Speech given at the Australian Israel Chamber of Commerce by CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the Traditional Owners of the land that we are on today, and pay my respect to their Elders past and present.

I'd also like to thank our hosts today, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, and our two event sponsors, PwC and Celestino.

I often like to tell people that CSIRO can be Australia's Intel, and by that I mean CSIRO's deep science research can underpin the kind of transformation that Intel led in Silicon Valley when they invented the silicon chip.

But what people don't often know is that Intel was *this close* to building its first fabrication plants outside of the US, right here in Australia.

But instead, they decided to set up in Israel, forming the cornerstone of the Israeli tech revolution. And we don't begrudge Israel that, but we are fiercely keen on catching back up. More on that later.

It's also timely to acknowledge PwC as we're about to head into National Science Week next week, and PwC are one of our proud SMiS partners. The SMiS program stands for Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools, and we buddy up primary school teachers with real life STEM professionals to give their students a taste of science in the real world.

PwC supports the SMiS program by encouraging employees working in a STEM field to participate in the program and to support the development of STEM learning within their community.

These kind of partnerships mean more than just money – though of course, that's important too! – because it means our students can talk to living, breathing, passionate, practising scientists and engineers and technologists in real life. And setting those kind of examples early on is so important for inspiring our future leaders to engage with science.

And as you all shivered your way down George Street to be here today, you must have all thought, there has to be a better way to design a city. Fair enough too – after all, the First Fleet weren't city planners!

But that does give me an opportunity to acknowledge a recent project between CSIRO and Celestino, the launch of our first operational Urban Living Lab at the Sydney Science Park in western Sydney.

It's a place where researchers, industry, government and communities can get together and create, design and test innovative urban development concepts, moving beyond the lab into the real world.

We're investigating urban greening, energy efficiency, demands for water, community well-being and health and the impacts of technological advancements, all in a real-life community.

This is the kind of partnership that CSIRO really values, because it takes our benchtop invention out into innovative applications, and delivers benefit to people in every part of the community.

So a big thank you to all our wonderful partners today.

I've been back in Australia and leading the CSIRO for two and a half years now, and I've engaged with a lot of very passionate people over our Strategy 2020, because I believe CSIRO's purpose is to solve Australia's biggest national challenges by delivering solutions from science in deep partnership with Australian industry.

Our Strategy 2020 aims to tackle the single biggest missed opportunity in Australia: the huge gap between our world class research and business. Our best ideas are being exported overseas and the economic value and returns being realised there, without any benefits flowing back to Australia.

I came back to Australia after 26 years commercialising science in Silicon Valley. I founded businesses based on innovations in science – back then, 'tech' meant science because there was no internet! – and later I co-founded a Venture Capital firm supporting Australian scientific innovation to scale-up into successful businesses. I always wanted to come back to Australia and address that gap, and for me, CSIRO was the place it needed to happen.

CSIRO has a 100 year history of working closely with industry. We developed cotton that would grow in our tough climate, and it's now internationally market-leading. We invented ways to weave wool to strengthen the industries that earned us a reputation for thriving on the sheep's back. We invented Aerogard, plastic banknotes, and WiFi – all pretty crucial to a harmonious family camping trip, I'd suggest.

Today we work across areas as diverse as energy, agriculture, environment, manufacturing, minerals, climate science, strategic forecasting, data and space, to name just a few.

So the science capability, the partnerships, and the mission were all there, but part of the puzzle was missing to compete on the world stage.

Australia needs an Innovation Catalyst. A change in thinking for turning more of our world class research into new value for Australia. That's the goal of Strategy 2020. We refocused our work on four things:

  • Putting our Customers First – better defining who our customers are, what they want, and how we deliver real value.
  • Working better with our research peers to form a national Collaboration Hub, bringing the best minds together to create global top 0.1 per cent capability, instead of competing against each other for a finite pie of R&D budget. It's too hard for industry to engage the science community and we need to make it easier in this time of global disruption.
  • Breakthrough Innovation – deliver solutions not just science.
  • Global Outlook for National Benefit, to be guided by a global market vision, learning from other countries to make the opportunities of our science go further, benefit more people and deliver more returns to Australia.

Soon after we launched our Strategy 2020, the federal government announced their National Innovation and Science Agenda, which expanded supported Strategy 2020 with $30million:

  • We brought together the best digital minds in the country to form Data61, our new digital and data Business Unit.
  • We formed the country's only science-technology accelerator, called ON. It takes our best science ideas from benchtop to beta, putting them through a rigorous market-ready program. It's open not just to CSIRO science, but all universities and publicly-funded research organisations.
  • And third, our new Venture Capital Fund, Main Sequence Ventures, is nearly ready to make its first investment, supporting some of Australia's greatest innovations to get from beta to buyer.

The other new piece of work we brought in with our Strategy 2020 was to update our understanding of the "wicked challenges" Australia is facing, and use science to get ahead of them with solutions. We identified six Market Vision challenges:

  • food security and quality
  • clean energy and resources
  • health and wellbeing
  • resilient and valuable environments
  • innovative industries.

A secure Australia and region.

  • The unifying theme is shifting from commodities to unique – that's the heart of innovation after all.
  • e.g. – from titanium mineral sands into unique ink (sands and heel)
  • e.g. – innovation happens best at the intersections – this (blue glove) came from cross-disciplinary teams across three of our Business Units
  • e.g. – keep it simple, this (fisheries tool) takes exact replica samples 30x faster, then DNA to correlate breeding data from parents offspring… illegal fishing.

As a first step towards this, you may have seen our series of Industry Roadmaps, developed in deep collaboration with Industry Growth Centres and Industry partners. These aim to turn obstacles into opportunity for Australia's five key growth sectors:

  • Advanced Manufacturing, launched November 2016
  • Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals (MTP), launched April 2017
  • Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS), launched May 2017
  • Food and Agribusiness, launched last week (July 17, 2017)
  • And Oil and Gas, coming next month (August 2017).

So how are we tracking? Like any good business we introduced a new set of KPIs with our new strategy, and they're all showing good early signs.

  • Students – up 30 per cent great indicator of deeper collaboration across sector.
  • Our active licences – measure of how relevant our science is to customers – are up 25 per cent.
  • Our global revenue – the proportion of our funding that comes from international partners – is up 30 per cent.
  • Our Net Promoter Score (NPS) is up at +11.
  • And earlier this year we announced our US office in the Valley, driving deeper collaboration when the US most needs it, and leveraging their unique vision of the future to guide ours.

But those are just numbers, I could have chosen any numbers to demonstrate our Strategy 2020 is working. Let me do better, let me tell you about the science that is making a difference and set to start realising some of those benefits for Australia.

I mentioned our ON accelerator earlier, taking Australia's best science from CSIRO and our universities, from benchtop to beta. Customer tested and investment ready. Here are the highlights from the 135 research teams and more than 500 people we've supported so far:

Six new companies formed:

  • Modular photonics – fibre optic compatible technology that significantly increases data transmission capacity. We are already entering the era of Big Data, and it's only going to get bigger and more unwieldy from here.
  • Coviu – an online consulting platform to enable professionals to deliver their services anywhere around the world. From metropolitan doctors connecting with patients in remote regions, through to international specialists able to cross borders and deliver personalised services, this has a huge potential market.
  • Silentium – new passive radar technology that will allow our defence force to use radar without advertising their presence. This product came from a partnership with DSTO and our ON program.
  • Radvet – a skin cancer treatment for animals. Now man's best friend can have the same level of sensitive care as man himself.
  • Dental AR – a dentistry training and support technology using augmented reality. As demand for specialist services outstrips teaching capacity, tools like this create more customised learning opportunities for tomorrow's professionals.
  • Life Whisperer – provides Artificial Intelligence-driven decision support for non-invasive image analysis to improve embryo selection for IVF. A booming industry with rapidly accelerating scientific advances in one of the most sensitive and personal times of life.

Two exits:

  • Cardihab – an app to support rehabilitation from heart conditions in your own home.
  • ePat – facial recognition technology for non-verbal patients to communicate when they're in pain.

Of the 135 teams that have been through different ON programs, only 48 are from CSIRO, the rest are our partners in the research ecosystem, including universities, government departments, and small start-ups being supported through government programs.

That's incredibly important to CSIRO's role as Australia's Innovation Catalyst – the place where all great research can be translated into benefit.

Our mission is to use the power of science to solve Australia's biggest challenges, but we can't do it alone.

I've already mentioned the brilliant partnerships we have with our hosts today, PwC and Celestino, but if you're sitting there wondering, how can I get more bang for my taxpayer buck with CSIRO, let me make a few suggestions.

Have a look at our Industry Roadmaps. Is there an untapped opportunity we can work on together? How robust are your own forecasts and insights? Could we add a little more science to your strategy?

Did some of those ON projects catch your interest? I see a few of our colleagues from the University sector here today – have your students been through ON yet? These products graduate from ON as investment-ready propositions, and there will be another cohort graduating soon. There are some incredible opportunities to get in early and invest in these.

How about corporate citizenship? We are always looking for more partners to give our students and leaders of tomorrow better and more immersive experience with science. Can your STEM professionals volunteer with our SMiS program? Or perhaps a model like the BHP Billiton Science Awards, delivered with CSIRO, is more your style? There is nothing like seeing the wonder in our kids' eyes when they discover how the world around them works.

And of course, our century-old model of partnerships that bring our science to your problems is still delivering outstanding results and value for investment to our customers. Our scientists will follow you out into the paddock, down into the production line, deep into your operating systems, or anywhere else you have a problem, and we'll turn some of Australia's sharpest minds to the task.

So over to you, I'd like to hear how we can help with your burning challenge.

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