CSIRO carves off part of Main Sequence

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Joseph Brookes

The CSIRO has sold the employment company it set up for its Main Sequence Ventures Fund to members of the investment team so they can pay “market” rates for venture capitalists, a move the agency insists hasn’t diminished its oversight of more than $1 billion under management.

Required disclosures to Parliament by Industry and Science minister Ed Husic on Tuesday showed CSIRO subsidiary Main Sequence Innovation Services had been sold for just $10 to “allow market employment and remuneration of Main Sequence staff”.

It ends speculation the actual fund could be divested, following media reports last year that this may have been under consideration.

The Main Sequence Ventures team.

When Main Sequence Ventures was established in 2016 by the CSIRO to manage its innovation fund, the agency employed venture capital specialists directly and seconded them, in a bid to get u and running quickly.

In 2022, the agency established Main Sequence Innovation Services (MSIS) Pty Ltd as a subsidiary employment company to “streamline recruitment and remuneration” for the growing investment team.

“The ownership of MSIS has subsequently been transferred to members of the investment team, as was always the intention at the time of forming this company… The CSIRO Staff Association was engaged in the transfer of business process and the transfer was approved by the Fair Work Commission,” a CSIRO spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.

Main Sequence, which has gone on to back 60 deep tech startups and manages more than $1 billion, remains unchanged, according to the spokesperson.

“Funds under management remain governed by management agreements overseen by subsidiaries of CSIRO with CSIRO nominated directors.”

While Mr Husic’s notice to Parliament only came this week, the proposal to sell MSIS was considered by the CSIRO’ major transactions committee last June, according to The Saturday Paper, which reported it was unusual to some observers “because of the apparent urgency” at the time.

Main Sequence Ventures announced last July it had raised $450 million for its third investment fund, bringing total funds under management to more than $1 billion for the first time.

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