assessment of performance is at least at the strong to benchmark level. The panel was impressed with the effective leadership of the Business Unit and the programs, and appreciated the relevance of the research to the environmental, societal and economic triple bottom line.

Impact case studies

Externally validated case studies are conducted every year3 to evaluate and demonstrate the impact value resulting from individual projects. With 31 case studies completed and published4 during 2018–19, we demonstrated substantial benefits from our research.

A portfolio of case studies from across CSIRO are included in this section. Some highlights include the following:

  • The research conducted by Oceans and Atmosphere on the conservation management of southern bluefin tuna demonstrated the value we provided in improving the security of the fishing industry in Australia, New Zealand and worldwide. The benefit of this research to 2025 was calculated at $616.5 million in 2018–19, with a benefit-cost ratio of over 28:1.
  • The measurable, directly attributable benefits of Data61’s TerriaJS include time-saving efficiencies delivered through ease of accessing government geospatial data, analysis of data, and dissemination of findings. These benefits alone deliver net benefits of more than $47.5 million over the 10-year period to 2028, representing a benefit-cost ratio of 6.64.
  • The combined research of the Pacific Climate Change science program has informed policy development and adaptation/disaster risk management planning in Australia and surrounding Pacific nations. The combined net present value of the two projects is therefore projected to be $691 million in 2018–19 dollars, while the benefit-cost ratio is estimated to be 15.19.

Figure 3.1 shows the balance of research efforts to a diverse range of socioeconomic benefits.

CSIRO research investment by socioeconomic objectives in 2018–19

Type of outcome 

Economic $828M (62%) - bright green

  • Manufacturing $148M (11.2%)
  • ICT $107M (8.1%)
  • Mineral Resources $99M (7.5%)
  • Transport $12M (0.9%)
  • Animal products $122M (9.2%)
  • Economic framework $15M (1.2%)
  • Commercial services and tourism $8M (0.6%)
  • Plant products $165M (12.4%)
  • Energy $151M (11.4%)

Environmental $268M (20%) - light blue

  • Environment ecosystems $119M (8.9%)
  • Environment climate $59M (4.4%)
  • Environment land and water $83M (6.3%)
  • Environment other $7M (0.5%)

Social $77M (6%) - dark blue

  • Law politics and community services $9M (0.7%)
  • Education and training $3M (0.2%)
  • Cultural understanding $7M (0.5%)
  • Health $58M (4.3%)

Defence $9M (0.7%) - purple

Expanding knowledge $150M (111%)

Bubble size represent 2018–19 expenditure
Total expenditure includes all BUs and National Facilities excluding CSIRO services. 

Figure 3.1: CSIRO research investment by socioeconomic objectives in 2018–19

Equity portfolio

Another representation of our impact value is the valuation of and investment in the companies that use our research outputs and intellectual property (IP). We partner with companies, large and small, that we believe are best placed to take new technologies to market and deliver positive outcomes for Australia.

In many instances, we license our technology to third party companies, where licensing represents the pathway most likely to maximise the impact of CSIRO-developed IP. In other instances, an impact assessment might lead to us assigning CSIRO-developed IP to newly created, high-technology small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Under many of our commercialisation pathways, we retain an equity holding in the underlying commercialisation vehicle.

At 30 June 2019, we held interests in eight listed companies, 26 unlisted companies, four special purpose vehicles and three investment funds (including the CSIRO Innovation Fund). The value of these holdings at 30 June 2019 totalled $125.3 million (up from $98.7 million at 30 June 2018), and we believe that the portfolio of companies has a collective total market capitalisation in excess of $2 billion.

The value of our portfolio has grown significantly in recent years with an ongoing focus on creating impact with CSIRO IP via our commercialisation pathways, bolstered by the significant investment we’ve made in the CSIRO Innovation Fund. Notable transactions in 2018–19 include new investments in CANN Group, MecRX, Renerve, Rhythm Biosciences, Vivazome Therapeutics and Medical Devices International under the various research-for-equity arrangements that we have in place with these groups.

Investment holdings were initiated in four newly formed companies – Emesent, RapidAIM, V2Food and Reflexivity, follow-on investments were made in two existing portfolio companies – NextOre and Arista Cereal Technologies – and a further $10 million investment was made in the CSIRO Innovation Fund. Finally, a significant holding was acquired in NGH Holdings Pty Ltd as a result of a merger that involved an existing CSIRO portfolio company called GeoSLAM. The last of our shares in the ASX-listed Carbon Energy were sold in 2018–19.

Table 3.2: Change in the value of CSIRO's equity holdings

2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19

Listed and unlisted companies

$8,930,281

$19,541,035

$37,948,573

$55,387,191

Unlisted special purpose vehicles (SPV), CSIRO Fund of Funds, LP, CSIRO Holding Trust and Unlisted Unit Trust

$40,515,560

$50,279,196

$60,766,039

$69,948,314

Total

$49,445,841

$69,820,231

$98,714,613

$125,335,505

Case study: Wheat advances – feeding Australia and beyond

Ensuring a secure food supply while maintaining the integrity of our environment are two of the six challenges we are focused on solving through our multidisciplinary science. Australia’s $60 billion agricultural sector 5 is on the frontline, grappling with these challenges on two fronts.

Our work is improving farm profitability for wheat growers and helping to feed the nation.

We are helping agriculture and food industries simultaneously produce more food sustainably for an increasing population using limited resources, while building resilience in the face of increasingly adverse growing conditions due to warmer conditions and reduced rainfall.

Over the past decade, our advanced wheat research into more efficient use of water, strategic sowing, better adapted varieties and improved farm management techniques has generated significant benefits, with one project alone delivering a benefit of $143 million, according to our investment partner Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Efforts to grow and protect Australia’s $7 billion wheat industry – Australia’s second most valuable agricultural product (behind beef) 6 – are vital from economic and food security standpoints. We’ve approached the issue of improving wheat yields and profitability using a multidisciplinary farming systems approach.

The National Water Use Efficiency (WUE) Initiative revealed that a more than 20 per cent 7 increase in WUE could be achieved using early sowing practices, which take advantage of soil moisture retained from summer rainfall. Importantly, it was the combination of improved management – no-till farming systems, improved rotations, and good summer fallow weed control – prior to the planting of the wheat crop that ensured the summer rainfall was captured and stored.

Further research into early sowing practices found additional benefits when integrated into mixed-farming systems (cropping and livestock), because the early-sown crops can be grazed during the vegetative stage without impacts on grain yield. Research conducted with GRDC and Meat and Livestock Australia found farm profitability improved by around $100/ha due to provision of forage during the winter feed gap. Dual-purpose crops also reduce risk as the climate becomes more variable by providing options to graze, cut for hay or silage, or to grow through to grain depending on seasonal conditions.

Our research has seen guidelines and recommendations adopted by agronomists and their clients across Australia’s cropping regions. These practices have been critical in securing Australia’s ability to export 10 per cent of the world’s wheat.

Our research has also highlighted the problems faced by Australian wheat farmers, with long-term reductions of in-season rainfall, compounded by increased temperatures between 1990 and 2015. With climate modelling predicting even more adverse conditions, research efforts continue to futureproof the Australian wheat and broader grains industry.

In early 2019, research published in Nature Climate Change demonstrated how genetic gains for fast winter wheat varieties and adopting further practices to early sowing systems developed by CSIRO could increase Australian wheat yields by as much as 25 per cent. That would equate to an additional 7.1 million tonnes of wheat harvested each year, worth approximately $1.8 billion to the national economy.

Agriculture has been at the heart of our research success for the past century. In order to feed and clothe the world into the future, our efforts will continue to build, maintain and improve Australia’s critically important agricultural systems.


Case study: Tackling drought with data visualisation

Droughts put farming communities under devastating pressure, push up food prices and hurt Australia’s economic growth. They are a constant threat for farmers, with climate and weather experts across the globe predicting that droughts will become longer and more severe in parts of the country.

The National Drought Map found at https://map.drought.gov.au/ brings together disparate information to help government deliver support to drought-affected areas that need it most.

Problems associated with droughts – adapting to the impacts of climate change, the sustainable use and value of our environments, and food security – go to the heart of our purpose; to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

A key obstacle to combating drought impacts is gathering and interpreting disparate data to give a detailed picture. With this information, we can mobilise the most effective drought response, offering help where it will have the biggest impact.

CSIRO’s Data61, a specialist group of data scientists, used data science to combat the impact of drought, we worked with the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Central Analytics Hub to create the National Drought Map.

The map uses Data61’s TerriaJS platform, building on our deep strength in mapping and visualising data in 3-D and 4-D. Terria also powers world-leading platforms, including Australia’s National Map and the United States Geological Survey’s Protected Areas Database of the United States Map, and will be a key component of our forthcoming innovative ‘Digital Twins’ virtual city models.

The National Drought Map is an online tool that integrates curated climatic, socioeconomic, program and service delivery data. It draws on data from more than 20 Commonwealth, state and territory, local government and non-government agencies. The map has an invitation-only interface for governments and other officially sanctioned groups, and a general website open to all on FarmHub, an Australian Government initiative administered by the National Farmers’ Federation. The National Drought Map received additional funding in the federal budget.

The National Drought Map demonstrates the myriad ways sophisticated use of data can tell a story of what’s happening in a local area. It gives unprecedented capability for informed decisions based on unique data combinations in an accessible format. The map facilitates response coordination: with understanding of conditions in regional communities, governments can direct information sessions and services, such as the Department of Human Services’ Mobile Services Centres, where most needed.

The National Drought Map also offers a new approach to collaboration among agencies, facilitating close relationships and bringing together decentralised data in an innovative data-sharing model. The federated data model used allows data custodians to maintain data ownership, hosted locally with their required security levels. This is an ideal solution given most data held by government is subject to legislative controls. This shift in the collection and curation of data has shown agencies a new way to share information while retaining control.

Now there are significantly changed expectations about the use of government data, with cultural changes in agencies partnering in the project. The Central Analytics Hub has received interest from areas across government keen to apply learning from the National Drought Map to projects, especially those using rich geographical data sets.


Case study: Metal membrane to power renewable hydrogen exports

As the transition towards clean energy accelerates and as one of the six challenges we are working on solving, there is an opportunity to assess how Australia’s vast renewable energy resources may be integrated into the domestic energy mix, and also exported.

The Hon Keith Pitt MP and CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall fuel a Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle with ultra-high purity hydrogen.  ©John Nguyen Photography 2016

One such avenue is hydrogen, created with renewable energy or through the application of low emissions technologies such as carbon capture and storage. CSIRO’s National Hydrogen Roadmap, released in 2018, noted that Australia has the resources and skills to build an economically sustainable domestic and export hydrogen industry, which can help meet agreed emissions targets and address concerns around energy security.

Recent advances in solar and electrochemical technologies mean renewable hydrogen production is expected to become competitive with fossil fuel-based production, providing an opportunity to decarbonise both the energy and transport sectors while creating new export opportunities.

Due to its low density, hydrogen is notoriously difficult to store and transport. Similar issues were faced with natural gas, before solutions were found to liquefy, store, gasify and use it commercially. Australia is now among the world’s largest LNG exporters.

One way to overcome the limitations of hydrogen is to convert it to ammonia for transportation and storage, piggybacking existing transport infrastructure, then convert it back to high-purity hydrogen at or near the point of use. Our research – receiving initial Science and Industry Endowment Fund funding – has made this process possible by developing a metal membrane that allows hydrogen to pass through while blocking all other gases.

This technology has the potential to fill the gap in the value chain to supply fuel cell vehicles and power vehicles around the world with low-emissions hydrogen sourced from Australia.

In August, we collaborated with BOC, Toyota and Hyundai to successfully demonstrate this metal membrane technology by extracting ultra-high purity hydrogen from ammonia and powering two fuel cell vehicles.

In November, we announced a $20 million partnership with Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue) on hydrogen technologies to help to develop new industries, create jobs and pave the way for low emissions export opportunities. The centrepiece of the partnership is an investment in our metal membrane technology. We will work with Fortescue to identify, develop and commercialise technologies to help create of an Australian hydrogen industry and future global uptake.

We are continuing our own investment in hydrogen research and development, chiefly through the Hydrogen Energy Systems Future Science Platform, and will work with Fortescue to commercialise technologies that support new energy markets, including in the chemicals and transportation sectors.


Case study: Protecting Australia's valuable environment from rampant rabbit populations

Since the 1800s Australia has fought an ongoing battle against rabbits, a destructive pest introduced by European settlers. Thriving in Australian conditions – perfect for all year-round breeding – rabbits spread across 70 per cent of Australia, causing devastation to Australia’s environment, native species and agricultural lands.

The K5 rabbit team receiving its Australian Biosecurity Award from Minister David Littleproud.

In modern Australia, the overall economic losses in the agriculture and horticulture industries caused by rabbits are estimated to be more than $200 million every year, and more than 320 native flora and fauna species are now threatened as a result of invasive rabbit populations. We have been focused on this challenge of ensuring we have a resilient and valuable environment for more than a century.

Over the years, biological controls have shown to be the most cost-effective, large-scale solution in keeping rabbit numbers low. Australia first turned to biocontrol measures to reduce rabbit population numbers in the 1950s with the release of the Myxoma virus, followed in the 1990s by the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), commonly known as Calicivirus.

While these biocontrol measures are still having a major impact on controlling rabbit numbers ($70 billion of agricultural benefit over the last 60 years), their effectiveness has declined due to the inevitable development of genetic resistance to viral biocontrol agents.

In 2017, in the ongoing effort to stop rabbits from further damaging Australia’s agricultural and natural environment and reaching the plague numbers seen in the early 1900s, we played a key role in the nationwide release of a new strain of RHDV, termed K5.

The Centre for Invasive Species Solutions brought together the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, CSIRO, federal and all state governments along with industry bodies, to develop the project. Members of the community including farmers, land management groups and volunteers, also played a pivotal role in the project, helping to release and then monitor the impact of K5 over 300 sites across Australia. Through this citizen-science approach, researchers were able to collect more data than would have been possible without community support, with participants involved in releasing the virus, monitoring, and collecting and submitting tissue samples for analysis. As part of the project, the National Rabbit Biocontrol Monitoring Program was developed to help track the spread and record the effects of the K5 release.

Our team developed and implemented near real-time diagnostic tests that enabled the project to monitor the spread and impact of the different types of virus in the landscape before, during and after the K5 release. The project reported an average reduction in rabbit numbers of 34 per cent one month post release at the release sites.

Ongoing monitoring by our team continues to provide critical data, which is fed into a publicly available rabbit calicivirus map of Australia, and provides information about which viruses are circulating and where. This map helps land managers in the development, coordination and timing of tailored rabbit management strategies, and aids veterinarians and pet rabbit owners in implementing biosecurity measures and, where available, vaccination strategies to protect non-target domestic rabbits.

The program will have a lasting impact on rabbit control measures by helping governments, researchers, industry and land owners to better understand the continued effects of biocontrol measures on rabbit populations, while informing the planning, implementation and tracking of future biocontrol release programs.

In 2019, the project received the Industry Award in the Australian Government’s Australian Biosecurity Awards, which recognises significant outcomes for Australia’s biosecurity system.


Case study: Science underpins future decisions on development in Norther Australia

The climate and soils in Australia’s north could support a wide range of agriculture, aquaculture and horticulture, and potentially more integrated, efficient and higher-yielding farming systems. It presents a possible solution to the challenge of increasing pressure on ensuring we have a resilient and valuable environment.

Investigating the Fitzroy River catchment in Western Australia to understand the scale and nature of future development opportunities.

But despite long-term interest in developing Northern Australia, there has been little data and insights to support policy and investment decisions. Enter the Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment (NAWRA).

We conducted this assessment, which was commissioned as an initiative of the Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. The assessment delivered detailed region-wide, finer-scale data not previously available and focused on three study areas: the Fitzroy River catchment in Western Australia; the Finniss, Adelaide, Mary and Wildman river catchments in the Northern Territory; and the Mitchell River catchment in Queensland.

Through extensive field studies and desktop analyses, the assessment investigated land suitability for irrigation or aquaculture, water storage and capture options, and potential impacts of those development options on regional economic outcomes and ecological impacts.

When landscape suitability outcomes were linked to water availability and economic viability, several messages emerged:

  • Diversification, such as adding forages into the existing cattle production, is a way to improve productivity.
  • Rethinking the scale of irrigated agriculture could open new opportunities. This could mean multiple, smaller irrigated developments.
  • Double cropping can increase revenue from each hectare developed.

The assessment engaged Indigenous people in the catchments, who hold water values, rights and development objectives, to better understand their perspectives on development.

This research required strong collaboration with multiple jurisdictions and agencies, involving more than 140 scientists across many disciplines, and 20 external organisations. The work required new scientific methods to be developed to assess such large areas quickly.

The assessment has produced web-based applications, including the NAWRA-explorer, which makes data publicly available, discoverable, and able to be updated.

The result of the assessment is publicly available data to allow an informed discussion on what is possible, desirable and achievable.

This has already translated to action, including a $3.5 million assessment of soil and water resources in the Northern Territory’s Roper River catchment and a water resource assessment in Norfolk Island. It has also provided technical information to inform the development of water and catchment plans by state and territory governments, as well as federal government investment initiatives such as the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.


Case study: Flow chemistry, refining our art

Chemicals are an integral part of our modern way of life. Whether it’s a treatment for cancer, paint thinner or herbicides, the chemical has to be made using a particular process. Until now, these chemical processes have used a manufacturing method called batch chemistry. But flow chemistryis having a huge impact in helping us to solve the greatest challenges and create future industries for Australia.

We collaborated with the National Gallery of Victoria and used flow chemistry to create a new varnish that will protect paintings from ageing.  ©National Gallery of Victoria

A batch process involves chemicals being produced in large containers, batch reactors. Because of the underlying physics associated with large batch reactors, it is difficult to adequately control the temperature and the mix of the ingredients.

Getting the batch chemistry process right can take significant amounts of tweaking, often resulting in high levels of unwanted products, and costly and time-consuming purification. Batch chemistry can also be quite risky for operators as they need to check, adjust and re-check the processes, which can expose them to dangerous liquids and fumes and, at worst, runaway reactions that can lead to explosions.

Unlike batch chemistry where the reactants are combined in one go, the new process, flow chemistry, involves combining reactants continuously in a flowing tube. Flow chemistry processes can be used for small and large volumes and are controlled using advanced technology, which saves time, cuts energy costs and reduces waste. It also circumvents the need for operators to intervene between reactions, which keeps them safe.

Boron Molecular has adopted flow chemistry to improve operations across its business, including pharmaceuticals, electronics and a range of industrial chemicals.

Working with Boron Molecular on several projects, we helped to develop some impressive new processes, including one that will save the masterpieces of the world. Together we used flow chemistry to create a new resin that is used to coat and protect paintings from the ravages of time.

The team is now working with the National Gallery of Victoria to refine the new resin that, once ready, will be available to conservators across the world. The resin is reversible, does not yellow as it ages and is completely clear. It can safely be used on priceless masterpieces to preserve them for future generations.

We’re continuing to develop our flow chemistry capability and capacity through the commissioning of FloWorks, supported by funding from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF). FloWorks is a lab in Melbourne that will make it easier for chemical manufacturers to use flow chemistry for their chemical manufacturing needs. We will also continue to explore new horizons that could benefit from the exacting control that flow chemistry brings to chemical manufacturing.


Case study: Reducing waste in copper production

The world’s high-grade mineral ore deposits are depleting and new mineral ores are increasingly lower in quality. Compared to 20 years ago, a pound of copper produced today generates more than 60 per cent more tailings waste and uses nearly the same in extra electricity, fuel and water. This trend will continue into the future unless we innovate.

An impression of ore going through the analyser sensors.

New technologies to selectively mine and sort ore, which identify high-value ore and separate it from waste in real time, can make these low-grade ore deposits more economically and environmentally viable to mine.

In response, we developed the world’s most advanced sensor system for large-scale ore sorting to rapidly determine ore quality (grade) in order to reject large volumes of waste rock before it enters the plant for processing. We could solve the challenge of an industry in decline by creating a new future industry.

The advanced sensor system applies magnetic resonance technology, which detects signatures from many minerals and is particularly effective for copper, iron, arsenic and gold-bearing ores, among others.

As ore on a conveyor passes through the analyser at a rate of up to 5,000 tonnes per hour, it illuminates batches of ore with short pulses of radio waves. By penetrating through ores – much like medical magnetic resonance imaging ‘sees into’ human bodies – the analyser rapidly and accurately detects ore grade.

In July, in partnership with RFC Ambrian and Advisian Digital, we launched a new company called NextOre to take the analyser to the international mining market.

In its first year, NextOre targeted copper miners with a focus on engaging local and international markets. The company estimates that 35 per cent of global copper mines are suitable for the application of magnetic resonance technology – where the analyser could be applied to increase productivity, extend mine life and reduce the environmental footprint.

The benefits for producers vary depending on the orebody being mined but have the potential to more than double the average ore quality. This could represent as much as a 20 per cent reduction in processing costs in some copper mines.

Since NextOre was launched, three magnetic resonance analysers have been sent to mine sites where site-specific trials are being undertaken. This includes two top-tier producers. Another two to three analysers are to be delivered before the end of the year.

Early results from a NextOre trial at a mine site in Latin America have demonstrated the analyser is capable of accurately measuring ore grade in two seconds. This allows rapid separation of low- and high-grade ore with a high degree of confidence.

Meanwhile, in Australia, we are trialling a magnetic resonance analyser at Newcrest. Mine site trials at Cadia East mine are proving successful in regard to accurate monitoring of ore grades at feed rates up to 4,800 tonnes per hour. This is an important result, validating the potential for improved processing options in emerging mine sites, and is relevant for many large-scale applications worldwide.

NextOre is another recent commercialisation success story for CSIRO and RFC Ambrian, which together established Chrysos Corporation in late 2016 to market an X-ray-based gold analysis solution.

NextOre has been acknowledged by industry leaders, achieving first place in the METS to Miners and Engineers’ Pitch Battle award at the International Mining and Resources Conference 2018.


Case study: Transformative science for valuable southern bluefin tuna fishery

Australia’s large and valuable southern bluefin tuna (SBT) fishery, operating predominantly out of Port Lincoln in South Australia, is part of the internationally managed fishery estimated to be worth more than $800 million. Australia is a founding member of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) and its national allocation is 35 per cent of the global catch level set by the CCSBT.

Historical overfishing of SBT saw the stock decline to around three per cent of the unfished level and led the species to be listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and ‘conservation dependent’ under Australian environment legislation. Furthermore, historical under-reporting of longline catches meant that key data for assessing the stock status and management are unreliable.

To address the challenge of maintaining a resilient and valuable environment, we delivered excellence in science-based management advice for setting global catch limits and two new methods to accurately monitor challenging species, such as the highly migratory SBT.

CSIRO and collaborators developed the world’s first scientifically tested management procedure for tuna to set global catch limits that reduce the risk of further declines and associated extinction risk for this iconic stock. This has enabled Australia’s nationally significant fishery to continue operation while rebuilding the stock from dangerously low levels. The economic benefits from the management procedure include greater certainty, transparency and stability for stakeholders, an 85 per cent increase in catch valued at $80 million for the Australian fishery, and many hundreds of millions in direct revenue for the global fishery.

Two new techniques for monitoring abundance of juvenile and adult SBT have also been developed. A gene-tagging program monitors the numbers of juvenile SBT by collecting a DNA ‘fingerprint’ from biopsies of individual fish, which acts as an invisible, lifelong ‘tag’. Abundance is estimated from matching the DNA fingerprint from fish that are ’tagged and released with fish sampled 18 months later. The program, funded by the CCSBT, Australian Government and European Union, provides reliable information on juvenile SBT abundance, and it does not rely on data from commercial fishers detecting and returning traditional plastic tags. These juvenile abundance estimates will be included in new management procedures for setting the global catches of SBT in the future.

Close-kin Mark Recapture (CKMR), the second new technique, is used to monitor the abundance of adult fish and other demographic parameters, such as survival, without relying on fishery catch and effort data. Like gene-tagging, it uses DNA as a natural tag to match closely related kin (parent-offspring and sibling pairs) from tissue samples of adults and juveniles. The frequency of kin matches is combined with knowledge of the biology and elegant maths to provide an accurate estimate of the number of adults in the SBT population.

These award-winning8 research achievements are world firsts and have played a critical role in delivering scientific excellence and robust advice to support the SBT industry and Australian community. The future impacts are wide-reaching, as the technologies are transferrable to other fish, wildlife species and conservation management globally.


Science excellence

Bar graph showing CSIRO journal publication output by year 2012–2018

2012: 3,067

2013: 3,215

2014: 3,310

2015: 3,460

2016: 3,261

2017: 3,169

2018: 3,101

Figure 3.2 CSIRO journal publication output by year 2012–2018.

Science excellence is intrinsic to CSIRO and measured in several ways. One measure is the frequency with which our publications are 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.

coloured circle graphic showing publications by type: book/book chapter, journal article, conference paper, client report, technical report

Circle graph showing Percentage of CSIRO publications by type in 2018

Book/Book chapter: 99 (black)

Journal article: 2,361 (light blue)

Conference paper: 784 (dark blue)

Client report: 663 (purple)

Technical report: 270 (green)

Figure 3.3: Percentage of CSIRO publications by type in 2018

Our science excellence metrics show citation levels that are significantly higher than the global average, although we are observing a gentle downward trend in our NCI value. This is despite our productivity increasing, with more papers published per scientist than in previous years. We have strategies in place for addressing science excellence and quality, including establishing the Future Science Platforms.

Our NCI of 1.49 is 49 per cent higher than the global average, based on publications produced from 2014 to 2018, compared to NCI results of 50 per cent higher than global average for publications from 2013 to 2017 and 51 per cent higher for the prior cycle. We are currently ranked 13th against universities in Australia, a decrease on our ranking of joint eighth last year, attributable to a rapid increase in the NCI of some universities in recent years.

CSIRO specialisation and citation impact by research field 2014–18

The Normalised Citation Impact (1.0 =  world average) along the vertical axis plotted against the Relative Specialisation Index (1.0 = Same proportionate focus as world average) along the horizontal axis

Figures reported below: Relative Specialisation Index, Normalised Citation Impact, Web of Science Documents, % output

Agricultural Sciences: 2.95, 1.57, 1253, 8.3% (green)
Biology & Biochemistry: 0.56, 1.69, 396, 2.6% (light blue)
Chemistry: 0.73, 1.27, 1241, 8.2% (light blue)
Clinical Medicine: 0.12, 1.49, 323, 2.1% (light blue)
Computer Science: 1.31, 1.60, 511, 3.4% (light blue)
Engineering: 0.77, 1.53, 1077, 7.2% (light blue)
Environment/Ecology: 4.10, 1.95, 2253, 15.0% (green)
Geosciences: 4.19, 1.43, 1994, 13.2% (green)
Materials Science: 1.01, 1.40, 956, 6.3% (light blue)
Microbiology: 1.23, 1.63, 250, 1.7% (light blue)
Molecular Biology & Genetics: 0.81, 1.02, 388, 2.6% (light blue)
Physics: 0.41, 1.17, 420, 2.8% (light blue)
Plant & Animal Science: 3.13, 1.84, 2233, 14.8% (green)
Social Sciences: 0.42, 2.72, 389, 2.6% (light blue)
Space Science: 5.61, 1.61, 801, 5.3% (light blue)

Figure 3.4 CSIRO specialisation and citation impact by research field 2014–18

The number of refereed CSIRO journal articles and reviews published remains at more than 3,000 per year although it has been trending downwards slightly since 2015 (see Figure 3.2). The decline is attributable to the decrease in our research staff count from 2013 onwards, a lagging effect 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 2018 there were 3,101 papers at a rate of 0.517 per staff member, compared to 3,067 publications at a rate of 0.474 per staff member in 2012.

The number of refereed conference papers recorded in our internal record system increased from 500 in 2017 to 784 in 2018, with the effect that refereed publication output overall is stable. Journal articles are our main type of research publication, followed by conference papers and client reports (see Figure 3.3). In 2018, we produced 663 client reports and 270 technical reports. This was 19 fewer client reports and eight fewer technical reports than last year (see Figure 3.3).

We produce publications in a range of research fields. Figure 3.4 shows our focus on, and strength in, each of our 15 largest fields. To interpret the chart, a result of 2 on the vertical axis would represent our publications being cited twice as strongly as the global average of publications in this research field. On the horizontal axis, a value of 2 would show that our volume of output of publications in this research field as a proportion of our total output, is twice the proportion of that field in global research output.

Fifty-one per cent of our publications are in the four research 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 the 14 years since we have tracked this performance.

CSIRO Publishing

CSIRO Publishing facilitates scholarly communication between scientists and the wider community, to grow awareness of the role of science in addressing areas of national and international importance. The publishing services provided enhance the quality of research through managing rigorous peer review processes. The impact of our work is in improved decision-making, contribution to the growth of STEM-enabled innovation and lives enriched through access to knowledge, positioning Australia to solve its greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

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

During 2018–19, we published 27 journal titles, including 13 titles in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science, a successful relationship dating back to 1948. Fourteen journals were produced under agreements with Australian and international societies or institutions while special issues of journals were published in connection with societies and international conferences.

Online journal readership was measured as downloads of more than 2.8 million articles. The journals are available free to developing countries through the United Nations program Research4Life, fostering scientific understanding and education in developing nations.

Table 3.3: CSIRO Publishing readership

2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19

CSIRO Publishing journals* (downloads)

2,901,602

4,224,132

2,780,877

2,842,670

Double Helix magazine (subscribers)

7,216

6,687

6,521

6,441

Double Helix Extra (email subscribers)**

43,029

42,017

40,000

45,026

Awards

We received industry and professional recognition from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, which shortlisted Bouncing Back: An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story for the Eva Pownall Award. At the other end of the reading spectrum, Australian Echinoderms: Biology, Ecology and Evolution won the 2018 Whitley Medal.

Bouncing Back, An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story

During 2018–19, CSIRO Publishing released 33 book titles in print and electronic formats with approximately 11 per cent of sales in digital books. Our program spans picture books to scholarly reference, and our publications communicate the impact of science in our lives and inform professionals in their work. The developing children’s program has been a highlight this year with engaging and vibrant books that ignite curiosity in our future generation of scientists and science champions.

Accreditation and developments

CSIRO Publishing recognises the importance of high standards of ethical behaviour throughout the publication process. In 2018, CSIRO Publishing was awarded membership to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and supports the recommendations of the COPE Core Practices in our policies and procedures. Our journal editors are expected to work within the framework of the Core Practices.

We also acknowledge that peer review is the cornerstone of scientific publishing. To recognise and reward our peer reviewers for their commitment, CSIRO Publishing has partnered with Publons to support them to record, verify and display their contributions for reviewing our journal articles. This service can help researchers to demonstrate their service to the research community and expertise in the field for use in their performance reviews, funding and promotion applications, and more.

Intellectual property

Excellent science generates intellectual property (IP). While it is often published as a contribution to global knowledge and in support of further research, at times it is more appropriate to retain control of the IP. Novel developments, designs and inventions can be defined and registered so that they are recognised as CSIRO property, to be made available for use by others on appropriate terms. This enables our industry partners operating in competitive markets to invest in the application of our IP in their businesses, while potentially returning some of the benefits of their use to CSIRO for re-investment in further research.

coloured circle graph showing csiro patents by region: africa, asia, australia, central america, eurasia, europe, middle east, north america, south america

Circle graph showing CSIRO's standard patent cases by geographic region

Total patents: 3,860

Africa: 108 (black)

Asia: 912 (light blue)

Australia, NZ and PNG: 614 (dark blue)

Central American and the Caribbean: 9 (purple)

Eurasia: 109 (dark green)

Europe: 1,052 (light green)

Middle East: 27 (pink)

North America: 820 (orange)

South America: 209 (teal)

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

Our registered IP at the end of June 2019 included 679 patent families, 325 trademarks and 79 plant breeder’s rights. The number of patent applications filed for new inventions (priority applications) decreased slightly compared to the previous financial year. In contrast, our overall number of patent applications experienced significant growth. This is the result of an increase in overseas patent filings (mainly national phase entries) based on a priority application 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 indicates focus on our Global Strategy.

Technology licences are a method of making IP available for use by others, often on commercial terms. The number of them is used as a key indicator of the uptake and adoption of research and development outputs by customers and collaborators. A total of 446 licences were recorded as active at 30 June 2019, of which 277 have generated revenue returns to CSIRO. There has been a decrease in the total number of active licences since last year, predominantly due to expiration and termination of copyright licences that did not have revenue returns.

Total revenue attributable to IP (excluding revenue from WLAN and including IP-related equity transactions) increased seven per cent this year, and 63 per cent since financial year 2016. This demonstrates that our intellectual assets underpin increased year-on-year commercial activity in industry.

Patent filings in Asia, North America and Australia remain at the forefront of our IP Strategy, with these three regions accounting for 66 per cent of our patent portfolio. The total number of live patent cases in Asia has increased 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 2018–19, while there was a slight decrease in the number of filings in regions such as Africa, which represent a relatively small portion of our patent portfolio.

Table 3.4: CSIRO intellectual property portfolio (including NICTA IP)
IP CATEGORY SUB CATEGORY 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19

Patents

Current Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications

78

75

59

53

37

Granted

1,854

1,959

2,122

2,140

2,244

Live cases

3,430

3,544

3,773

3,876

4,065

Inventions

Patent families

578

595

692

686

679

New provisional and direct filings

63

70

79

67

58

Trademarks

Australian

250

251

238

264

273

Foreign

63

62

94

156

52

Plant Breeder’s Rights

Australian

89

89

90

61

59

Foreign

25

25

26

25

20

Registered designs

Australian

2

2

2

2

2

Foreign

6

6

6

3

5

Strategic innovation investment

Future Science Platforms (FSPs), the CSIRO Innovation Fund and other programs help us to 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.

To develop our researchers, we provide funding for CSIRO Early Research Career (CERC) Postdoctoral Fellowships, professional development of our early- to mid-career researchers, postgraduate scholarships and support for symposia and visiting distinguished researchers. Our Science Leaders program resumed in 2019 after a pause for review of the program, resulting in a lower than anticipated level of spending.

Future Science Platforms

Our investment in future science continues to grow, with centrally funded direct investment allocations into FSPs increasing to $34.9 million in 2018–19. This investment was less than the original target of $42 million, as a prudent approach was taken to the allocation of funding in the early stages of new FSPs established during the year. The central funding is supplemented by investment from the Business Units involved, resulting in an overall direct investment in 2018–19 in excess of $48 million.

The newly approved FSPs that began this year were Space Technologies, and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. They are aligned with government direction as key fields for scientific focus and investment. Several established FSPs received slight increases in budget for specific purposes. Furthermore, seed funding was provided to undertake initial scoping work on projects in three new proposals that may develop into new FSPs or other forms of strategic investment.

Table 3.5: Progress in Future Science Platforms 2018–19
Progress in our Future Science Platforms this year

Probing Biosystems

We are partnering with GenesisCare, the largest private provider of cancer care services in Australia, to improve outcomes for patients with difficult-to-treat cancers. This $5 million partnership will drive the development of a new theranostics industry for Australia.

Digiscape

We’ve built our big data infrastructure platform, Senaps-LAND, and through it we have four decision tools to support farmers and agribusiness. Our Graincast™ tool, released in 2018, combines satellite and weather data with CSIRO’s forecasting technologies and simple user-provided data to forecast national annual grain harvest. Our 1622™ app will help protect the Great Barrier Reef by enabling sugarcane growers to make better nitrogen fertiliser decisions. WaterWise helps reduce the footprint of high-value crops through sensor-model-data fusion, and LOOC-C will enable farmers to participate profitably in greenhouse gas mitigation and maximise benefits to the land from carbon markets.

Synthetic Biology

This platform has grown to an R&D portfolio supporting a large collaborative community of practice with national and international partners. We have established and are now commissioning a DNA Foundry – a high throughput robotic DNA assembly and organism engineering facility with test and quality control capabilities – and are developing protocols and training programs to help drive the conceptual shift in the community that is required to effectively engage with this scientific paradigm. 

Environomics

We are working at the interface of environmental science and genomics, creating tools to enhance the management of Australia’s natural resources. Our teams have developed new ways to remotely monitor biodiversity in Australia’s marine parks with eDNA, and to determine the age and lifespan of long-lived ocean fish species to enable sustainable harvest. We are also pioneering ways to culture deep-earth microbes using electricity, which will open up a new age of exploration of biochemical products for medicine and industry.

Deep Earth Imaging

Deep Earth Imaging is developing new technologies to secure Australia’s ongoing prosperity from resources (energy, minerals and water). We’re focusing on the advancement of inversion and Earth imaging algorithms in collaboration with the Australian National University and Geoscience Australia through the new Industrial Inversion Laboratory (InLab). Our science employs indirect observations through geophysics allied with inference processes to see what is hidden from view beneath the surface. To more precisely image subsurface rock properties we will help to develop a common framework for inference, inversion and machine learning which will simplify the testing and development of new algorithms.

Active Integrated Matter

Active Integrated Matter brings together scientists and engineers from materials, sensors, robotics, physical processing, informatics and autonomous systems. We’re collaborating to produce impact in smart and personalised food supply, versatile robotics for extreme scenarios, next generation 3-D printing and chemical processing, and future environment security. More than 15 novel technologies or prototypes have been developed, including a new stabilisation and production method for broccoli powder and a stochastic algorithm for food loss mapping. Commercial discussions are underway with potential end users.

Hydrogen Energy Systems

Hydrogen Energy Systems continues to build on the early impacts from its National Hydrogen Roadmap, and is now delivering new science from a range of cross-Business Unit projects. This work, supported by strong collaborations with local and international groups, is laying the foundation for new technologies and industry capabilities supporting a future hydrogen energy value chain, including a new renewable energy export industry for Australia.

Precision Health

In September, we launched the Future of Health report which details what’s needed to keep Australia’s health system efficient, equitable and affordable. This report is now being used to inform policy discussions across the health sector. We have active research projects with international partners such as Nanyang Technological University, A*Star and the Centre for Astrophysics and Computing and have engaged 12 new CSIRO-based Postdoctoral Fellows, with projects focused on extending our current patent portfolio. We have secured an additional $2.2 million in a joint A*Star/Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Innovations in Food for Precision Health program.

Space Technologies

This new platform was launched in November to grow capability and catalyse research targeting opportunities in support of the Australian Space Agency’s goal of tripling the size of the Australian space industry by 2030. The Space Technologies FSP has been in rapid start-up phase, initiating 11 novel projects in February in Earth observation, satellite technologies, space tracking technologies, space biomedicine and off-Earth resource utilisation. These have been supported by industry and research sector collaborators. The program will expand to 18 projects in July 2019–20, incorporating additional new research in space missions, robotics and communications.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

This new FSP, which began detailed planning in December, is targeting artificial intelligence-driven solutions to build a safer and more efficient future for the next generation. We established an advisory and leadership group with representation across the organisation. We prioritised artificial intelligence and machine learning needs and opportunities across CSIRO and held a series of workshops to consolidate organisational priorities into coordinated activities.

Responsible Innovation

Our Responsible Innovation (RI) initiative was established from within a Future Science Platform for application across the FSP program. It is now nationally and internationally recognised as a key presence in this emergent field. We have established a community of practice in Australia through strategic partnerships and collaborative research projects, including work with international agencies on gene drive, and short-course development on RI and digital disruption. Our applied focus on operationalising RI has emerged as a particular and unique advantage for the organisation.

CSIRO Innovation Fund

The CSIRO Innovation Fund, operated by CSIRO subsidiary Main Sequence Ventures, aims to improve the translation of publicly funded research into commercial outcomes and stimulate innovation in Australia. In 2018–19, the Fund focused on finalising the commitment of private sector investment, building the portfolio of investments and engaging with the Australian innovation sector. More than $140 million in private sector investment was secured for the Fund, representing large superannuation funds, international sovereign wealth funds, strategic corporate investors, an Australian university and high-net-worth individuals.

Between September 2017 and June 2019, the Fund has invested almost $60 million in 19 companies. These represent all of the Fund’s priority areas, being health, food and agriculture, software as a service, space, cybersecurity, energy and resources.

In support of the innovation investments, Main Sequence Ventures also drives a Venture on Campus program that includes six key modules. It delivered venture mindset, skills and opportunity, which were custom designed for five Australian universities: University of Technology Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia and Monash University.

Case study: Powering the quest for self-driving cars

Baraja, a start-up based at our Lindfield Collaboration Hub, develops light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems for autonomous vehicles, and demonstrates how our CSIRO Innovation Fund is helping to amplify our role as Australia’s innovation catalyst.

Production of the Baraja engine in the CSIRO laboratories.

Baraja has used mature telecommunications to revolutionise how driverless cars map the environment around them through the Baraja Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR.

Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR connects a wavelength-tuneable laser (engine) to prism-like optics (sensorheads) in a configurable suite. The engine, housing all the delicate optics, is stored within the vehicle, giving it protection and robustness from temperature, shock and vibration. This produces a highly accurate picture of the distance and reflectivity of surrounding objects – the laser can be automatically tuned to change resolution and focal points as required.

The sensorheads, mounted on top of the vehicle, provide up to 360-degree visibility. These are manufactured with off-the-shelf components, due to the LiDAR being built using mature components sourced from the telecommunications and automotive industry supply chains. This results in an already industrialised and scalable system at lower cost.

Baraja’s LiDAR is versatile and able to adapt to changing environments. Baraja has been delivering prototypes of its system to autonomous car manufacturers for the last 12 months and has the opportunity to become the standard for the entire industry.

In January, Baraja announced its successful US $32 million Series A funding round, led by Sequoia China and our CSIRO Innovation Fund, and including repeat investment from Blackbird Ventures. With a strong research and development focus, Baraja will use the funds to invest in prototypes, tools and equipment, and hire staff members. Baraja arrived at our Lindfield site in 2015 with only two staff members. It now employs more than 95 staff members, expected to grow in number to 200 at the end of 2019. The company has offices in China and the United States, and is looking at the European market.

Baraja is a great example of how incubation, investment and collaboration can unlock the potential of a deep technology start-up with a global vision.


Impact from global activities

Our Global Strategy aims to create strategic and high-value global partners to deliver national benefit, and the importance of global partnerships is increasingly evident throughout CSIRO. The level of global engagements and activity across CSIRO has consistently grown; a reflection of the focus on our Global Strategy. These have demonstrated benefits to Australia through four key factors: enhancing our global scientific standing through global partnerships; connecting the domestic innovation system to the global innovation system; attracting foreign investment to Australia; and supporting Australia’s foreign policy agenda.

The benefits accruing to Australia from our international activities are well demonstrated through case studies, with nine studies completed in 2018–19 providing a snapshot of our global engagements. For example, we now have a better capability to support the Tasmanian salmon industry as a result of our experience with a project in Chile. The Sistema Integrado de Manejo para la Acuícultura (SIMA) project increased our global scientific standing in the global aquaculture industry. The breadth, scale and complexity of the issues faced by Chilean aquaculture offered a unique opportunity for our scientific expertise and capability to evolve to a world-class level.

To facilitate further international collaboration with global partners, to address significant scientific issues and enable the research business, we established 26 international Memoranda of Understanding across 19 countries during 2018–19. For example, our Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology in 2018 has enabled Aus4Innovation, a $10 million development assistance program funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This program aims to strengthen the region’s innovation system, connectivity with Australia in opportunities associated with Industry 4.0, and Australian and Vietnamese research and partnerships.

University engagement

We partner with universities to boost innovation and ensure the best available research is used to deliver outcomes for Australia and the world. This year, we engaged with universities through collaborative research and co-publication, student supervision, Cooperative Research Centres and partnering with 30 Australian universities through the ON program.

Cooperative Research Centres

The Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program supports collaborations between researchers, industry and the community to foster high-quality research and development. The Australian Government has funded 225, with 30 CRCs active in 2018–19. We have contributed to more than 150 CRCs over time and participated in 14 during 2018–19.

We also participated in 13 CRC Projects (CRC-Ps) during 2018–19. These are smaller collaborations that operate on project timelines of up to three years and grants of up to $3 million.

2018–19 highlights

We participated in 14 CRCs and 13 CRC-Ps with total cash and in-kind contribution to CRCs and CRC-Ps of $19 million.

  • We became a member of MinEx CRC, which is modelled on the previous Deep Exploration CRC, in which we were a key research participant. Officially launched in late 2018, the $218 million MinEx CRC brings together CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, six universities, all state and territory geological surveys, industry and government. MinEx CRC will tackle the industry’s main issue – the decline in the discovery of major new mineral deposits that are required to deliver a pipeline of mineral resource projects. Its work to improve the effectiveness of drilling, while at the same time collecting data, will drive down the time and cost of mineral discovery and deposit ‘drill-outs’ and bring forward production.
  • In April, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, announced the outcomes of CRC Round 20. We will participate in an additional two CRCs, with funding to start in early 2019–20:
    • Blue Economy CRC: This CRC will bring together national and international expertise in aquaculture to develop innovative and sustainable offshore industries to increase Australian seafood and marine renewable energy production.
    • SmartSat CRC: This CRC will aim to foster the creation of next generation space technologies and make Australia more competitive in the global space economy by supporting the next wave of growth in critical industries including agriculture, transport, logistics, communications and mining.

Case study: Advanced Victorian Manufacturing

The advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Victoria is a network of research, industry and government organisations working together to boost manufacturing in the region. A CSIRO broker was appointed under the CSIRO Precinct Strategy to work with other local R&D providers to find a mutual path for working together in a more coordinated fashion. The broker acted as a neutral agent working across existing collaborations to bring the organisations together into a larger, more cohesive ecosystem. Working together increased the visibility and access to research capability of industry. It also enabled opportunities to access funding from multiple players. For example, the Monash MedTech Facility benefited from a $30 million investment ($10 million each from CSIRO and Monash University to leverage $10 million from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund) to provide a broad range of equipment and technical expertise. Key infrastructure includes a magnetic resonance and position emission tomography (MR-PET) scanner, materials synthesis and processing equipment, and a cell therapies and regenerative medicine platform. This improved research capability helps companies meet the translational issues of the medical technologies industry.

ON program

ON, powered by CSIRO, is Australia’s sci-tech accelerator that helps researchers from all fields of science and technology to discover their impact pathways and then take their research from the lab into the world.

ON conducted three formal programs and associated activities throughout the year, and additionally supported runway and ecosystem services. These programs are designed to support teams from across CSIRO, the university sector and other publicly funded research agencies. We delivered one ON Accelerate program (44 per cent university teams, 56 per cent CSIRO teams) and two ON Prime pre-accelerator programs: Prime5, which was delivered to 156 participants; and Prime6 was delivered to 281 participants.

More than 300 participants were from Australian universities. More than 96 per cent of participant survey respondents from university led teams reported a willingness to recommend ON programs to their colleagues and other prospective participants. This demonstrates the demand for science accelerator programs in the research sector and the proficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of our programs. The program offerings continue to be developed and expanded in response to the needs of Australian researchers.

Since its formation in 2015, ON has supported 398 teams with deep tech ideas, coaching more than 1,440 people from 31 universities, five publicly funded research agencies, five medical research institutions and CSIRO. There have been 43 new companies formed, 14 of which have raised more than $36 million in investment capital. ON program participants have (post program) attracted more than $29.2 million in commercial grants.

Case study: RapidAIM

RapidAIM was founded by CSIRO researchers, Dr Nancy Schellhorn, Darren Moore and Laura Jones.

ON Executive Manager, David Burt and Dr Nancy Schellhorn.

Its technology offers pest detection and monitoring through a series of smart sensor networks, sending data to farmers in real time on the presence of fruit flies on crops. Fruit flies cost Australia more than $300 million every year – the RapidAIM solution will have an enormous impact on agricultural markets here and overseas.

In November, Dr Schellhorn attended an event at Parliament House to unveil her new start-up, announcing an injection of $1.25 million funding from the CSIRO Innovation Fund, managed by Main Sequence Ventures.

With the help of CSIRO and ON mentors, the team has experimented in Silicon Valley, held successful field trials, gained real customers with product sales, and opened new premises in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

RapidAIM aims to remain an Australian-made and operated company as the team works to expand their product and explore new markets. Dr Schellhorn, who has worked for CSIRO for 14 years, said her involvement in ON helped shift her mindset.

“We entered the ON program two years ago thinking that we might have an interesting piece of technology,” Dr Schellhorn said. “By the time we exited the program 13 weeks later we had a pathway to market.”

Customer and user satisfaction

Creating deeper, more innovative relationships with our customers help us to focus on delivering science that solves the biggest challenges facing our nation.

During 2018–19, we again used the industry benchmark Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology as a measure of customer satisfaction. The NPS for 2018–19 was +45, based on a 10 per cent larger sample of customer responses. This shows a consistent upward trend in customer advocacy – our NPS in 2017–18 was +40 and +34 in 2016–17.

We continue to provide excellent scientific services to our customers, whose overall satisfaction with our price, quality and service (at 73 per cent favourable) has increased over the last four years. They like the way they are treated (89 per cent), that we value their opinion (85 per cent) and that we have their best interests at heart (81 per cent). More customers noted that our research is good value for money and an effective investment for them. Customers are experiencing the positive outcomes of our customer-focused initiatives in recent years: our internal Customer Experience Program training, strategic account management, focused business development, commercialisation pathways, targeted market analysis, and insights and improved systems.

Customers rate our responsiveness higher than in previous years, while their feedback also indicates room for further improvement in the timeliness of project delivery. Although we have become more commercially realistic over the last few years, we can still improve our communication, resourcing and complexity of contracting processes.

In response to this feedback, we conducted a review of our website’s business section to clearly articulate our services to industry no matter where they are in their innovation efforts – from strategic planning to commercialisation. Our new Commercialisation Marketplace helps customers explore our pipeline of investment and partnership opportunities as well as licensing options to catalyse innovation and create competitive advantage. It ensures we are more transparent with our research, intellectual property, technology and capabilities.

In 2018–19, we engaged with 3,300 customers, generating $433 million of revenue from research, consultancy and testing services, and earning more than $45 million in licence, equity and royalty revenue from applied technology. We entered into more than 1,800 new commercial agreements totalling $708 million. The average contract value was more than 80 per cent higher than the previous six-year average. Our top 10 contracts in 2018–19 were valued at $191 million, representing 27 per cent of the total of all commercial contracts signed this year.

Government partnerships

In 2018–19, we worked with 207 customers from all levels of Australian government, federal, state and local, representing $175 million of scientific engagement. One example is working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to develop guidance on the regulation of software as medical device and cyber security for medical devices.

Strategic agreement with South Australian Government

In May, we signed a strategic agreement with the South Australian government to develop capabilities in key sectors such as space, defence, health, energy and resources. Building on this partnership, we will expand our local innovation efforts through investments aimed at improving and up-scaling facilities as well as developing new ones. This will encourage collaboration with the South Australian research sector including universities, research institutes, industry and state government agencies. The agreement will help to create new industries and jobs aligned with the state’s agenda of impacting local and national economic growth.

Blue Economy

The Blue Economy focuses on working with a range of industry and government partners for the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. In the recently announced Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), we are a core partner through our Oceans and Atmosphere and Energy Business Units. This is a $329 million 10-year research collaboration between 45 national and international partners from industry, research and government, underpinned by a $70 million cash investment from the Federal Government. The CRC seeks to create integrated seafood and energy production systems in the offshore environment.

Bureau of Meteorology

CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have successfully collaborated for more than 40 years, delivering scientific impact of mutual and national benefit. In 2018, we signed a new relationship agreement to increase the strategic and national benefit from our collaborative endeavours. One of the key projects, BLUELink, has been running since 2002 in conjunction with Defence through the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). It is proposed this be extended an additional six years, bringing the lifetime value of the project to $13 million to ensure RAN can take advantage of the improved performance of global and regional ocean models and forecast services, and maintain its world-class position.

Industry partnerships

Applying our research directly to industry is central to our purpose. In 2018–19, we worked with more than 3,300 customers including 377 Australian large corporates, 375 international corporates and more than 950 small and medium-sized enterprises.

2018–19 highlights

front cover of CSIRO's Australian National Outlook 2019

The Australian National Outlook 2019

Australian National Outlook: In June, we released the Australian National Outlook 2019 in partnership with the National Australia Bank and more than 20 non-government organisations. This second iteration explores how Australia can have a future with prosperous and globally competitive industries.

Fortescue: In November, we partnered with Fortescue to determine whether our metal membrane technology can be developed on a commercial scale to meet the growing global demand for clean hydrogen fuel.

Australian Plant Proteins Pty Ltd: After we helped Australian Plant Proteins improve its manufacturing process of extracting protein from faba beans, Australian Plant Proteins invested in a $20 million facility, which will create 20 jobs and produce more than 2,500 tonnes of protein powder each year. A further $15 million is planned for the facility, which will double its annual production by 2021 and create additional jobs.

SME Connect

Another way we support collaboration between industry and research institutions is through our SME Connect programs, designed to bring together small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with Australia’s best researchers and facilities. Our SME Connect team works with SMEs across Australia to support and enable innovation through funding, expertise and resources. SME Connect delivers three programs; Innovation Connections, funded by the Australian Government as an element of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Entrepreneurs’ Program; STEM+ Business Fellowship program, funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund; and CSIRO Kick-Start. In 2018–19, SME Connect facilitated 222 research projects nationally for 202 companies, injecting more than $24 million into the research and development of these projects. Of these projects, 189 SMEs were delivered by 32 Australian research organisations, including 22 universities and CSIRO, and 33 were grants for recent graduates to work on in-house research projects for SMEs.

Case study: Kick-Start

The CSIRO Food and Innovation Centre, Werribee, where the faba bean project work was undertaken.

Kick-Start is one of three programs offered through SME Connect. It helps Australian start-ups and SMEs access dollar-matched funding for research, development, or testing activities with CSIRO. This program forms part of our strategic commitment to deepen our direct support for Australian technology start-ups and SMEs in areas of national growth priorities.

In 2017–18, Australian Plant Proteins Pty Ltd approached us for help to improve its manufacturing process that produces a plant-based protein powder using faba beans. As a start-up, the company required financial support and expertise to help develop its product from its testing phase to commercial production.

Working with us over several trials the company was able to create a more advanced protein extraction method, which has increased the protein level in the final faba bean powder to 80 per cent. Under our guidance, the company was also able to make its manufacturing process more efficient, reducing the time and resources needed to produce the protein powder.

The success of this research phase has seen Australian Plant Proteins Pty Ltd invest in a $20 million facility, which will be built in Horsham, Victoria.

The facility, which is expected to be operational in the first half of 2020, will create 20 jobs and produce 2,500 tonnes of protein powder each year.

A further $15 million investment is planned for this facility, doubling its annual production to 5,000 tonnes by early 2021. This will create a further 15 jobs to support the increased production.

Significant demand for plant-based protein powders already exists in overseas markets. As a product that is virtually odourless, colourless and neutral in taste, it can be used across a range of food categories, including snack food, pasta and breakfast cereals, and as a meal replacement. As a result, the protein powder produced at this facility has the potential to create new opportunities for the Australian agricultural industry.

Industry roadmaps

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

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

We have collaborated with all six IGCs – Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, Food Innovation Australia Limited, MTPConnect, METS Ignited, National Energy Resources Australia and AustCyber – as well as across government and industry to understand emerging industry opportunities and associated enabling science and technology. These efforts have produced Industry Roadmaps for each IGC industry, with the final roadmap for Cyber Security delivered during 2018–19. We also delivered the Space Industry Roadmap in collaboration with the Australian Space Agency to drive opportunities for growth in the Australian space ecosystem; the National Hydrogen Roadmap which provides a blueprint for the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia; and produced a vision and set of enabling priorities for Australia’s health sector through the Future of Health report with inputs from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Department of Health.

Case study: Space, it's getting bigger

A national spotlight was shone on the space sector this year with the creation of the Australian Space Agency, which has been tasked with growing the local industry three-fold by 2030. We are a key partner to the new agency and this year we built on our 75 years in the sector with several new initiatives.

Our Parkes radio telescope was called on by NASA to support the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex to track Voyager 2 as it entered interstellar space.

In September, we launched our Space Industry Roadmap that sets out three main pathways for unlocking future growth across Australian industry in space-derived services, space object tracking and space exploration and use. Our roadmap informed the Australian Space Agency’s strategic direction and its priority areas highlighted in the Civil Space Decadal Plan 2018–28.

In November, we announced a $16 million investment into breakthrough innovation via a new Space Technology Future Science Platform. This will focus on building world-leading capability and driving research within CSIRO to support the strategic priorities identified by the Australian Space Agency and the opportunity areas detailed in our Space Industry Roadmap.

Our industry engagement in the sector continued to deepen. We hosted two ‘Space 2.0’ workshops that connected SMEs and start-ups, the research sector, end-users and governments, and we celebrated our 30-year partnership with Boeing by announcing 20 new projects – including four space-related projects – demonstrating our shared commitment to solving the greatest challenges.

Our collaboration with the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) continued through our role managing the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex on its behalf, tracking and communicating with more than 30 missions exploring the solar system. Our work in this area was further enhanced by a new contract to provide operational support from June 2019 for the European Space Agency’s ground station near New Norcia in Western Australia.

We extended our civilian satellite capability by securing access to one of the world’s most sophisticated high-performance satellites – NovaSAR-1 – which we’ll operate as a national facility, giving Australian scientists direct control of environmental data collection in our region. Launched from India in September, the satellite is undergoing commissioning and is expected to be operational in the second half of 2019.

Furthering our work in observing Earth from above is a new pilot CubeSat project known as CSIROSat-1. Supported by a grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, and built in collaboration with Adelaide-based SME Inovor Technologies, this miniature satellite is expected to be launched into low Earth orbit from the International Space Station by mid-2020.

Public perception of CSIRO

We are well-known and trusted by the Australian community. Each year, we assess our reputation through external community and business surveys, and an internal staff survey. The results provide us with insights to guide our communication and engagement activities to strengthen our role as Australia’s national science agency.

Public awareness of CSIRO remains high at 87 per cent, with 64 per cent of Australians perceiving us positively, consistent with previous years. The awareness of the ability to engage with us, as derived from a survey of Australian business, has remained stable from 2018 at 35 per cent, while the knowledge by businesses of what we do has increased to 50 per cent from 45 per cent in 2018.

Our Corporate Affairs Strategy continues to strengthen our awareness and reputation by creating more relevant and accessible opportunities to engage our community and customers. The launch of our online Commercialisation Marketplace provided a central, searchable database of opportunities available to commercialise CSIRO technology and capabilities, enhancing our reputation as being open and ready for business.

Our campaigns to promote innovation breakthroughs made international headlines: campaigns on super-bug-fighting platypus milk, a crease-free cotton and smart ear tags for livestock reached a combined media audience of 22 million.

  1. CSIRO’s Corporate Plan.
  2. CSIRO’s Portfolio Budget Statement .
  3. Each case study is assessed within the context of a common framework, as outlined in the CSIRO Impact Evaluation Guide.
  4. Each case study is published, once completed and reviewed to exclude confidential or commercial details. See: Latest-impact-case-studies.
  5. Agriculture overview: December quarter 2018 .
  6. Grains, oilseeds and pulses .
  7. Benchmarking - the key to improving productivity and WUE .
  8. The CSIRO SBT team received the 2018 CSIRO Medal for Impact from Science and the 2018 Sir Ian McLennan Achievement for Industry Award.

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