A year ago, the federal government seemingly gutted science and technology research in this country, to the great consternation of many. But from the ashes of NICTA and CSIRO’s Digital Productivity group came Data61. The agency’s purpose is to bring together federal and state government departments, industry, university partners and CSIRO-wide capability to foster an ecosystem of innovation and collaboration. And while that sounds like it comes from a marketing brochure, the agency has made great strides in a number of fields and engaged with the public in ways that were rarely seen just a year ago.
Operating from 14 locations with over 900 employees, Data61 has achieved a number of milestones including:
- $75m capital raised by portfolio companies
- $135m new multi-year contracts and $50m contracts in negotiations
- 273 project milestones completed (a further 76 due by June 30)
- Ribit student placement platform grown to a community with over 10,000 students and 1000 startups and innovative companies and around 450 students matched for jobs
- 350 scientific papers published
- Opening of Victorian CyberSecurity and Innovation Centre in Melbourne
- Expanded the Girls Programming Network to provide coding mentorship for 100s of female school students
- 51 patents granted and 72 applications filed
When the government announced they were making changes to CSIRO and NICTA I was one of the many sceptics who thought technology research was doomed. But the evidence I’ve seen suggests Data61 is moving ahead, although the focus on long-term research is still an issue that we need to grapple with.
For now, we can look forward to what Data61 is doing. But we still need a healthy resepct and love for science to ensure long-term research, without an immediate commercial benefit is nurtured.