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New CSIRO head will guide organisation through tough times: govt

09 October, 2014

There was an air of optimism following the CSIRO's announcement entrepreneur Dr Larry Marshall had been appointed as its new chief executive, with Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane hopeful he would be able to guide the troubled organisation through to "a significant new phase".

In recent years the CSIRO has been going through a series of rough patches with funding cuts and reduced staff numbers from the May federal budget, compounded by constant murmurs in the media about the receding relevance of scientific research, and allegations of workplace bullying.

For an organisation that was the backbone of such significant developments as Wi-Fi, contact lenses and polymer bank notes, the current figures being reported are hardly complimentary.

The CSIRO received $778 million from the federal government for 2013-14, for 2014-15 the figure will be reduced to $745 million. And with staff numbers: in the mid-90s 7400 people worked for the organisation – that number now sitting at 5523.

Well positioned despite tough climate

Outgoing Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark said the cuts, despite being disappointing, weren't unexpected, stating other important science bodies such as ANSTO and DSTO had suffered the same fate.

Dr Clark said the CSIRO had positioned itself well despite the tough political and economic climate, and praised the career opportunities it had offered her.

"When we look at our global peers – and that includes government research bodies in Germany, Holland and France – we're now in the top three for all of our science and we're in the top three for the impact that we deliver, that is, the solutions that we put out for industry, for the environment, for the community," she said.

"You don't get fascinating and worthwhile together very often in your career and CSIRO is that. You get to work with the brightest and the best."

'The centre of industrial policy'

Positive changes have been predicted in the hands of Dr Marshall. A venture capitalist with a PhD in physics, he has resided in the US for more than 20 years and currently runs venture capital Silicon Valley-based firm Southern Cross Ventures.

Macfarlane said he was confident Dr Marshall's appointment would get the organisation off on the right foot.

"Dr Marshall is a scientist who brings significant commercial experience to this role," he said.

"In particular, his experience in Silicon Valley, R&D development and the commercialisation of products and ideas will be valuable in ensuring CSIRO rightfully claims its place at the centre of Australian industry policy, building new links between business and research organisations."

Macfarlane also thanked Dr Clark for her leadership and commitment since 2009.

"Dr Clark's passion for science has genuinely enhanced CSIRO's reputation and international standing," he said.

"Dr Clark's legacy has shaped CSIRO as a global leader in research and innovation through science. Her work ensures Australia is well placed to make further gains in our global competitiveness and contribute to scientific advances for the international community."

Dr Marshall will commence his tenure in January 2015. The CSIRO will also release a blueprint in mid-2015 "Strategy 2025" which will goals for the next decade.

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