CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall has called on Australia’s scientists to focus on solutions and to use science to navigate the “great market road maps” in order to drive and prioritise investments.
Opening the D61+ Live conference in Melbourne, Marshall said CSIRO in its earlier years had reinvented cotton and created soft optic lenses to make them more usable and drive new markets. He said this work was ongoing and it was this type of thinking CSIRO was applying to spur greater collaboration and commercialisation.
Marshall cited efforts such as the MTP Connect, the medical devices and pharmaceutical growth network and associated 10-year plan as an example of harnessing science to drive and plot collaborative roadmaps in a particular sector.“We all know shift happens,” said Marshall.
He said this was different to the past where CSIRO built science road maps only.
Marshall said CSIRO was looking at how to exploit Australia’s vast mineral sand resources to use them for “ink” for 3D printers. He said the challenge in data was similarly how to transform it from being a ubiquitous commodity to a unique product that gives insight.
“We all know shift happens,” said Marshall. “Sometimes shift hits the fan. When that happens we can hide in fear. When it hits the fan I recommend we duck, but we are not hiding in fear. We can also look for someone to blame and we see that a lot in politics. Or we can stare the challenge in the face and invent a way around it.”
He said CSIRO’S role was to see the challenges before they hit us and invent the science and technology to go around them so they don’t impact us — to try to turn the challenge into an opportunity.
Marshall said Data61’s purpose is to navigate Australia through a profound and new threat.
“I call it disintermediation,” said Marshall. “There are many words for it, but to me disintermediation describes the breaking of the value chain all the way from producer to consumer of the product and many places in between.”
Marshall told delegates Data61 is using data to turn fear into insight and opportunity.
Data61 was created out of the Department of Communications’ NICTA agency and was formally brought into CSIRO a year ago. A former Silicon Valley executive, Adrian Turner, was appointed CEO, and reports to Marshall. Marshall was appointed by the Abbott Government to reset CSIRO with a broad brief to turnaround Australia’s poor research commercialisation record.