CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall was not everyone’s first pick to lead the national science agency when he was appointed to the role in 2015. But the CSIRO board of directors is happy enough with the progress, reappointing Dr Marshall for a further three years running the agency.
Chairman David Thodey said the agency had made strong progress in the past five years under Dr Marshall, through continued science excellence, but with a greater focus on impact – and putting the science into the hands of business and the community. This was a major theme of his original Strategy 2020.
Dr Marshall’s time as the CEO at the agency has coincided with a tumultuous time for science, and for politics. Over that period he has reported through six different ministers, from Ian Macfarlane, Christopher Pyne, Greg Hunt, Arthur Sinodinos, Michaelia Cash and finally to the incumbent, Karen Andrews.
Attitudes toward science and innovation have fluctuated, but the core belief among Australians in the CSIRO has remained strong throughout.
“CSIRO plays an important and unique role in the lives of all Australians as the national science agency. Recent events have brought this into sharp focus, including the devastating bushfires and COVID-19,” Mr Thodey said.
“CSIRO is a great Australian institution that helps our nation respond to our changing world, anticipate the future, and deliver great science and research that benefits society, the environment, and the economy,” he said.
“Over the last five years, Larry’s leadership of CSIRO has seen our impact on Australia grow.
“We have seen significant progress across a number of areas including: growth in economic benefit for Australia from CSIRO’s science; a ten-fold increase in CSIRO’s equity portfolio; a capable and engaged team of scientists and researchers committed to serving our nation; and the highest number of partnerships with industry for 30 years.”
“Under Larry’s leadership, our vision for the future of CSIRO will ensure our world-class scientific and research organisation continues to make an impact. We are delighted that Larry has agreed to lead the organisation in the next chapter of its history,” Mr Thodey said.
Dr Marshall’s appointment raised eyebrows when it was announced, having taken an unusual route to the top of the national science agency and leadings its 5,500 employees. Dr Marshall was an outsider in the truest sense – at the time he lived outside of Australia in Silicon Valley and worked outside of mainstream science running a venture capital firm.
The appointment was a signal of the CSIRO board’s desire to drive science impact and commercial translation. It was also the harbinger of cultural change within the organisation.
Of all the initiatives of Dr Marshall’s in his first five years, it will the personal energy and CSIRO funding commitment to create Main Sequence Ventures deep tech VC specialists that will have the most lasting impact.
Industry, Science and Research Minister Karen Andrews thanked Dr Marshall, and said there had never been a more critical time for the agency that right now.
“The role of science and the work of the national science and industrial research agency has never been more crucial after the summer of bushfires and during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Andrews said.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Dr Marshall across a range of important areas of science and industry research which will benefit all Australians.”