Tag Archives: STEM

Refraction Media launch STEM Equity Evaluation for Careers with STEM

Refraction Media, founders of ScienceMeetsBusiness.com.au, have today launched the evaluation of CareerswithSTEM.com, a hub for careers advisors, teachers and students on the Women in STEM Ambassador’s STEM Equity Portal.

Careers with STEM is a multi-platform student-focussed careers hub that aims to inspire more young Australians to pursue courses and careers with science, technology, engineering or maths. It includes a free quarterly magazine, website, videos and quizzes. Since 2014 it has provided students with hundreds of diverse, real-life STEM role models, and challenges stereotypes around what STEM jobs look like and who works in STEM.

Careers with STEM’s secret formula is STEM + X – where ‘X’ is a student’s passion, an interest, another subject, a big opportunity or life-changing goal. On the Careers with STEM website, students can search for role models and stories by STEM, or their ‘X’: such as animals, business, creativity, crime and justice, cyber security, defence, design and construction, economics, education, environment, fashion and beauty, food and agriculture and more.

Since launching the site, Refraction Media have distributed over 2 million free magazines and each year reach over 200,000 unique users, 70.5% of whom are high school students (50.1%), uni students and VET students. 16.7% of website readers are teachers.

Careers with STEM’s evaluation report is available to read here.

The STEM Equity Evaluation Portal (the Portal) is a product of the Office of Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador (the Office). Led by Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, the Office mobilises Australia’s business leaders, educators, parents and carers, and policymakers to remove barriers to the participation of girls, women, non-binary and other marginalised groups in STEM.

The Office developed the Portal in response to recommendations from the Women in STEM Decadal Plan for a standardised national evaluation framework that guides evaluation efforts across all existing and future STEM equity initiatives in Australia.

The program evaluation found students are exposed to Careers with STEM through one-on-one interviews with careers advisors, in-class activities with educators and through live events and webinars held during school hours. The magazines are made available via the careers office and the library, as well as through Digital Technologies classes. Career advisors link to the digital products in careers newsletters to parents.

“Through our analytics, direct engagement, email conversions and user feedback we are able to ascertain we are also reaching our secondary target audience of educators in schools and classrooms,” says co-founder and head of content, Heather Catchpole.

“16.7% of the digital audience are educators. Many print materials have a long life in schools, and while events and webinars are a transitory experience, through weekly emails, daily socials and articles, we have an ongoing and continued reach into schools. This is a critical communication approach where staff numbers can be low, teacher turnover high, and new students are entering the school system,” says Catchpole.

“Educator feedback shows that over 95% agree that Careers with STEM helps showcase diversity in STEM careers, keeps educators up-to-date with STEM careers and employers, is easy to read and is an important part of encouraging young people to pursue courses and careers in STEM,” says co-founder Karen Taylor-Brown.

Catchpole and Taylor-Brown started Careers with STEM in 2014 with founding partner Google in response to low enrollments by women in computer science education in Australia. Australia faces a massive challenge in building the technology workforce needed for the future. 1.3 million tech workers will be required by 2030. Employment in STEM occupations in Australia will grow by 12.9% by 2025. However, only 22% of high school students (and 8% of females) are choosing STEM degrees or courses.

“Careers with STEM has over 200 industry and tertiarty partners and we look forward to continuing to provide tools for under-resourced careers advisors to connect the STEM students study in schools with the careers of tomorrow,” says Taylor-Brown.

Australian government invests in science and technology

Science and technology has been given a much-needed boost in the Federal Budget handed down today.

The peak body for Australian science, technology, engineering and mathematics – Science & Technology Australia (STA) – has welcomed the support at a time where Australian science and technology is at a crossroads.

Significant funding boosts for crucial scientific research infrastructure has been complemented by major new investments in medical research, and technology infrastructure.

STA CEO Kylie Walker said the 2018 Budget indicates the Government has moved towards positioning Australia as a leader in global science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and innovation.

 “The new commitment to $1.9 billion ($1 billion over the forward estimates) in research infrastructure following the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap is very welcome,” Ms Walker said.

“And major commitments to technology infrastructure, medical research ($1.3 billion), the Great Barrier Reef, and space science ($50 million) further strengthen the positive investment for the future of Australia’s STEM sector,” Ms Walker said.

“A return to keeping pace with CPI is very welcome for the Australian Research Council and other research agencies like the CSIRO. We’re also pleased to see specific measures to support greater participation by girls and women in STEM, and ongoing investment in inspiring all Australians to engage with science.

“A refocus of funding for the Research and Development Tax Incentive is another important step in supporting Australia’s innovation future.”

Ms Walker said the investment in science and technology would bolster the capacity for Australian science to support a healthy population, environment, and economy.

“The return on investment for science and technology is solid, and internationally it has been proven to be an effective means of securing and shoring up the economy,” she said.

STEM highlights in the 2018/19 Budget include:
  • $1.9 billion for a national research infrastructure investment plan over 12 years ($1 billion committed for first 4 years);
  • $1.3 billion for medical research through MRFF including $500m for genomics, $240m for frontier medical research, $125m for mental health;
  • $536 million (about $150 million for research) for the Great Barrier Reef
Other measures:
  • Return to indexation for the Australian Research Council and other research agencies like the CSIRO
  • $70 million for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre
  • $50 million for the Australian Space Agency
  • $29.9 million for Artificial Intelligence capabilities
  • $260 million for satellite positioning infrastructure and imaging
  • $4.5 million over four years for Women in STEM initiatives
  • Ms Walker said it wasn’t all good news though, with STEM graduate rates threatened by continued capping of commonwealth support for undergraduate places at Australian universities.

“Universities will need to find ways to meet growing demand, while dealing with stagnant funding in the years to come. As STEM degrees are some of the most expensive to run, we don’t expect universities will have the capacity to increase the number of STEM skilled graduates,” Ms Walker said.

“Australia will need many more people equipped with STEM skills in our workforce to compete internationally. This short-term saving will be a loss for future generations.”
First published by Science & Technology Australia

Speak up for STEM and give facts a chance

As science and technology researchers, practitioners and enthusiasts, we feel very strongly that our community should think analytically and use scientific information to inform their decisions, as individuals and as a nation.

We hope our leaders in politics, business and in the media incorporate the lessons and findings of science and technology into their decision-making about health, energy, transport, land and marine use – and recognise the benefits of investing in great scientific breakthroughs and technological inventions.

But how do we ensure critical thinking is applied in decision-making? How do we incorporate and apply scientific findings and analysis in the formulation of policy, and encourage strong, strategic investment in research?

The only way is to become vocal and proactive advocates for STEM.

Scientists and technologists must see ourselves as not only experts in our field, but also as educators and ambassadors for our sector. Scientists are explicitly taught that our profession is based on logic; that it’s our job to present evidence and leave somebody else to apply it.

For people who’ve made a career of objectivity, stepping out of that mindset and into the murky world of politics and policy can be a challenge, but it’s a necessary one.

The planet is heading towards crises that can be solved by science – food and water security, climate change, health challenges, extreme weather events. It’s arguably never been more important for scientists and technologists to step outside our comfort zone and build relationships with the media, investors, and political leaders. We need to tell the stories of science and technology to solve the species-shaking challenges of our time.

A plethora of opportunities exist for STEM researchers and practitioners to improve and use their skills in communication, influence, marketing, business, and advocacy. As the peak body representing scientists and technologists, Science & Technology Australia hosts a variety of events to equip STEM professionals with the skills they need, while connecting them with the movers and shakers in those worlds.

Science meets Parliament is one of these valuable opportunities, and has been bringing people of STEM together with federal parliamentarians for 18 years. Others include Science meets Business and Science meets Policymakers.

We can provide the forum, but it’s up to STEM professionals to seize the opportunity by forging relationships with our nation’s leaders in politics, business and the media. We must ensure the voice of science is heard and heeded – not just on the day of an event, but every day.

Currently STEM enjoys rare bilateral political support; a National Innovation and Science Agenda; and a new Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who has indicated his intention to continue to roll it out.

As we encounter our fourth science minister in three years, however, we cannot rest on our laurels and allow science and technology to slide down the list of priorities. Bigger challenges are also mounting, with the profession of science correspondent virtually dead in Australia and the international political culture favouring opinion and rhetoric over established fact and credibility.

Scientists and technologists must resist their natural tendency to humility, and proactively sort the nuggets of truth from the pan of silty half-truth. We must actively work to influence public debate by pushing evidence-based arguments into the media, and into the political discourse.

When our society starts assuming that we should make substantial and long-term investment in research; when the methods and findings of science and technology are routinely incorporated into shaping policy and making important decisions for the nation – we’ll consider our job to be well done.

Kylie Walker

CEO, Science & Technology Australia

Read next: Dr Maggie Evans-Galea, Executive Director of ATSE’s Industry Mentoring Network in STEM, paints a picture of Australia’s science and innovation future – one that requires a major cultural shift.

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More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Digital Disruption Thought Leadership Series here.

Crossing the cultural divide

Australia’s future health and economy is a vibrant, interactive ecosystem with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at its core. STEM is central – and essential – to Australia’s ongoing success in the next 50 years. Australia is considered an incredible place to do cutting-edge research, pursue blue-sky ideas and commercialise innovative products. Pioneering discoveries fuel the innovation process. Students cannot wait to enrol in science and maths. Policies are developed using peer-reviewed evidence and broad consultation. Aspirational goals are backed by practical solutions and half of our STEM leaders are women – it’s the norm.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

To excel in science and innovation, however, Australia needs a major culture shift. We can all ‘talk the talk’, but as OECD figures demonstrate, we cannot ‘walk the walk’. Australia rates lowest compared to other OECD countries when it comes to business-research collaborations – not just large businesses, but small to medium-sized enterprises as well.

Academia blames industry. Industry blames academia. Everyone blames the government. It’s time to turn the pointing finger into a welcoming handshake and engage across sectors to actually make innovation happen.

Literally thousands of researchers in this country want to see our academic and industry leaders reach across the divide and make change happen. With every decision made, their future is impacted.

Paradigm-shifting science and innovation takes time and requires a diverse workforce of highly-skilled researchers and professionals that specialise in these fields.

The lack of a skilled workforce and poor collaboration are significant barriers to innovation. As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the industry engagement and impact assessment aims to incentivise greater collaboration between industry and academia by examining how universities are translating their research into social and economic benefits.

Australian academic institutions have begun to break down silos within their own research organisations with some success. In medical research for example, the breadth and scale of interdisciplinary collaborative projects has expanded exponentially – spanning international borders, requiring a range of skills and expertise, terabytes of data, and years of research.

Research teams have become small companies with synergistic subsidiaries – diagnostic, basic, translational and clinical teams – working toward a common goal.

Yet their engagement with industry is low. Industry struggles to navigate the ever-changing complex leadership structures in higher education and research. When you speak one-on-one with researchers and industry leaders, however, they seem almost desperate to cross the divide and connect! It’s a detrimental dichotomy.

How can we harness the full potential of our research workforce?

We can energise innovation by fostering a culture that values basic research as well as translation of discoveries to product, practice and policy. A culture that opens the ivory tower and is not so sceptical of industry-academia engagement. That responds to failure with resilience and determination rather than deflating, harsh judgement. That sees the potential of our young researchers.

We need to lose the tall poppy syndrome and openly celebrate the success and achievement of others. We must hold ourselves to higher standards and in particular, women must be equally recognised and rewarded for their leadership.

As a nation, we must ensure we are prepared and resourced for the challenges ahead. Not only do we need the best equipment and technologies, but we also need a readily adaptable workforce that is highly-skilled to address these issues.

To facilitate a culture shift and increase engagement with business and industry, we need to provide researchers the skills and know-how, as well as opportunities to hone these skills. Young researchers are ready to engage and hungry to learn; and they must be encouraged to do so without penalty.

They then need to be connected with industry leaders to identify the qualities and expertise they need to strengthen, and to extend their network.

We can change this now. The solution is not expensive. It is simply about letting down our guard and providing real opportunities to meet, to connect, to network, to exchange ideas and expertise – and to share that welcoming handshake.

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea

Executive Director, Industry Mentoring Network in STEM, Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering, Melbourne

CEO and Co-founder, Women in STEMM Australia

Read next: Professor David Lloyd, Vice Chancellor of the University of South Australia, believes university and industry have a shared purpose.

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More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Digital Disruption Thought Leadership Series here.

Keys to success in a disruptive environment

Governments promote and invest in science and technology to drive productivity for growth and jobs in the longer term. In this context, digital technologies have been the most profound enablers of the modern era.

Many of the impacts of digital technologies have been positive, replacing unsafe or low value work with the creation of adjacent higher-value jobs. However, many firms have failed to understand the impact of digital technologies on their core business. In most cases, businesses have been “disrupted” by new products and services that customers prefer.

Industries that are most ripe for disruption are those that have neglected to invest in the relationship with their customer base. This is why major corporates are investing in digital transformation strategies – to improve service and build customer loyalty in a society where a greater set of options are increasingly available to the consumer through digital services.

At the same time, governments are seeking to engage with citizens in more effective ways. Great economic gains can be made by better coordination of public services and this is typically achieved through the use of digital services.

How can governments assist businesses to prepare for change?

Traditionally, government innovation policies have focused on inputs (science and technology) and government levers (infrastructure, skills, regulation), rather than improving awareness that innovation is a dynamic feedback process driven by the customer and enabled by technology.

Repositioning innovation as a strategic response to a change in customers needs (or wants) will be important in raising the innovation performance and resilience of all businesses across the economy. 

A heightened level of understanding of how customer demand will drive uptake of technology will also be important at the individual level as machine learning and artificial intelligence start to impact highly skilled professions. The proposition from some thought leaders in our community – that jobs in the economy may undergo major shifts every 5–10 years – is plausible. We need to prepare our workforce with the capability for such a scenario, even if we are not certain when it may arise.

Central to such preparation is lifting the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) proficiency of our society. This is why Federal and State Governments have a particular focus on STEM education.

In parallel, governments are acutely aware that rapid technological change can have social and ethical implications that need to be understood and managed as best we can. There is no question that the “future of work” will be a hot topic in 2017 and one that will require the input of a broad section of the community.

Dr Amanda Caples

Lead Scientist, Victoria

Read next: Director of the Psychology Network, Professor Joachim Diederich, explores the artificially intelligent psychology services that are available anytime, everywhere.

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on digital disruptors using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

Cancer research investment boost

Featured image above: Cancer research at the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre has received a funding boost. Credit: CTx

The Chief Executive of the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre (CTx), Dr Warwick Tong, announced last week that a majority of its current partners have chosen to reinvest their share of the recent cash distribution from CTx back into the organisation.

In January 2016 CTx licensed its PRMT5 Project to MSD (known as Merck in the US and Canada) in a landmark deal and received over $14 million dollars as its share of the signature payment. Novel drugs arising from the project will be developed and commercialised by Merck. Potential future milestone payments and royalties will also be shared within the partnership.

“Our 2013 application to the Department of Industry CRC Programme outlined the intent to actively secure reinvestment of funds from any commercialisation success back into our cancer drug development activities”, said Tong. “To have this commitment from our partners is the validation and support we wanted.

“The more than seven million dollars will boost our ability to deliver new cancer drugs for adults and children”.

“CTx has made great use of its partnership network to deliver this project,” said Professor Grant McArthur Chair of the CTx Scientific Advisory Board. “The reinvestment is a very positive recognition by the partners that CTx will continue to provide benefits for patients and strengthen translational cancer research in Australia”.

This article was first published by the Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre on 29 June 2016. Read the original article here.

To read more articles on research funding, visit:

$22.6 million research funding – A round of applications is expected to open in August for 11 newly funded Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) projects.

Australian research funding infographic – The latest OECD figures reveal how Australia’s science and research funding compares with other countries.

Engineering careers in business

Looking back, I’m so pleased that I chose to study maths and science at school – even though at the time I had no idea of the opportunities this would bring. Thirty years on, I’m a professional engineer and director of a fascinating portfolio of companies. These span a range of engineering and resources sectors such as electricity generation, retail, water, natural gas and minerals. I’m glad I chose an engineering career, and that many more women are now joining me in this industry.

Identifying business purpose

I’m hearing a lot about purpose in business – establishing why we are in business – and that resonates as much or more with customers than what our products are and how we sell them. STEM education can give us the practical and analytical tools to help identify the why, and then deliver the what and the how.

Today’s graduates need systems thinking – an understanding of the interactions between components of an organisation, product or problem – to work across disciplinary boundaries. This is crucial to developing sustainable solutions that will enable our society to transition from the industrial era to the digital era, and embrace the disruption of business with the rise of consumer power.

“Many of the most interesting challenges facing businesses require a broad understanding of economics, finance, politics, marketing and communication, as well as skills in STEM areas.”

Encouraging STEM education more broadly in our society

Girls (and boys) start out with a fascination for science as they explore the world during early childhood, but many seem to lose this fascination as they develop into adults. Fortunately, we know how to stimulate interest in STEM using hands-on activities, engaging role models and examples of real-world achievements. Results for the effort are fantastic.

My husband and I have experienced this first hand with our daughter who pronounced in Year 1 that ‘science was boring’, only to be subjected to a very successful intervention from her parents (one an amateur astronomer and myself an engineer). We are still on the watch for any dimming curiosity.

The Leeanne Bond Scholarship at The University of Queensland provides financial assistance for a first year female engineering student. It encourages pursuit of the wonderful engineering careers there are for women as well as men. In addition to showing passion, ability and need, all applicants write an essay on engineering and business. It’s clear from these essays that these young women aspire to shape their world and engage with business and society to achieve their goals.

Integrators, disruptors and translators in engineering careers

I’m very encouraged by the interest in coding and robotics for young children we see today. Having started my engineering career in an era of Fortran programming and computer cards – programming that is now done on laptops and mobiles – I’m keeping up-to-date with information technology and social media. I see the nexus between traditional mature large-scale, capital-intensive industries I know well like utilities and manufacturing, and the newer, radical, disruptive, emerging business models like 3D printing and ecommerce as exciting – and I want to be part of it.

Many of the most interesting challenges facing businesses, such as sustainability, require a broad understanding of economics, finance, politics, marketing and communication, as well as skills in STEM areas. To tackle these challenges, engineers and scientists work in cross-disciplinary project teams of people with diverse backgrounds and qualifications.

A great example of the rising need for cross-disciplinary skills is in the personal transportation industry, where technological disruption is ripe. I recently heard a senior executive from a European car manufacturer speak of the need to fuse engineering and technology skills. In the race to develop electric and autonomous vehicles, today’s car companies are adding coding expertise to their traditional engineering teams and aspiring disrupters like Apple and Google are hiring engineers to work alongside their technology staff.

It is an exciting time to be an engineer in business!

Leeanne Bond

Director, Breakthrough Energy

Read next: Victor RodriguesChief Software Architect at Cochlear, on getting into a top graduate program.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

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Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on creating and propelling top Australian graduates. We’d love to hear from you!

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Australian Innovation Thought Leadership Series here.

Science in the spotlight

There has never been a better time to work in science communication, but as the Executive Director and CEO of the Australian Museum – Australia’s first museum and second oldest science institution – I may be a little biased.

The popularity of science is growing thanks to the rise of social media. Translating this increased street credibility into tangible, sustainable benefits for both the Australian Museum and the scientists we employ is high on my agenda – because we can’t ask others to innovate if we aren’t innovating ourselves.

Most people only see the public facing side of the Australian Museum, for example the exhibitions and collections that are open for public viewing, and don’t know about the tremendous scientific research undertaken by the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI). The AMRI conducts research into pests and invasive species, which provides vital information and solutions to common problems that impact on our agricultural industries. It is also home to one of the most advanced wildlife genomic laboratories in Australia, and its experts work with customs and quarantine departments on cases involving illegally imported and exported species.

Despite the manifold practical applications of the research we conduct, many people still don’t realise that museums are deeply engaged in science and science education. Naturally, some scientists are reluctant to champion and promote the vital work that they do.

As the first person from a marketing and communications background to take the reins at the museum, I am firmly focused on communicating the work of the AMRI and the public programs at the Australian Museum. It’s my job to help identify the stories that put science in the spotlight, to educate the public on the value of science.

Forming strong relationships with the media and collaborating with the corporate world – to not only generate revenue but also to put STEM on the agenda beyond the usual circles – is a smart strategy.

The AMRI works with the airline industry on tackling problematic bird strikes by analysing tissue samples of bird remains to identify the species and determine whether the flock can be safely relocated. Recently, the Australian Museum Lizard Island Research Station, located 270 km north of Cairns, assisted climate scientists to identify the worst coral bleaching event ever reported on the Great Barrier Reef.

In the past, scientific institutions may have been reticent to form mutually-beneficial partnerships with industry, but I believe that sponsorship deals and philanthropy are key to the long-term relevance and viability of scientific organisations.

In many ways, the collection at the Australian Museum reflects the work and research we undertake. We have more than 18 million specimens and a cultural collection of more than one million objects from Australian Indigenous cultures, the Pacific Islands and South-East Asia. We also have the largest Egyptian collection in Australia.

But today, it isn’t enough to let your work do the talking. To ensure innovative STEM solutions spark ideas in the wider community and create a snowball effect, it takes the active communication of scientific research and the benefits it can provide – both from a sustainability and economic perspective. The STEM community must continue to share news of its work, to inspire and foster innovation in future generations.

Kim McKay AO

Executive Director & CEO, Australian Museum

Read next: Robert Hillard, Managing Partner of Deloitte Consulting, on Disruptive STEM.

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Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on innovating Australia in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Disruptive STEM

Wherever you turn these days you see the term “digital disruption”. For those of us lucky enough to be educated in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – we probably feel empowered and excited by this disruption and the changes it brings.

But the same sense of optimism is not true for everyone – because where there is technological disruption, business and social disruption tend to follow.

Electronic communication like email, for example, has almost completely taken over traditional mail. Mainstream bookstores are a shadow of their former selves due to massive online bookstores, and paper books are becoming obsolete due to increased use of digital devices for reading.

But these changes to traditional professions that created and distributed these products has cost jobs, and not everyone who lost a job has been able to transfer their skills into a new role in the digital economy.

Innovation has caused changes in areas such as transport, energy and financial services, and will ultimately leave more people at a disadvantage due to job loss than anything we’ve seen so far. Department stores, for example, could be wiped out in Australia, while banks could be taken over by FinTech innovators.

Disruption spurred on by digital technology is extending into new fields of engineering. Batteries will take houses off-grid and electric vehicles will do away with yearly car services. These changes could leave car dealerships without a source of service income and power utilities without a market.

The birth of the internet removed advantages for large businesses in terms of scale and geography, and allowed small businesses to compete equally with larger companies. But after 20 years, the larger online businesses still have the advantage of scale. As more people use the same search engine, for example, the algorithms for that search engine become stronger. And if a greater number of people use the same online social network, the reach of that network increases exponentially.

We can use technology to improve access to capital while maintaining a safe financial system. We can find better ways to access products and services without doing away with stores. We can make the move from fossil fuels to renewables while keeping a highly skilled engineering capability employed.

“The future depends on those with a STEM education.”

Those with STEM skills have the ability to channel their knowledge, skills and innovative flair to develop new applications of technology, as well as encourage its application to achieve greater benefits for society. The future depends on those with a STEM education.

Robert Hillard

Managing Partner, Deloitte Consulting & Fellow of the Australian Computer Society

Read next: John PollaersChairman of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council, on Australia’s best lever for a thriving, high-tech manufacturing sector.

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Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on innovating Australia in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

The advanced manufacturing flagship

We have a rich seam of transformative advanced manufacturers in Australia who are not only securing their own future; they are helping to underpin a sustainable Australian economy.

But our future in an uncompromising global economy is precarious. Few decision-makers in OECD countries believe they will remain prosperous without a thriving, high-tech manufacturing sector.

A prosperous Australia depends on supplying higher value solutions to the world – and the recent national focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is fundamental to this aspiration.

How can we, as a nation, facilitate this growth? The Federal Government’s Innovation and Science Agenda released last December is the most substantial recognition we have seen that advanced manufacturing is the future face of Australian industry. The agenda pulls a number of policy “levers”, and places unprecedented emphasis on leveraging our research excellence for greater commercial outcomes.

Of all the interventions of governments, however, the defence procurement “lever” obliterates all others.

Manufacturing’s best hope lies in “flagship” projects like Australia’s future submarine and shipbuilding programs. Some economists have estimated the knowledge spillovers from such programs produce multiplier impacts 2–3 times the initial investment. For example, one study estimates the Gripen multi-role combat aircraft project in Sweden generated at least 2.6 times the government investment in terms of additional production, and skills and knowledge transfer. What large national projects can mean for jobs growth, technology diffusion, skills development and market development in the short term is important. What they mean in the longer term is critical.

“The digitisation revolution will be a key enabler for Australian manufacturers to enter the global supply chain – it conquers distance and helps bring ideas into production sooner.”

For the advancement of Australian industry, we must ensure that Australian companies are actively engaged in the high value technology creation and development of large defence contracts. And these companies must be able to sustain their businesses through exports. Denmark and Sweden provide good examples of countries successfully exporting their defence capabilities. If Australia does not do the same, we doom our high value defence manufacturers to the same fate as the automotive sector.

Technological change doesn’t just bring disruption; it also brings opportunity. The digitisation revolution will be a key enabler for Australian manufacturers to enter the global supply chain – it conquers distance and helps bring ideas into production sooner. Digitisation will enable Australian manufacturers to leap ahead of many of our competitor nations.

And embracing the digital age requires greater emphasis on STEM education. In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

With a thriving advanced manufacturing sector, employing a higher proportion of skilled engineers and scientists and successfully investing in research and development in order to stay at the leading edge in their sectors, we can ensure Australia’s continued prosperity.

John Pollaers, Chairman of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council

Read next: Vish Nandlall, Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer, on the skills we really need to be teaching our children.

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Engineering solutions

From a purely engineering perspective, all real world problems are solvable. Nobody would choose to be a design engineer unless they deeply believed in their own ability to solve problems through creativity and a deliberate methodology – identify the problem, analyse it, build a prototype, test it, iterate, deliver the solution.

In the real world, of course, the challenges are much more difficult. Social, political and economic considerations prevail, often ruling out the elegant solutions that an engineering approach would suggest.

Let me give you an example: climate change. The problem is clear: global temperatures are rising, ice sheets are melting and oceans are acidifying. The analysis is clear: human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels for energy, are leading to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and are driving the problem. The imperative is clear: cut emissions – and do it quickly.

The pure engineering solution would involve massive installations of solar and wind, backed up by natural gas turbines, hydrogen storage, pumped hydro storage and battery storage to handle the intermittency, and investment in new hydroelectric and nuclear electricity generation.

“The challenge for engineers when it comes to these large-scale, socially complex issues is to work closely with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to build solutions that communities can and will take forward.”

Once the existing electricity supply is decarbonised, the amount of low emissions electricity generated would be doubled or tripled so that liquid fossil fuels for transport and natural gas for heating could be rapidly replaced by low emissions electricity.

If only human affairs were so straightforward!

The challenge for engineers when it comes to these large-scale, socially complex issues is to work closely with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences to build solutions that communities can and will take forward.

But not all challenges are as wicked as climate change. The engineering method delivers handsomely in the corporate world, most often in collaboration with marketing, psychology and customer support systems. Smartphones, automobiles, improved building technologies and advanced materials are just some of the myriad examples.

The engineering method is also very applicable to organisational management. The evidence based, non-ideological problem solving approach of engineering can serve leaders from the shop floor to the corporate board.

When it comes to politics, in some countries (such as Germany) engineers are highly valued. But in Australia, they’re far less visible. I don’t know why that is so, but perhaps we need to be teaching charisma as a graduate attribute in Australian engineering faculties.

At the very least, we should be making crystal clear to our engineering students their opportunity to contribute to society outside of their profession.

Dr Alan Finkel AO

Australia’s Chief Scientist

Read next: Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech on Innovation in Australian life sciences.

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Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on innovating Australia in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Making innovation work

The ubiquity of the term, ‘innovation’ in the Australian political, business and social lexicon risks diffusing its meaning and, worse, its broader uptake in the national interest. Identifying the true meaning and value of innovation requires we significantly rethink the way we approach the generation of ideas and their application into society.

The current transactional approach to innovation in Australia generally eschews direct supports in favour of tax incentives which, unusually in a global context, comprise roughly 90% of government expenditure on innovation. This is like a vending machine approach to innovation, one in which all attention is focused on the end product and little or no concern is directed towards understanding, or better still, enabling and improving the mechanics of its delivery.

If we are to be more expansive and impactful in our approach to innovation then we need to engage it in its fullest sense and not just concern ourselves with input and output triggers. This requires we focus on identifying the factors that both comprise and, more importantly, help create successful innovation ecosystems.

making innovation work
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visits Western Sydney University’s LaunchPad – an initiative to support startups and technology based businesses in Western Sydney. Credit: Sally Tsouta

Strengthening literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines from a very early age affords us a bedrock on which to build workforce capacity and the intellectual capital necessary to generate and sustain innovation. Existing educational structures will need to adapt and change in a way that both responds to and supports the highly fluid and dynamic features of a thriving innovation ecosystem. Adjusting curriculums or modifying our expectations of graduate attributes, while important exercises, will not get us to where we need to be.

“The development of the skills-base required to drive sustainable innovation will both depend on and necessitate a very deliberate blurring of the borders between business, industry and education.”

According to last year’s ‘New Work Order‘ report by the Foundation for Young Australians, “70% of young Australians currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation”. Add to this an expected average of 17 job changes for each of these new workers over the course of their working lives and it is clear that career narratives within the mooted ‘Ideas Boom‘ will be conditionally diverse and non-linear.

Disrupted, diverse and adaptive career pathways demand innovative responses from business as well as the education sector. The development of the skills-base required to drive sustainable innovation will both depend on and necessitate a very deliberate blurring of the borders between business, industry and education. The key to making this work is not so much an exercise in imposing demarcations on the role each of these groups perform collectively, rather it is centred upon letting go.

When circumstances conspire, Australia’s public research entities and business can produce remarkable innovations, as is evidenced by world leading inroads in, for example, solar technology, quantum computing and medical research; but we need to rely on more than circumstance and a dwindling linkage and research infrastructure funding pool.

While it is early days, universities and business are – in incubator, accelerator, and shared strategic (precinct) spaces – forming the beginnings of the deliberately diffused collaborative relationships needed to build sustainable innovation ecosystems. Encouragingly, the policy and funding frameworks put forward by the National Innovation and Science Agenda offer much to support this process.

The real determinant of our success in innovation will be the aspirations and behaviours of the emerging generation of workers. Diversity in career experience will be the attractor to study STEM disciplines, not curriculum reform. If we get it right, STEM skills will be seen as essential navigation tools in an as yet unknown adventure through a thriving innovation ecosystem where business, industry and universities coalesce to disrupt, diffuse and diversify in the interest of ideas.

Professor Barney Glover and Dr Andy Marks

Vice Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University Assistant Vice Chancellor (Strategy and Policy) of Western Sydney University 

Read next: Dr Cathy Foley, Deputy Director and Science Director of CSIRO’s Manufacturing Flagship on the Path to a ‘right-skilled’ workforce.

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Bridging the innovation gap

Professor Fiona M Wood, FRACS AM, is the inventor of spray-on skin, and Director of the Burns Service of Western Australia and Burn Injury Research Unit at the University of Western Australia.

We encounter innovation at every turn in our daily lives. The capacity to live as we do today is through the evolution of yesterday’s ideas. But is this as good as it gets? Clearly the answer is ‘No!’ – we continually learn from today to ensure tomorrow is better.

We innovate by identifying a problem and seeking answers. The chain of activities from question to answer is long and complex: discovering a problem, chasing down a solution (supported by a rigorous research framework), dealing with regulatory safety hurdles, scaling the solution from the lab to the marketplace, and delivering it in a practical and cost-effective way – a process that requires tenacity above all else.

Australia enjoys a level of excellence in a number of areas of research, and it is time to connect these areas and realise their potential on the world stage. There are plenty of hurdles on the path to commercialisation; however, those who have succeeded in creating innovative, commercially successful outcomes provide us with the encouraging examples we need to keep going.

Linking problems with solutions is a skill we need to teach at every opportunity. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are pivotal to the success of our economy, but their potential lies in their utilisation: in problem solving, and in developing the skills to collaborate and progress along the innovation chain.

Professor Fiona M Wood, FRACS AM

Director of the Burns Service of WA and Burn Injury Research Unit at the University of Western Australia

Read next: Dr Alan Finkel AO, Chief Scientist of Australia on Engineering solutions.

Spread the word: Help to grow Australia’s innovation knowhow! Share this piece using the social media buttons below.

Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on innovating Australia in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Australia’s STEM workforce

Featured image above from the Australia’s STEM Workforce Report

Australians with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are working across the economy in many roles from wine-makers to financial analysts, according to a new report from The Office of the Chief Scientist.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel says Australia’s STEM Workforce is the first comprehensive analysis of the STEM-qualified population and is a valuable resource for students, parents, teachers and policy makers. The report is based on data from the 2011 Census, the most recent comprehensive and detailed data set of this type of information. The report will serve as a benchmark for future studies.

“This report provides a wealth of information on where STEM qualifications – from both the university and the vocational education and training (VET) sectors – may take you, what jobs you may have and what salary you may earn,” Finkel says.

“Studying STEM opens up countless job options and this report shows that Australians are taking diverse career paths.”

The report investigates the workforce destinations of people with qualifications in STEM fields, looking at the demographics, industries, occupations and salaries that students studying for those qualifications can expect in the workforce.

STEM workforce
Click here to see an infographic of key facts from the Australia’s STEM Workforce Report

The report found that fewer than one-third of STEM university graduates were female, with physics, astronomy and engineering having even lower proportions of female graduates. Biological sciences and environmental studies graduates were evenly split between the genders. In the vocational education and training (VET) sector, only 9% of those with STEM qualifications were women.

Finkel says that even more worrying than the gender imbalance in some STEM fields, is the pay gap between men and women in all STEM fields revealed in the report. These differences cannot be fully explained by having children or by the increased proportion of women working part-time.

The analysis also found that gaining a doctorate is a sound investment, with more STEM PhD graduates in the top income bracket than their Bachelor-qualified counterparts. However, these same STEM PhD holders are less likely to own their own business or work in the private sector.

Finkel says that preparing students for a variety of jobs and industries is vital to sustaining the future workforce.

“This report shows that STEM-qualified Australians are working across the economy. It is critical that qualifications at all levels prepare students for the breadth of roles and industries they might pursue.”

Click here to download the full Australia’s STEM Workforce report.

Click here to read Alan Finkel’s Foreword, or click here to read the section of the report that interests you.

This information was first shared by Australia’s Chief Scientist on 31 Mar 2016. Read the original media release here

Women in STEM: Mathilde Desselle

Featured image above by Nathan Barden

Desselle is a programme coordinator for outreach for the Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD) at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. She is looking for the next antibiotic in engaging academic chemists worldwide in an open-access compound screening program and setting up international partnerships. Desselle has eight years’ experience driving engagement strategies for medical research programs and facilities. She is passionate about finding innovative approaches to drive transformational change and solutions to diagnose, track and treat infectious diseases.

Desselle is a board director for the Queensland-based Women in Technology peak industry body for women in science and technology careers, and for the Tech Girls Movement foundation, promoting positive role models to encourage and raise awareness of STEM careers for girls.

Desselle completed a double Masters degree in bioengineering and business from the Catholic University of Lille and a Masters of International Economics from the University of the Littoral Opal Coast in France in 2008.

What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful scientist?

“I would say having a drive. It takes passion, tenacity, and a vision to lead successful research initiatives, and I believe having an articulate “why” is essential to feed them. Don’t we always go back to what drives us when celebrating successful outcomes and overcoming rejection and failures?”

What is one thing you would change to improve the gender balance in senior ranks of scientists?

“Ending the ‘manel’. I would ask the 32 Australian universities and research institutes who are part of the SAGE pilot, an initiative of the Australian Academy of Science and the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering that addresses gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) sectors, to make the following pledge: striving to achieve gender balance in all conferences and panel discussions they are hosting and organising.”

What support structures did/do you have in place that have facilitated your success?

“I will forever be grateful to the mentors who have pushed me outside of my comfort zone. We also have world-class facilities in Australia enabling ground-breaking research and innovative collaborative projects. I am looking for the next antibiotic to combat drug-resistant infections, and it takes advanced scientific, technological and administrative systems to function.”

If at times your confidence is a little shaky, where do you turn?

“I can count on a very supportive network of women and men around me, on their experiences and their expertise. There is always someone I can turn to for addressing concerns or uncertainties. I also practice mindfulness and Harvard Business School social psychologist Professor Amy Cuddy’s “power poses”. Watch her Ted Talk on body language and challenge your inner wonder woman!”

What is your ideal holiday – and do you work on your holiday?

“My ideal holiday is being out horse riding on trails or beaches all day in New Zealand or in the USA. After I get off the saddle, I still follow up on pressing matters, and never lose an occasion to meet or connect with someone I could follow up with for professional matters, so I guess I rarely completely switch off.”

Follow Mathilde Desselle on Twitter: @mathildesselle

This article was first published by Women in Science AUSTRALIA. Read the original article here.

Women in science and business

Academia has a checkered history of elevating women in science. While many leading women scientists to-date have acted as truly innovative researchers – Marie Curie for example – much of the way science is celebrated has innate bias.

Scientists are ranked by academic achievement – promotions and grants, recognition and awards – all emphasising papers published and cited, fellowships received and so on.

Enabling women in science

Australia needs to clearly develop a new platform of scientific achievement – in which, according to the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), innovation is “critical to improving Australia’s competitiveness, standard of living, high wages and generous social welfare net”.

NISA notes several important factors, but fails to clearly set an agenda for women in science to succeed within the new innovation framework. For instance, it cites:

“We will introduce, for the first time, clear and transparent measures of non-academic impact and industry engagement when assessing university research performance.”

These factors are also critical in removing barriers to career advancement for women in science who have taken a career break, and whose academic output is less than men in equivalent positions as a result.

It also notes that women hold “around a quarter of STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] and ICT [information and communications technology] related jobs and are significantly underrepresented in high-level research positions. We need to engage more girls in STEM and computing, and provide pathways to progress their interest across the education system and into careers.”

To address this NISA has earmarked $13 million to improve opportunities for women in science and STEM more broadly. How this money will be spent is unclear.

There is a strong and clear need to alter the way that scientific achievements are acknowledged when looking at scientists’ track records, grants eligibility and promotional opportunities. We need to reward collaboration, to allow other career achievements along with citations and impact factor to be part of the recognition process.

We need to alter many things about the way scientists are recognised to promote women in science, from looking for bias in the language we use to valuing the mentorship provided by scientists in a more inclusive and meaningful way.

There needs to be flexibility, appropriate leave and allowances for travel factored into work in science. Education around bias is important, and much could be learned from the corporate sector here.

This is not the time to take baby steps in addressing gender equity for women in science. We need to take great strides, and look to the government for greater leadership in addressing this sooner rather than later.

– Heather Catchpole, Editor, KnowHow magazine

Science Meets Business women’s success stories

Science Meets Business profiles celebrate the women in science today.

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Kickstarting the innovation culture

On Monday 7 December, in his first major policy announcement since becoming Prime Minister in September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull unveiled an innovation package to drive an “ideas boom” in Australia.

Speaking at CSIRO in Canberra, Turnbull and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne announced $1 billion in government spending over four years. The funds, says Turnbull, will kickstart an innovation culture in Australia.

“This statement is an absolutely critical part of securing our prosperity. The big shift is cultural – if we can inspire people to be innovative, the opportunities are boundless,” says Turnbull.

The plan outlines 25 measures across four key areas: culture and capital; embracing risk; incentivising early-stage investment in startups; and addressing governance issues through the establishment of two new bodies to oversee the plan: the Innovation and Science Sub-Committee of Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, and newly established independent advisory board, Innovation and Science Australia.

These, according to Pyne, will “put science and innovation at the heart of government policy”.

“I wrote a list of expectations before I went in and got to tick everyone of them,” says Dr Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of the Corporate Research Centres Association (CRCA). “Now startups will be much better placed to raise their own funds,” he says.

According to Peacock, by changing the insolvency laws, such as reducing the default bankruptcy period from three years to one, and making it easier for startups to gain access to capital, “the government has put the ball back in the innovator’s court”.

The biomedical and biotechnology industries have also welcomed the announcement.

“We are keen to see this positive policy transformed into action that makes a difference to Australia’s ability to commercialise and benefit from our world-class research and development,” says Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO of biotechnology organisation AusBiotech.

The plan represents a major step forward for science innovation in Australia, according to Dr Peter French, CEO and managing director of biopharmaceuticals company Benitec Biopharma, and “is the most exciting and refreshing statement of vision for Australia that I have seen from our politicians”.

French, named this month one of Australia’s “Innovators of Influence” by the Australian Science Innovation Forum, says that ”rewarding academics for working with industry is well intentioned, but without safeguards, could end up being counter productive to Australian innovation”.

The package includes a $100 million boost to the CSIRO budget, reversing the $110 million cut under the Abbot Government last year. The Government will also co-invest with the private sector in the $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund for new spin-out and startup companies and services created by research institutions. Biomedical research will also benefit from a $250 million Biomedical Translation Fund.

These funds will support investment in spin-off and startups, to develop and commercialise promising products and services from Australia’s research community.

Science research will receive an injection of funding, with $520 million for the Australian Synchrotron facility and $294 million for the Square Kilometre Array over the next decade. The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) will also receive $1.5 billion to deliver world-class research facilities to Australian researchers in Australia and abroad.

The package also includes a $36 million Global Innovation Strategy to support collaboration between Australian researchers and businesses with their international counterparts. Landing pads for Australian startups and entrepreneurs will be established in Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley and three other key locations around the globe.

There will also be a $99 million investment in programs to improve digital literacy and skills in STEM amongst young Australians. And $13 million will be made available to increase opportunities for women working in research and STEM industries and start-ups.

“Innovation and Science are two sides of the same coin, and this plan will bring them both together: driving jobs, growth and investment and igniting a national ‘can-do’ attitude,” says Pyne.

– Carl Williams

Start-ups targeted for support

Start-up businesses have been targeted for a high level of support in the PM’s Innovation statement, with major changes to tax regulations relating to investment in new businesses.

The National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first major economic policy launch since ousting Tony Abbott. It pledges an additional $1.1 billion of government spending over the next four years to foster investment in science and new technology.

Turnbull – a key player in Australian internet pioneer OzEmail in the 1990s – is well known for his support for the start-up sector.

Yesterday’s announcement follows on from the release of a report by the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council (AAMC) on Sunday calling for a raft of changes to how Australia encourages and retains innovative businesses.

Both the report and the government Innovation statement highlight the success of the UK Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which has attracted more than AUD$500 million in its first two years of operation, money that has been invested in some 2900 companies.

The Australian scheme, which the government intends to launch in 2016, will offer a 20% tax refund on investments up to $200,000 per investor, per year, and a 10-year capital gains exemption on investments held for three years.

The AAMC report, How Australia Compares, examined the international competitiveness of taxation systems in encouraging investment capital, finding Australia ranked 10th out of the 12 nations compared. The report claims the existing R&D-based incentives have been outstripped by the incentives offered by international competitors.

AAMC chairman John Pollaers said: “This is an area of increasing competition internationally. As the report shows, our R&D tax credits are competitive.  But this is not giving us the edge. If we rest solely on our R&D scheme, we will get left further and further behind.”

In launching the new policy, Mr Turnbull asked, “What is going to drive Australian prosperity in the years ahead?” Where the mining boom that has supported the Australian economy in the recent past was tied to external demand, “our innovation agenda is going to help create the modern, dynamic 21st century economy Australia needs”, providing the foundation for a new type of economy.

While the government and the AAMC report each agree on the creation of a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme-type fund, the report calls for more far-reaching reforms to the tax system, including reducing corporate tax on profits from Australian-generated IP to 10%.

The tax breaks for start-up businesses are among 24 new policy measures included in the Innovation statement; these aim to increase connections between businesses, scientific institutions such as CSIRO, and universities, as well funding to encourage high school students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

– Adrian Regan

Partnering for research impact

The Cooperative Research Centres Program (CRC) links research, education and end users, creating a synergy that fosters innovation. Now in its 24th year, the program has led to the development of beneficial new technologies in areas as diverse as contact lenses, financial markets and advanced composite materials.

Defence is just one beneficiary of the CRC Program. For example, lifesaving improvements have been made to body armour and vehicle protection as a result of research into advanced materials and manufacturing techniques.

Safeguarding Australia will depend on our ability to use science and technology to increase the effectiveness of our people and systems. No single research organisation can meet all of Australia’s future needs – collaboration is key. The CRC Program has enabled participants – universities, publicly-funded research organisations and industry – to significantly increase the impact of their science and technology through teamwork.

“No single research organisation can meet all of Australia’s future needs – collaboration is key.”

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is supporting the new Data to Decisions CRC. This CRC will focus on creating the tools, techniques and workforce to unlock big data. Specific areas include tracking and sensor fusion techniques, visual analytics, cyber data, elastic search tools, speech and text processing, and detecting objects of interest in large imagery datasets.

Through the CRC Program, DSTO will continue to work with industry and publicly-funded agencies to create a vibrant culture of innovation, nurture the next generation of scientists and ensure that research has real impact.

– Dr Alex Zelinsky

Australia: nation of inventors or innovators?

If Australia wants to become more than just a land made up of quarries, farms and tourist beaches, it has to ensure more scientists and engineers are trained to drive innovation, warns Dr Katherine Woodthorpe, Chair of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, and panellist at last week’s inaugural Science Meets Business event.

The event, hosted by Science and Technology Australia, aimed to “kickstart a reshaped and refreshed conversation on ways to boost collaboration between Australia’s great businesses and scientists”.

Speakers at the event came from a wide range of industry, government and research, each presenting their ideas for an innovative future.

Keynote speaker Dr Larry Marshall, CEO of CSIRO, celebrated ‘deep tech’ as an ecosystem of plenty, responsible for 100% of US jobs last year. In his experience, deep tech entrepreneurship creates a virtuous cycle of innovation.

Marshall wants to meet industry halfway, working together to understand what customers want. This is not an overnight solution, he warned. “Both CSIRO and Australia will be in beta for the next five years.”

In exploring problems of “diagnosis and lifting the game”, Ken Boal, Vice President at CISCO Australia and New Zealand, said businesses should lean in more, connect with universities and help in the translation of research to the wider community.

Australia: nation of inventors or innovators?

Intrinsic to this translation of research outcomes is a STEM outreach program to schools. Professor Ian Frazer AC, Head of the Diamantina Institute at the University of Queensland, identified the roots of the problem beginning where schools focus on students achieving high-performance marks. Science is tough, and often students are advised to choose an easier subject to maximise their score. He also emphasised the need to place greater value on science and teachers.

Hugh Bradlow, Telstra’s Chief Scientist, suggested that technology could be part of the education solution. If technology is able to reduce costs of education, then perhaps we can pay our teachers more and attract a higher calibre of staff, he proposed.

The Hon Karen Andrews MP, representing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, believes business and science need each other, and Australia needs both. Even though we don’t know what the jobs of the future are going to be, we know there will be core skills required, like coding and data science, she explained. Maths and statistics will be in high demand, alongside creative thinking and entrepreneurship. Andrews is putting together an action plan to connect industry and research.

While the official announcement was still under wraps, Australia’s next Chief Scientist Alan Finkel encouraged a celebration of Australia’s achievements and an effort to build upon the engagement that already exists, like relationships between Rio Tinto and the University of Sydney, and GlaxoSmithKline and Monash University.

Woodthorpe suggested that superannuation funds have a role to play in Australia’s innovation growth, and that fund managers need to realise this in order to support their next generation of members. Another barrier to innovation is the lack of digital experience in the top 300 ASX companies. Boards need to see technology as a future business model, not a piece of equipment, she said.

Newly returned from the US and now heading up Commercial Strategy at the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics at the Garvan Institute, Dr Russell J Howard has had recent success at raising capital for a new venture. He believes the three key imperatives to commercialisation success are:

  1. To nurture smart capital, and to show founders how to create good intellectual property;
  2. To create an innovative environment;
  3. To enable access to experienced management – people who have experience in commercialisation.

Finally, Mr Peter Yates AM, Deputy Chairman of the Myer Family Investments talked about his own support of start-ups. He likes to collect entrepreneurs rather than artists – in 15 years both have usually increased in value!

– Karen Taylor-Brown, CEO and Publisher at Refraction Media

Dr Alan Finkel will be Australia’s new Chief Scientist

Featured photo: Greg Ford/Monash University

New Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel will take over the role once the sitting Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, finishes his five-year stint in the job on 31 December this year.

Finkel was most recently Chancellor of Monash University, a post he has held since 2008. He is also the President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).

New Chief Scientist Finkel is an outspoken advocate for science awareness and popularisation. He is a patron of the Australian Science Media Centre and has helped launch popular science magazine, Cosmos.

He is also an advocate for nuclear power, arguing that “nuclear electricity should be considered as a zero-emissions contributor to the energy mix” in Australia.

The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) President, Professor Andrew Holmes, welcomes the expected appointment of Finkel to the new Chief Scientist role.

“The Academy is looking forward to the government’s announcement, but Finkel would be an excellent choice for this position. I’m confident he would speak strongly and passionately on behalf of Australian science, particularly in his advice to government,” he says.

“The AAS and ATSE have never been closer; we have worked together well on important issues facing Australia’s research community, including our recent partnership on the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative.”

Holmes also thanked outgoing Chief Scientist for his strong leadership for science in Australia, including establishing ACOLA as a trusted source of expert, interdisciplinary advice to the Commonwealth Science Council.

“Since his appointment, Chubb has been a tireless advocate of the fundamental importance of science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills as the key to the country’s future prosperity, and a driving force behind the identification of strategic research priorities for the nation,” says Holmes.

This article was first published on The Conversation on 26 October 2015. Read the original article here.

Expert reactions:

Karen Taylor is Founder and Business Director of Refraction Media

“Finkel is an energetic advocate for STEM across all levels of society, from schools and the general public to corporate leaders. We’re excited and optimistic about the fresh approach science and innovation is enjoying.” 

Professor Emeritus Sir Gustav Nossal is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Melbourne

“This is truly the most fantastic news. Finkel is an extraordinary leader. He has proven himself in personal scientific research. He has succeeded in business in competitive fields. It is difficult to think of anyone who would do this important job with greater distinction.”

Dr Ross Smith is President of Science & Technology Australia

“Finkel has a profound understanding of the place of science in a flourishing modern economy, as a scientist, entrepreneur and science publisher of real note. We look forward to working closely with Finkel, as we jointly pursue better links between STEM and industry.”

Science beats sport at the 2015 Publish Awards

Photo from left: Refraction founders Heather Catchpole and Karen Taylor-Brown, with Production Manager Heather Curry and Publishing Co-ordinator Jesse Hawley.

Refraction Media, a Sydney-based publishing start-up, was announced Australia’s Best Small Publisher at the 2015 Publish Awards. Specialising in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), Refraction Media came out on top in a category that included sport, luxury and lifestyle at the industry’s night-of-nights.

The jurors at the 2015 Publish Awards said:

“Refraction Media outclassed the other entrants. For a start up operation that’s only two years old, the company has managed to capitalise on an untapped market with incredible skill and with many clever, innovative and successful media streams.”

Publishing’s leaders, representing titles such as Vogue, the Australian Women’s Weekly and Gourmet Traveller, competed for accolades at the 2015 Publish Awards alongside youth disrupters such as Junkee, Vice and Pedestrian.tv while business and industry like In the Black and Australian Pharmacist brought their A-game.

Amongst the glitz and glamour at the 2015 Publish Awards, science valiantly flew its flag with New Scientist‘s Australasia reporter Michael Slezak a finalist for Journalist of the Year (Consumer/Custom) and COSMOS magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr Elizabeth Finkel, a finalist for Single Article of the year for her piece ‘The buzz around brain stimulation‘.

With a strong presence on the main stage and by sharing the language and aesthetics of mass publishers, science publishers are taking science out of a niche audience and placing it firmly at the centre of a dynamic industry of interactivity, sharing and scrolling.

As science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) becomes more visual, accessible and dynamic, especially to Australia’s youth, engagement and participation rates will climb. This future STEM-skilled workforce is critical to Australia’s future prosperity. STEM graduates will facilitate innovation and collaboration.

Refraction Media fills a unique niche in the market that connects science and technology with the general public. Since its launch in 2013, Refraction has printed over half a million magazines across eight titles, shared 16 in-depth science study guides with schools, produced 13 3D animations, edited 17 scientific white papers, developed two e-learning platforms and created the worldwide, one-and-only virtual tour of a nuclear reactor.

Refraction produce two websites, for news at the nexus of research and industry, www.sciencemeetsbusiness.com.au; and careerswithcode.com.au, which aims to inspire high school students to combine their passion – whether it’s music, arts, business, sports or the environment – with STEM skills to create the careers of the future.

Refraction Media has demonstrated that rather than being ‘niche’, specialising in science uncovers a world of opportunity and discovery.


Southern stars: the decade ahead for Australian astronomy

Extremely large optical telescopes, including the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), which is due to be built in Chile in 2021, will allow studies of stars and galaxies at the dawn of the universe, and will peer at planets similar to ours around distant stars.

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which will be constructed in Australia and South Africa over the next several years, will observe the transformation in the young universe that followed the formation of the first generation of stars and test Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Large-scale surveys of stars and galaxies will help us discover how elements are produced and recycled through galaxies to enrich the universe. The revolutionary sensitivity of the GMT will also be used to understand the properties of ancient stars born at the dawn of the universe.

In the coming decade, astronomers will also learn how galaxies evolve across cosmic time through new coordinated Australian-led surveys using the Australian SKA Pathfinder, the Australian Astronomical Observatory and next-generation optical telescopes.

On the largest scales, dark matter and dark energy comprise more than 95% of the universe, and yet their nature is still unknown. Australian astronomers will use next-generation optical telescopes to measure the growth of the universe and probe the unknown nature of dark matter and dark energy.

The long-anticipated detection of gravitational waves will also open a window into the most extreme environments in the universe. The hope is that gravitational waves generated by the collision of black holes will help us better understand the behavior of matter and gravity at extreme densities.

Closer to home, the processes by which interstellar gas is turned into stars and solar systems are core to understanding our very existence. By combining theoretical simulations with observations from the Australia Telescope Compact Array and the GMT, Australian astronomers will discover how stars and planets form.

And this far-reaching knowledge will inform new theoretical models to achieve an unprecedented understanding of the universe around us.

Australia’s role

These are some of the exciting projects highlighted in the latest decadal plan for Australian astronomy, which was launched at Parliament House on Wednesday August 12.

Over the past decade, Australian astronomers have achieved a range of major breakthroughs in optical and radio astronomy and in theoretical astrophysics.

Star trails above one of Australia’s great telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory. Australian Astronomical Observatory/David Malin
Star trails above one of Australia’s great telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory. Australian Astronomical Observatory/David Malin

Australian astronomers have precisely measured the properties of stars, galaxies and of the universe, significantly advancing our understanding of the cosmos. The mass, geometry, and expansion of the universe have been measured to exquisite accuracy using giant surveys of galaxies and exploding stars. Planetary astronomy has undergone a revolution, with the number of planets discovered around other stars now counted in the thousands.

In forming a strategy for the future, Australia in the Era of Global Astronomy assesses these and other scientific successes, as well as the evolution of Australian astronomy including it’s broader societal roles.

Astronomy is traditionally a vehicle for attracting students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The report also highlights expanding the use of astronomy to help improve the standard of science education in schools through teacher-training programs.

Training aimed at improving the “transferrable” skills of graduate and postgraduate astronomy students will also help Australia improve its capacity for innovation.

Look far

The Australian astronomy community has greatly increased its capacity in training of higher-degree students and early-career researchers. However, Australian astronomy must address the low level of female participation among its workforce, which has remained at 20% over the past decade.

The past decade has seen a large rise in Australian scientific impact from international facilities. This move represents a watershed in Australian astronomical history and must be strategically managed to maintain Australia’s pre-eminent role as an astronomical nation.

The engagement of industry will become increasingly important in the coming decade as the focus of the scientific community moves from Australian-based facilities, which have often been designed and built domestically, towards new global mega-projects such as the SKA.

While a decade is an appropriate timescale on which to revisit strategic planning across the community, the vision outlined in the plan looked beyond the past decade, recommending far-reaching investments in multi-decade global projects such as the GMT and the SKA.

These recent long-term investments will come to fruition in the coming decade, positioning Australia to continue as a global astronomy leader in the future.

This article was first published by The Conversation on 24 August 2015. Read the original article here.