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19 April 2018 Speech

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.


Thank you Steve for the introduction, and thank you all for being here this evening for an event that has quickly become one of the major highlights of the CSIRO – and indeed Australian innovation – calendar.

Tonight we're going to hear from ten teams who have been through an intensely personal and challenging journey, and I'd be willing to bet that if we filmed it, we would have given My Kitchen Rules and Married at First Sight a run for their ratings dollar.

They've each put their faith into an idea they're passionate about, subjected it to forensic analysis by a panel of experts, shared it with a group of strangers, and now they're exposing it to the ultimate ratings test: pitching it to the investment community.

But while much of reality TV today is designed to pit contestants against each other, tonight we're celebrating the power of partnerships, and the criticality of collaboration.

Each of these teams has worked with mentors, industry leaders, customers, investors, researchers and a host of other experts to hone their products. The depth and breadth of elements they've considered goes to demonstrate that there's no substitute for diversity in the innovation process.

But – as many of the contestants on reality TV will tell you – you can have all the passion in the world, but if no one can connect you with the right people, you'll be baking in your own kitchen or singing in the shower for the rest of your life.

That's where CSIRO takes great joy in being a bridge between Australia's many talented people and industries.


Today, I take particular joy in announcing a real milestone moment for Australia's innovation future – and more specifically, the critical role we play at CSIRO as Australia's innovation catalyst, bridging all parts of the innovation ecosystem together to drive our national performance.

This week, an ON graduate from our first cohort was successful in picking up a $1 million investment from the CSIRO Innovation Fund, managed by Main Sequence Ventures.

Coviu brings easy digital consultations to rural and regional Australians. The cloud-based healthcare experience makes augmented consultations with a clinician possible online with easy, one-click video communications combined with intelligent diagnostic and workflow tools.

It was developed from brilliant Australian science, incubated in CSIRO's Data61, accelerated through the ON program powered by CSIRO, and will now grow its impact with CSIRO Innovation Fund investment.

Almost none of those steps would have been possible just two years ago, before the Australian Government's National Innovation and Science Agenda, or NISA, expanded the role of CSIRO in critical ways, creating Data61, the Innovation Fund, and of course, the ON program that brought us all here tonight.

The NISA initiatives recognise the natural role CSIRO plays as the bridge between players in the innovation system. We're the most collaborative research organisation in the country. We work with all 40+ universities, with every major Australian industry, with businesses from Fortune 500 to SMEs to start-ups, and with just about every government department.

The NISA initiatives also follow the compelling vision we laid out in CSIRO's Strategy 2020. We're now halfway through our Strategy period, and today is further evidence of its success.

  • It created of Data61, bringing the power of digital through everything that CSIRO does.
  • And it realigned our teams inside CSIRO to create a unique health group, which contributed to another ON graduate, Cardihab, which has also spun out and at last count had raised $1.4 million in capital.

So it's a great week for our Strategy 2020, a great week for NISA, and clearly an excellent week for Coviu! But tonight we're here to celebrate where a lot of the hard work is done, in the powerhouse of ON.

And ON is not just a successful program for Australia, it competes on the world stage.

Steve mentioned more than 200 teams have been through the ON accelerator or one of its satellite programs, representing more than 30 research institutions across the country. About 30 teams have gone through our full, intensive ON accelerator, going on to receive $4.7 million in research commercialisation grants. Of that 30, seven have formed companies, raising $9.9 million investment.

By international comparison, the National Science Foundation's I-Corps program averaged 500 people going through the program each year in its first years, generating 60 start-ups, but only raising $5 million in capital.

That's 60 teams raising half the amount of only seven ON teams – and in the smaller Australian investment market. Part of this success is because we built ON to be a lot tougher than I-Corps – it's more focused and aligns our funnel of innovation more closely to the venture capital funnel.

CSIRO's Strategy 2020 is to play the role of Australia's innovation catalyst, because we know that if a country with a population our size is going to be globally competitive, we have to take a Team Australia approach.

ON brings together all elements of Australia's growing innovation ecosystem and taps into one more advantage we have – our diversity.

To return to my reality TV metaphor, if there's one lesson we can take from the popularity of reality TV, it's that when the networks bring together a cast of dramatically different personalities, experiences and backgrounds, that's when sparks fly.

Tonight we have an incredibly talented, passionate and diverse cast waiting in the wings, each having played a different role in bringing their one-act plays to life. From wicked challenge to dramatic solution, I invite you to sit back and enjoy the best reality programming you'll find.

And when the applause is over and the lights are up, come and talk to us, because we're casting for the next season, and you won't want to miss out on sharing in these casting credits.

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