Chief Executive’s foreword

Dr Larry Marshall

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall

Science is in sharp focus as Australia, and the world, grapples with a damaging year and contemplates recovery.

Australia’s resilience and recovery is being put to the test in a year where we have experienced devastating bushfires, drought and the global COVID-19 pandemic. The first recession in 30 years is seeing increasing pressure on our communities and industries. The world’s landscape – how we work, trade, travel, collaborate – is changing. It is a sobering time and a moment to consider the future we are shaping. A future that can be driven by science.

The disruption of this year has brought CSIRO’s purpose into the fore as we have used our innovative science and technology to solve these great challenges. Never in our lifetime has a country – or the world – turned to scientists in the way they are now.

The Corporate Plan is a focal point to ensure your national science agency continues to play a critical role of science for our nation’s recovery and future resilience: to ensure the science we create has impact and benefit for Australia by collaborating with government, industry and academia to grow our national innovation performance; to provide the research community with access to the world-class facilities and collections we manage on behalf of the nation; and to ensure we continue to develop the best talent, for the benefit of Australia.


A hundred years ago a newly formed CSIRO – created to use science to redefine our future – was given its first national mission, to tackle the invasive Prickly Pear which was rendering so much prime agricultural land useless. Scientists worked with farmers, government departments and communities on a biological control response, and identified a solution in the brown-grey Cactus Moth, which soon nibbled the problem into oblivion.

Now, 100 years on, CSIRO continues to work with government, universities, industry and the community as a key part of our approach on a new missions program to bolster Australia’s COVID-19 recovery and build long-term resilience. The program of large-scale, major scientific and collaborative research initiatives, will be aimed at solving some of Australia’s greatest challenges, focused on outcomes that lead to positive impact, new jobs and economic growth.

There has never been a more important time for a bold and visionary approach to drive Australia’s recovery, and as the missions are co-developed we look forward to sharing more about their intent and impact.

Digital transformation

In recent Corporate Plans we’ve identified the power of combining deep domain expertise with new digital technologies, and have made strong progress on driving the national science agency’s digital transformation. This has been critical in underpinning a rapid pivot to new ways of working this year, including working from home and reducing density at our critical scientific infrastructure, while protecting our people and our knowledge from cyber threats. It has unlocked new opportunities for CSIRO as well as Australia, which we will seize by increasing the pace and scale of our science delivery through digital technologies, as well as building digital capability in our workforce and adapting our workplaces for future ways of working.

This Corporate Plan sets our strategy for the next four years, but we couldn’t deliver any of it without our exceptional people. This plan outlines the strategic initiatives that will enable their commitment to science excellence, their generous collaborative spirit, and their passion for solving challenges to make life better. It charts a course for Australia’s recovery and future resilience, through today’s crises and to prepare for tomorrow’s.

Dr Larry Marshall
Chief Executive
August 2020