An image of Dr. Megan Clark, CEO of CSIRO.

Dr Megan Clark, Chief Executive and CSIRO Board member.

Boosting the growth of the biotechnology sector - presentation by Dr Megan Clark

This presentation 'CSIRO's part in boosting the growth of the biotechnology sector' was given by CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark. Provided here is an adapted transcript of the speech, originally delivered at the AusBiotech Conference in October 2009.

  • 4 November 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011


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It is an honour to give the Millis Oration.

As many of you know, Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis AC made significant contributions to the biotechnology industry over many years.

What may be less well known is that for a short period very early in life, before she embarked on her science career, she worked as a technician for CSIRO in the Division of Forest Products.

However, from an interview she gave in 2001 it seems that this move was a flight from what she saw as a terrible job as a bookkeeper for a Customs agent! Perhaps a lovely example of serendipity at work.

The stronger and deeper connection I would like to make between Nancy Millis and CSIRO is the shared value of a life long commitment to science, to working with industry and together delivering benefit to the communities we serve.

Slide from the 'Boosting the growth of the biotechnology sector' presentation.

We all want a prosperous and healthy society, but we face the challenge of securing our food, water and energy needs in a world of finite resources. 

Population growth, rapid urbanisation, resource constraints and climate change are placing huge pressures on global systems.

These national and global challenges are connected and cannot be dealt with in isolation.
Science is increasingly asked to develop solutions to mitigate, and to adapt to these rapid changes that are impacting on humanity.

Science will enable us to understand the complexity of these interactions, and we need new ways of collaborating and working in partnership with industry to deliver these solutions.

Today I want to share with you:

  • A perspective of what we are observing around investment in innovation in the current environment.
  • CSIRO's role in helping boost the growth of the biotechnology sector. In the past, we defined commercial success of our research as a spin-out company or exclusive license, and then watching that company grow. We now think about how to build whole new industries. 
  • How we are working towards a cost-effective, high quality and sustainable health system to meet the needs of the Australian community by working collaboratively, pooling resources and combining advances in biotechnology with advances in information sciences.

Humanity is experiencing a number of global challenges

  • We are emerging from a global financial crisis that has had an impact many will feel for some time to come, in the form of growing poverty and hunger. When this is combined with growing food insecurity, the challenge we face is quite unprecedented.
  • Climate changes that require urgent reduction of our carbon footprint
  • Rapid population growth and the greatest human migration since our species emerged on the planet. In 2008, the world reached an invisible, but momentous milestone. For the first time in history more that half its human population, 3.3 billion people, are now living in urban areas. By 2030 this is expected to swell to almost five billion.
  • This migration means these urban populations will be completely dependent on urban infrastructure to deliver their daily food, water, and air, and remove their waste and provide their livelihood.
  • In the developed world, the population is ageing. Demand for technologies and treatments for this cohort will place an ever increasing cost on health budgets. The recent government review by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission is laying the groundwork for an Australian response to these changing demographics.
  • In the developing world, rapid growth of emerging giant economies will create huge environmental stresses as well as demand for health treatments paralleling those in the developed world.

Slide from the 'Boosting the growth of the biotechnology sector' presentation.