The Board of CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has announced Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, will complete his third and final term in June 2023. Dr Marshall will be CSIRO’s longest serving Chief Executive in half a century.
In the past eight years, under Dr Marshall’s leadership, CSIRO renewed focus on its unique purpose to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.
Kathryn Fagg, Chair of the CSIRO Board, commended Dr Marshall’s achievements. “Dr Marshall has led CSIRO to deliver significant scientific breakthroughs, translate its research into real world solutions and deliver a staggering benefit for our nation – eight times the investment.”
“Today’s CSIRO is the most connected research organisation in Australia, collaborating with every university and helping thousands of small and large industry partners to bring science to the centre of creating a better future.”
Commenting on his leadership at CSIRO, Dr Marshall thanked the 5,672 people from CSIRO who bring their best every day for the nation.
“It is a rare privilege to work with people so driven to achieve for the benefit of a nation and its people. Over the past eight years, together we have reignited Australia’s ambition to solve our greatest challenges with science.
”I am honoured to know how much has been delivered by our national science agency and how proud every Australian can be of its achievements.”
Solutions from science
Shortly after joining the organisation, Dr Marshall introduced Strategy 2020 to focus CSIRO on continued science excellence but aiming to amplify the delivery of solutions from science – to take science from the bench into the hands of the community. Innovations like Future Feed – a feed additive derived from seaweed to lower emissions from cattle; the Hydrogen cracker to catalyse a $50B Australian Hydrogen energy industry, Colvera - a highly sensitive and specific blood-based test for the recurrence of colorectal cancer and developing omega-3 oils, proteins and bioactives from marine microorganisms.
Science for a big future
Paving the way for greater future science for national benefit Dr Marshall created “Future Science Platforms” with $425m invested in Horizon 3 research since 2016 – cutting-edge, transformative future science. This includes 20 areas of promising new science and engineering. Examples: quantum technology, immune resilience, permanent carbon locking, advanced engineering biology.
New invention and growing small business
Dr Marshall transformed CSIRO’s approach to solving Australia’s greatest challenges, identifying six National Challenges and enabling the organisation to better work across science disciplines. New research areas were also established at scale, making CSIRO home to Australia’s largest data science group, and its first Health group that enabled CSIRO’s proactive response to COVID-19.
Supporting Australian innovation, Dr Marshall oversaw the creation of ON, the CSIRO incubator program to help research-driven start-ups get off the ground. Since formation in 2015, ON has supported 3,314 researchers from 52 Australian research organisations, and created 510 new jobs and 66 companies, which have raised $114.6m in investment capital and $115.8m in commercialisation grants.
Drawing on his experience founding companies to propel innovation, Dr Marshall led the creation of the CSIRO Innovation Fund – Main Sequence Ventures. The Fund was created to help support translating Australian research into new companies to solve big challenges. Since 2017, the CSIRO Innovation Fund, Main Sequence, has helped to build 42 deep technology companies. All in all, Strategy 2020 has helped create or transform hundreds of companies, creating billions of new economic value and thousands of jobs for Australians.
On a mission for Australia
In August 2020 Dr Marshall led CSIRO to establish Missions - large research programs to tackle big, multi-faceted problems by bringing together research agencies, universities, industry, government and community with outcomes that lead to positive benefit, new jobs and economic growth. Missions launched include Hydrogen, Future Protein, Drought Resilience, Trusted AgriFood Exports, Ending Plastic Waste, Towards Net Zero.
Bushfires, COVID and floods
The 2019/20 bushfire season drew on 70 years of bushfire research from CSIRO as the nation was devastated by its impact. Dr Marshall, with a focus on building national labs infrastructure for Australian research, introduced a new national research lab. The National Bushfire Behaviour Research Laboratory brings together partners across industry, research and government to harness the latest science and technology in the face of more frequent and more severe bushfire seasons.
CSIRO launched the Australian Centre for Diseases Preparedness, and engaged in a broad range of activities with government and industry in response to COVID-19, including preclinical testing of potential vaccines, understanding the virus and its mutations, monitoring wastewater, supporting manufacturing of surgical masks, and analysing and sharing trends in data and the impact on health services. Under Dr Marshall’s leadership the CSIRO National Vaccine and Therapeutics Lab will bolster Australia's ability to produce vaccines and drug treatments onshore. The new $23.1 million national lab will see CSIRO researchers turn vaccine and drug candidates into products manufactured in large quantities for clinical trials.
While floods are part of Australia's natural ecology, they can cause significant damage to infrastructure and loss of life. CSIRO is on the ground in the Northern Rivers – meeting with flood-affected communities from seven LGA’s - part of a flood mitigation study, which will help the government to prioritise projects in at-risk areas to protect Australians.
From inspiring school children with physics experiments, pulling yet another piece of amazing science from his pocket, creating start-ups from science to fiercely defending the integrity and trust of the organisation - Dr Marshall has reminded all of us that science has the power to solve seemingly impossible challenges and create a better future for all Australians.