An evening with David Thodey, Chairman of the CSIRO Board

An evening with David Thodey, Chairman of the CSIRO Board

Earlier this month David Thodey, Chairman of the CSIRO Board, spoke at a Crescent Institute event titled ‘CSIRO – The silent shapers of our future, or mere scientists?’

The event was well attended, with audience members ranging from clinical scientists to management consultants, all curious to hear what Mr Thodey had to say on CSIRO’s true role in Australia – as a federal government agency, its primary purpose is to innovate for today and tomorrow, by using science and research to solve issues and make a difference to industry, people and the planet.

Mr Thodey certainly didn’t disappoint his audience. He was a captivating speaker and very humble, especially given his impressive resume, which includes CEO of Telstra from 2009 to 2015, a 22-year career with IBM including CEO of IBM Australia/New Zealand, and a string of previous board memberships.

Mr Thodey spoke of the importance of innovation in Australia, with a central focus on three areas: research, collaboration between industry and research, and commercialisation.

Did you know that Australia ranks third in the world for government and university researchers as a share of population, and eighth for top academic citations? Impressive right! Unfortunately, there is a flip side.

While Australia ranks high for research, it ranks in the bottom half for business researchers and patent applications, and last for high growth firms. What does this mean? As Mr Thodey explained, while we’re great at knowledge creation, we stumble in conversion of that great research to real-world outcomes that deliver benefits for all Australians and the rest of the world.

And it doesn’t stop there. Australia lags badly in commercialisation of truly innovative research, business spending on research and development, and collaboration between business and industry. This is not where we want to be.

The solution? Mr Thodey spoke of better collaboration between business and research as key – and he assured us that it is CSIRO’s mission to help facilitate this, through initiatives such as the ON Program – an initiative we are in fact lucky to work with here at Herd MSL.

The ON Program is Australia’s national science and technology accelerator which aims to tackle the issues of collaboration and commercialisation head on. It brings together researchers and entrepreneurs to accelerate big ideas in science and technology, with an opportunity to showcase these ideas directly to industry, potential investors and stakeholders.

To move Australia’s innovation dial, CSIRO must and will remain essential to connecting business and research through such initiatives, especially if Australia is to play a role in solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Thank you to Mr Thodey and the Crescent Institute for such an insightful and enjoyable evening!

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