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16 November 2021 Speech

Thank you Mel and thank you to Google for hosting us today.

I’d also like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands we’re on today, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.

I first met Larry Page and Sergey Brin 30 years ago at Stanford. My first company went public the same year they founded Google, and our two companies are still next to each other in Mountain View California.  

What a profound impact science-led innovation has had on that small town, creating millionaires who go on to found more companies worth billions that employ thousands of people.

Imagine if we could do that here in Sydney? 

Australia is at a pivotal point and facing profound challenges as a nation, seeking to build back better after the pandemic, and seize opportunities to lead on the world stage.

Google’s investment in Australian science will supercharge our emerging innovation ecosystem, which is passionate and world-class, but still small and fragmented, hindering our national delivery of real solutions from science. 

Innovation ecosystems form around cornerstone companies – in Silicon Valley and Israel it was Intel. I came back to Australia to run CSIRO because I think it’s the cornerstone company to catalyse Australian innovation in science. 

As the national science agency, CSIRO solves the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology – but we don’t do it on our own. No matter how brilliant the science, it takes a company to make it real.

That’s why we are so excited to be announcing our five-year, multi-million dollar partnership with Google today.

We’re both focussed on using science and technology to change the rules of the game, and by working with Australia’s national science agency, we can deliver the seemingly impossible trifecta of sustainable and societal benefit at the same time as profits. 

This isn’t the first time CSIRO and Google have worked together. We’ve collaborated on seemingly impossible challenges like stopping the mosquito plague in Malaria and Zika infested areas, using science – so imagine what other seemingly impossible problems we could tackle by putting our heads together.

This year CSIRO has launched four missions: growing Australia’s hydrogen industry; strengthening our agrifood exports; expanding the protein market; and building resilience to drought across our farms.

These missions will create jobs and fuel economic growth, with more in development to end plastic waste, overcome antimicrobial resistance, and secure supply of the critical energy metals that will underpin net zero technologies.

We look forward to standing with Google to launch more of these bold missions.

CSIRO’s science partnered with Google’s tech can make great things happen – like our current program using AI to combat the invasive Crown-of-Thorns starfish devastating the Great Barrier Reef.

AI could contribute $20 trillion to the global economy in this decade, but Australia must choose carefully where we will focus. 

Both CSIRO and Google have significant strengths in AI, but it will take a network of partners across Australia to turn that expertise into real solutions, focused on the markets where Australia can win – from farming to manufacturing to environmental management. Neither CSIRO nor Google can do this alone.

The world’s best innovation systems have not sprung up overnight nor have they appeared spontaneously out of thin air. 

The cornerstone companies created the foundation, then their success planted seeds around them through investment and partnerships and networks that grew more and more innovative companies, until innovation became the driver of economic growth. 

Australia’s science is global top 10, when we kickstart our commercialisation engine to turn that science into real solutions for real customers, then we can drive our next wave of prosperity.

The seeds we plant today will inspire our next generation of great minds to grow here. Our success will attract many more partners to join with us to help grow a better future for all Australians.

That’s what today is all about.


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