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Mission-directed research and development

person wearing virtual reality headset and pointing fingersOur Digiscape Future Science Platform is building a common big data infrastructure that will support next generation decision-making and transform agricultural industries and environmental action.

We deliver science in collaboration with our research and industry partners and through strategic investments to help translate scientific discoveries into practical applications for Australia and the world. We work to achieve this through three functions:

  • Conduct and facilitate the uptake of excellent scientific and technology solutions to deliver impact to the nation.
  • Connect to global science, technology and innovation to access new opportunities for Australian innovation.
  • Manage funding for industrial scientific research activities and assist industry through research collaboration and capacity building.

Table 3.1: Mission-directed research and development performance
Our delivery of mission-directed research and development is measured in these ways.




Demonstrate triple bottom line impacts through:

  • externally validated impact case studies
  • assessment of impact in independent Business Unit reviews
  • a biennial external ‘Value of CSIRO’ impact assessment (not due in 18–19)

Demonstrate impact with a minimum of 6 externally validated impact case studies


Substantial triple bottom line benefits have resulted from our work and are demonstrated by 31 impact case studies completed across the CSIRO portfolio, also including an industry and government research alliance.

At least 80% of programs are rated in the top two categories, benchmark or strong, on the impact criteria, in external reviews of Business Units


The external panels assessed the impact of the research programs in external reviews of three of our Business Units. 94% were assessed in the top two rating categories, strong and benchmark, indicating exceeding and leading international standards.

Science excellence: Normalised Citation Impact relative to global average performance

Top quartile of Australian universities & >50% global average


CSIRO is ranked in the second quartile compared to Australian universities, at 13 of 41 institutions. The Normalised Citation Impact of 1.49 is 49% above the global average and materially consistent with recent years’ results.

Strategic innovation investment:

direct science investment including Future Science Platforms, capability development and centrally competitive funds

$62m invested in Future Science Platforms, capability development and internally competitive funds


The growth of direct investment was constrained to $51.2m for 2018–19. This was the result of a prudent approach to growing funding of the program, while investing in other enabling platforms like digital, and the temporary suspension of the Science Leaders program while it was being reviewed.

Pipeline of investable propositions for the “CSIRO Innovation Fund 1, LP” from publicly funded research institutions (Function 1.3 in our Corporate Plan)

At least 5 investable propositions pursued


Investments in 14 deep technology companies linked to the publicly funded research sector have been made across all focus areas for the Fund in 2018–19 to a total of 19 since September 2017.

Evidence of triple-bottom line impacts from global activities, with demonstrated benefits to Australia (Function 1.2 in our Corporate Plan)

Minimum of 6 externally validated impact case studies


Our global activities and engagements have generated national benefits, as demonstrated with nine impact case studies.

Establishing new, significant and strategic level Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) (Function 1.2 in our Corporate Plan)

8 negotiated per year


Strategic MoU have been established to facilitate collaboration and enable the research business with 26 organisations from 19 countries.

University engagement: feedback from the universities involved in the ON program – willingness to recommend (4 or higher on 5-point scale)

80% of university participants highly recommend the program


Universities have engaged with CSIRO through the ON program, with 96% of participants in university-led teams recommending the ON program, demonstrating its continuing relevance and effectiveness and an improvement on the previous result of 93%.

Public perception of CSIRO

Increase positive public perception of CSIRO to 80%


Public awareness of CSIRO at 87% remains high and consistent with recent years. Perceptions also remains consistent with last year, as 64% of Australians view CSIRO positively.

Customer and user satisfaction:

Customer Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promotor Score: +18


The NPS of +45 improves on the +40 achieved last year on a 10% increased base of survey responses.

Additional KPIs relating to Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) are found in the SIEF Annual Report Part 6.

'G' indicates positive progress for the year and the target has been achieved.

'P' indicates progress through the year was less than anticipated and continues to be closely monitored.

Triple bottom line impacts

The triple bottom line impact we deliver for Australia is evaluated in several ways. We conduct several externally validated impact case studies each year; engage external reviews of our Business Units every three to five years; and commission a biennial ‘Value of CSIRO’ impact assessment. The last assessment by ACIL Allen Consulting in 2018 quantified the aggregate benefits of impact case studies and determined that we provide more than $3.2 billion per year in benefits to the nation.

In addition, it is recognised that we provide value through our ‘standing capabilities’ such as the ability to quickly respond to new or urgent demands for scientific information and our national infrastructure and facilities. Value is also derived from our training, education and advisory services, support for STEM talent development, innovation system investments and through options and royalties generated by our research. While it is difficult to quantify, these benefits were assessed as representing considerable additional value to the nation.

External reviews

The regular external reviews of our Business Units employ a panel of scientific and industry experts from Australia and overseas to assess performance against three dimensions: impact, science excellence and innovation capacity. In 2018–19, we undertook external reviews of the Agriculture and Food, Data61 and Oceans and Atmosphere Business Units. Across these reviews, 94 per cent of research programs achieved a rating on the impact criteria in the top two categories of strong to benchmark, indicating exceeding and leading international standards.

The panels recognised our unique role and value in addressing Australia’s national challenges. They highlighted the excellence of our science, that our people are passionate and talented, and that the capacity to integrate across disciplines enables innovations of national importance for Australia.

The external panel was impressed by Agriculture and Food’s scientific achievements and the positive impact that the focus on innovation and impact has had on staff morale and performance, and its interaction with key stakeholders. This was achieved through the committed leadership team, which has provided outstanding support to the staff while maintaining high-quality, interdisciplinary research programs.

The panel reviewing Data61 recognised it as a leading data science and innovation group in Australia that is positioned to contribute substantially to the nation’s future. The panel acknowledged the success of integrating the previous NICTA organisation into CSIRO with strong leadership. The overall assessment ratings were strong on all three dimensions, with the impact of each program rated from strong to benchmark.

Oceans and Atmosphere was praised by the external panel for delivering its science with innovation and impact. In every respect, the assessment of performance is at least at the strong to benchmark level. The panel was impressed with the effective leadership of the Business Unit and the programs, and appreciated the relevance of the research to the environmental, societal and economic triple bottom line.

Impact case studies

Externally validated case studies are conducted every year[1 to evaluate and demonstrate the impact value resulting from individual projects. With 31 case studies completed and published[2] during 2018–19, we demonstrated substantial benefits from our research.

A portfolio of case studies from across CSIRO are included in this section. Some highlights include the following:

  • The research conducted by Oceans and Atmosphere on the conservation management of southern bluefin tuna demonstrated the value we provided in improving the security of the fishing industry in Australia, New Zealand and worldwide. The benefit of this research to 2025 was calculated at $616.5 million in 2018–19, with a benefit-cost ratio of over 28:1.
  • The measurable, directly attributable benefits of Data61’s TerriaJS include time-saving efficiencies delivered through ease of accessing government geospatial data, analysis of data, and dissemination of findings. These benefits alone deliver net benefits of more than $47.5 million over the 10-year period to 2028, representing a benefit-cost ratio of 6.64.
  • The combined research of the Pacific Climate Change science program has informed policy development and adaptation/disaster risk management planning in Australia and surrounding Pacific nations. The combined net present value of the two projects is therefore projected to be $691 million in 2018–19 dollars, while the benefit-cost ratio is estimated to be 15.19.

The following chart shows the balance of research efforts to a diverse range of socioeconomic benefits.

image of csiro research investment by socioeconomic objectives Figure 3.1: CSIRO research investment by socioeconomic objectives in 2018–19

Equity portfolio

Another representation of our impact value is the valuation of and investment in the companies that use our research outputs and intellectual property (IP). We partner with companies, large and small that we believe are best placed to take new technologies to market and deliver positive outcomes for Australia.

In many instances, we license our technology to third party companies, where licensing represents the pathway most likely to maximise the impact of CSIRO-developed IP. In other instances, an impact assessment might lead to us assigning CSIRO-developed IP to newly created, high-technology small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Under many of our commercialisation pathways, we retain an equity holding in the underlying commercialisation vehicle.

At 30 June 2019, we held interests in eight listed companies, 26 unlisted companies, four special purpose vehicles and three investment funds (including the CSIRO Innovation Fund). The value of these holdings at 30 June 2019 totalled $125.3 million (up from $98.7 million at 30 June 2018), and we believe that the portfolio of companies has a collective total market capitalisation in excess of $2 billion.

The value of our portfolio has grown significantly in recent years with an ongoing focus on creating impact with CSIRO IP via our commercialisation pathways, bolstered by the significant investment we’ve made in the CSIRO Innovation Fund. Notable transactions in 2018–19 include new investments in CANN Group, MecRX, Renerve, Rhythm Biosciences, Vivazome Therapeutics and Medical Devices International under the various research-for-equity arrangements that we have in place with these groups.

Investment holdings were initiated in four newly formed companies – Emesent, RapidAIM, V2Food and Reflexivity, follow-on investments were made in two existing portfolio companies – NextOre and Arista Cereal Technologies – and a further $10 million investment was made in the CSIRO Innovation Fund. Finally, a significant holding was acquired in NGH Holdings Pty Ltd as a result of a merger that involved an existing CSIRO portfolio company called GeoSLAM. The last of our shares in the ASX-listed Carbon Energy were sold in 2018–19.

Table 3.2: Change in the value of CSIRO's equity holdings





Listed and unlisted companies





Unlisted special purpose vehicles (SPV), CSIRO Fund of Funds, LP, CSIRO Holding Trust and Unlisted Unit Trust










Science excellence

Science excellence is intrinsic to CSIRO and measured in several ways. One measure is the frequency with which our publications are cited by other research, normalised for subject patterns and the age of the material. This Normalised Citation Impact (NCI) is a standard indicator and allows for global comparison.

Our science excellence metrics show citation levels that are significantly higher than the global average, although we are observing a gentle downward trend in our NCI value. This is despite our productivity increasing, with more papers published per scientist than in previous years. We have strategies in place for addressing science excellence and quality, including establishing the Future Science Platforms.​

Our NCI of 1.49 is 49 per cent higher than the global average, based on publications produced from 2014 to 2018, compared to NCI results of 50 per cent higher than global average for publications from 2013 to 2017 and 51 per cent higher for the prior cycle. We are currently ranked 13th against universities in Australia, a decrease on our ranking of joint eighth last year, attributable to a rapid increase in the NCI of some universities in recent years.​

​​The number of refereed CSIRO journal articles and reviews published remains at more than 3,000 per year although it has been trending downwards slightly since 2015 (see Figure 3.2). The decline is attributable to the decrease in our research staff count from 2013 onwards, a lagging effect because of the time it takes to conduct and publish research. However, productivity has not fallen – the total number of refereed papers is still greater than earlier years when staff numbers were higher. For example, in 2018 there were 3,101 papers at rate of 0.517 per staff member, compared to 3,067 publications at a rate of 0.474 per staff member in 2012.

bar graph of csiro journal publicationsFigure 3.2 CSIRO journal publication output by year 2012–2018

​​The number of refereed conference papers recorded in our internal record system increased from 500 in 2017 to 784 in 2018, with the effect that refereed publication output overall is stable. Journal articles are our main type of research publication, followed by conference papers and client reports (see Figure 3.3). In 2018, we produced 663 client reports and 270 technical reports. This was 19 fewer client reports and eight fewer technical reports than last year (see Figure 3.3).

coloured circle graph of csiro publications by typeFigure 3.3: Percentage of CSIRO publications by type in 2018

We produce publications in a range of research fields. Figure 3.4 shows our focus on, and strength in, each of our 15 largest fields. To interpret the chart, a result of 2 on the vertical axis would represent our publications being cited twice as strongly as the global average of publications in this research field. On the horizontal axis, a value of 2 would show that our volume of output of publications in this research field as a proportion of our total output, is twice the proportion of that field in global research output.

graph of normalised citation impact against relation specialisation index for csiroFigure 3.4 CSIRO specialisation and citation impact by research field 2014–18

Fifty-one per cent of our publications are in the four research fields for which we are most strongly ranked for total citations, appearing in the top 0.1 per cent of institutions globally, which are marked in green. We have held this position in these four fields for the 14 years since we have tracked this performance.

Intellectual property

Excellent science generates intellectual property (IP). While it is often published as a contribution to global knowledge and in support of further research, at times it is more appropriate to retain control of the IP. Novel developments, designs and inventions can be defined and registered so that they are recognised as CSIRO property, to be made available for use by others on appropriate terms. This enables our industry partners operating in competitive markets to invest in the application of our IP in their businesses, while potentially returning some of the benefits of their use to CSIRO for re-investment in further research.​

Our registered IP at the end of June 2019 included 679 patent families, 325 trademarks and 79 plant breeder’s rights. The number of patent applications filed for new inventions (priority applications) decreased slightly compared to the previous financial year. In contrast our overall number of patent applications experienced significant growth. This is the result of an increase in overseas patent filings (mainly national phase entries) based on a priority application during the financial year, which is a good indicator of investment into existing technology making its way through the pipeline. An increase in overseas trademark filings indicates focus on our Global Strategy.

Table 3.4: CSIRO intellectual property portfolio (including NICTA IP)









Current Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications












Live cases







Patent families






New provisional and direct filings



















Plant Breeder’s Rights













Registered designs













coloured circle graph of csiro patents by geographic regionFigure 3.5: CSIRO’s standard patent cases by geographic region​Technology licences are a method of making IP available for use by others, often on commercial terms. The number of them is used as a key indicator of the uptake and adoption of research and development outputs by customers and collaborators. A total of 446 licences were recorded as active at 30 June 2019, of which 277 have generated revenue returns to CSIRO. There has been a decrease in the total number of active licences since last year, predominantly due to expiration and termination of copyright licences that did not have revenue returns.

Total revenue attributable to IP (excluding revenue from WLAN and including IP-related equity transactions) increased seven per cent this year, and 63 per cent since financial year 2016. This demonstrates that our intellectual assets underpin increased year-on-year commercial activity in industry.

​Patent filings in Asia, North America and Australia remain at the forefront of our IP Strategy, with these three regions accounting for 66 per cent of our patent portfolio. The total number of live patent cases in Asia has increased steadily over recent years, with approximately 25 per cent in Japan, China, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. Notably, there was a significant increase in South American filing during 2018–19, while there was a slight decrease in the number of filings in regions such as Africa, which represent a relatively small portion of our patent portfolio.

CSIRO Publishing

CSIRO Publishing facilitates scholarly communication between scientists and the wider community, to grow awareness of the role of science in addressing areas of national and international importance. The publishing services provided enhance the quality of research through managing rigorous peer review processes. The impact of our work is in improved decision-making, contribution to the growth of STEM-enabled innovation and lives enriched through access to knowledge, positioning Australia to solve its greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

CSIRO Publishing operates as an editorially independent science publisher within CSIRO on behalf of authors and customers in Australia and overseas, covering a wide range of scientific disciplines. We are Australia’s only endemic, scholarly science publisher with a significant digital capability. We provide a viable, local publishing option for authors, CSIRO and for learned and professional societies to publish scholarly content that champions Australian research.

During 2018–19, we published 27 journal titles, including 13 titles in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science, a successful relationship dating back to 1948. Fourteen journals were produced under agreements with Australian and international societies or institutions while special issues of journals were published in connection with societies and international conferences.

Online journal readership was measured as downloads of more than 2.8 million articles. The journals are available free to developing countries through the United Nations program Research4Life, fostering scientific understanding and education in developing nations.

TABLE 3.3: CSIRO Publishing readership





CSIRO Publishing journals* (downloads)





Double Helix magazine (subscribers)





Double Helix Extra
(email subscribers)**





*Downloads in 2016–17 were artificially inflated by robotic crawlers that were filtered out from 2017–18.

**Previously named Science by Email.


 An Eastern Barred Bandicoot StoryBouncing Back: An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story was shortlisted for the Eva Pownall Award.

During 2018–19, CSIRO Publishing released 33 book titles in print and electronic formats with approximately 11 per cent of sales in digital books. Our program spans picture books to scholarly reference, and our publications communicate the impact of science in our lives and inform professionals in their work. The developing children’s program has been a highlight this year with engaging and vibrant books that ignite curiosity in our future generation of scientists and science champions.

We received industry and professional recognition from the Children’s Book Council of Australia, which shortlisted Bouncing Back: An Eastern Barred Bandicoot Story for the Eva Pownall Award. At the other end of the reading spectrum, Australian Echinoderms: Biology, Ecology and Evolution won the 2018 Whitley Medal.

Accreditation and developments

CSIRO Publishing recognises the importance of high standards of ethical behaviour throughout the publication process. In 2018, CSIRO Publishing was awarded membership to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and supports the recommendations of the COPE Core Practices in our policies and procedures. Our journal editors are expected to work within the framework of the Core Practices.

We also acknowledge that peer review is the cornerstone of scientific publishing. To recognise and reward our peer reviewers for their commitment, CSIRO Publishing has partnered with Publons to support them to record, verify and display their contributions for reviewing our journal articles. This service can help researchers to demonstrate their service to the research community and expertise in the field for use in their performance reviews, funding and promotion applications, and more.

Strategic innovation investment

Future Science Platforms (FSPs), the CSIRO Innovation Fund and other programs help us to reinvent existing industries, create new industries for Australia and deliver public good. A key mechanism to achieving this is our investment in cutting-edge, potentially transformative science.

To develop our researchers, we provide funding for CSIRO Early Research Career (CERC) Postdoctoral Fellowships, professional development of our early- to mid-career researchers, postgraduate scholarships and support for symposia and visiting distinguished researchers. Our Science Leaders program resumed in 2019 after a pause for review of the program, resulting in a lower than anticipated level of spending.

Future Science Platforms

Our investment in future science continues to grow, with centrally funded direct investment allocations into FSPs increasing to $34.9 million in 2018–19. This investment was less than the original target of $42 million, as a prudent approach was taken to the allocation of funding in the early stages of new FSPs established during the year. The central funding is supplemented by investment from the Business Units involved, resulting in an overall direct investment in 2018–19 in excess of $48 million.

The newly approved FSPs that began this year were Space Technologies, and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. They are aligned with government direction as key fields for scientific focus and investment. Several established FSPs received slight increases in budget for specific purposes. Furthermore, seed funding was provided to undertake initial scoping work on projects in three new proposals that may develop into new FSPs or other forms of strategic investment.

Table 3.5: Progress in Future Science Platforms 2018–19


Probing Biosystems

We are partnering with GenesisCare, the largest private provider of cancer care services in Australia, to improve outcomes for patients with difficult-to-treat cancers. This $5 million partnership will drive the development of a new theranostics industry for Australia.


We’ve built our big data infrastructure platform, Senaps-LAND, and through it we have four decision tools to support farmers and agribusiness. Our Graincast™ tool, released in 2018, combines satellite and weather data with CSIRO’s forecasting technologies and simple user-provided data to forecast national annual grain harvest. Our 1622™ app will help protect the Great Barrier Reef by enabling sugarcane growers to make better nitrogen fertiliser decisions. WaterWise helps reduce the footprint of high-value crops through sensor-model-data fusion, and LOOC-C will enable farmers to participate profitably in greenhouse gas mitigation and maximise benefits to the land from carbon markets.

Synthetic Biology

This platform has grown to an R&D portfolio supporting a large collaborative community of practice with national and international partners. We have established and are now commissioning a DNA Foundry – a high throughput robotic DNA assembly and organism engineering facility with test and quality control capabilities – and are developing protocols and training programs to help drive the conceptual shift in the community that is required to effectively engage with this scientific paradigm.


We are working at the interface of environmental science and genomics, creating tools to enhance the management of Australia’s natural resources. Our teams have developed new ways to remotely monitor biodiversity in Australia’s marine parks with eDNA, and to determine the age and lifespan of long-lived ocean fish species to enable sustainable harvest. We are also pioneering ways to culture deep-earth microbes using electricity, which will open up a new age of exploration of biochemical products for medicine and industry.

Deep Earth Imaging

Deep Earth Imaging is developing new technologies to secure Australia’s ongoing prosperity from resources (energy, minerals and water). We’re focusing on the advancement of inversion and Earth imaging algorithms in collaboration with the Australian National University and Geoscience Australia through the new Industrial Inversion Laboratory (InLab). Our science employs indirect observations through geophysics allied with inference processes to see what is hidden from view beneath the surface. To more precisely image subsurface rock properties we will help to develop a common framework for inference, inversion and machine learning which will simplify the testing and development of new algorithms.

Active Integrated Matter

Active Integrated Matter brings together scientists and engineers from materials, sensors, robotics, physical processing, informatics and autonomous systems. We’re collaborating to produce impact in smart and personalised food supply, versatile robotics for extreme scenarios, next generation 3-D printing and chemical processing, and future environment security. More than 15 novel technologies or prototypes have been developed, including a new stabilisation and production method for broccoli powder and a stochastic algorithm for food loss mapping. Commercial discussions are underway with potential end users.

Hydrogen Energy Systems

Hydrogen Energy Systems continues to build on the early impacts from its National Hydrogen Roadmap, and is now delivering new science from a range of cross-Business Unit projects. This work, supported by strong collaborations with local and international groups, is laying the foundation for new technologies and industry capabilities supporting a future hydrogen energy value chain, including a new renewable energy export industry for Australia.

Precision Health

In September, we launched the Future of Health report which details what’s needed to keep Australia’s health system efficient, equitable and affordable. This report is now being used to inform policy discussions across the health sector. We have active research projects with international partners such as Nanyang Technological University, A*Star and the Centre for Astrophysics and Computing and have engaged 12 new CSIRO-based Postdoctoral Fellows, with projects focused on extending our current patent portfolio. We have secured an additional $2.2 million in a joint A*Star/Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Innovations in Food for Precision Health program.

Space Technologies

This new platform was launched in November to grow capability and catalyse research targeting opportunities in support of the Australian Space Agency’s goal of tripling the size of the Australian space industry by 2030. The Space Technologies FSP has been in rapid start-up phase, initiating 11 novel projects in February in Earth observation, satellite technologies, space tracking technologies, space biomedicine and off-Earth resource utilisation. These have been supported by industry and research sector collaborators. The program will expand to 18 projects in July 2019–20, incorporating additional new research in space missions, robotics and communications.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

This new FSP, which began detailed planning in December, is targeting artificial intelligence-driven solutions to build a safer and more efficient future for the next generation. We established an advisory and leadership group with representation across the organisation. We prioritised artificial intelligence and machine learning needs and opportunities across CSIRO and held a series of workshops to consolidate organisational priorities into coordinated activities.

Responsible Innovation

Our Responsible Innovation (RI) initiative was established from within a Future Science Platform for application across the FSP program. It is now nationally and internationally recognised as a key presence in this emergent field. We have established a community of practice in Australia through strategic partnerships and collaborative research projects, including work with international agencies on gene drive, and short-course development on RI and digital disruption. Our applied focus on operationalising RI has emerged as a particular and unique advantage for the organisation.

CSIRO Innovation Fund

The CSIRO Innovation Fund, operated by CSIRO subsidiary Main Sequence Ventures, aims to improve the translation of publicly funded research into commercial outcomes and stimulate innovation in Australia. In 2018–19, the Fund focused on finalising the commitment of private sector investment, building the portfolio of investments and engaging with the Australian innovation sector. More than $140 million in private sector investment was secured for the Fund, representing large superannuation funds, international sovereign wealth funds, strategic corporate investors, an Australian university and high-net-worth individuals.

Between September 2017 and June 2019, the Fund has invested almost $60 million in 19 companies. These represent all of the Fund’s priority areas, being health, food and agriculture, software as a service, space, cybersecurity, energy and resources.

In support of the innovation investments, Main Sequence Ventures also drives a Venture on Campus program that includes six key modules. It delivered venture mindset, skills and opportunity, which were custom designed for five Australian universities: University of Technology Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne, the University of Western Australia and Monash University.

Impact from global activities

Our Global Strategy aims to create strategic and high-value global partners to deliver national benefit, and the importance of global partnerships is increasingly evident throughout CSIRO. The level of global engagements and activity across CSIRO has consistently grown; a reflection of the focus on our Global Strategy. These have demonstrated benefits to Australia through four key factors: enhancing our global scientific standing through global partnerships; connecting the domestic innovation system to the global innovation system; attracting foreign investment to Australia; and supporting Australia’s foreign policy agenda.

The benefits accruing to Australia from our international activities are well demonstrated through case studies, with nine studies completed in 2018 –19 providing a snapshot of our global engagements. For example, we now have a better capability to support the Tasmanian salmon industry as a result of our experience with a project in Chile. The Sistema Integrado de Manejo para la Acuícultura (SIMA) project increased our global scientific standing in the global aquaculture industry. The breadth, scale and complexity of the issues faced by Chilean aquaculture offered a unique opportunity for our scientific expertise and capability to evolve to a world-class level.

To facilitate further international collaboration with global partners, to address significant scientific issues and enable the research business, we established 26 international Memoranda of Understanding across 19 countries during 2018–19. For example, our Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology in 2018 has enabled Aus4Innovation, a $10 million development assistance program funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This program aims to strengthen the region’s innovation system, connectivity with Australia in opportunities associated with Industry 4.0, and Australian and Vietnamese research and partnerships.

University engagement

We partner with universities to boost innovation and ensure the best available research is used to deliver outcomes for Australia and the world. This year, we engaged with universities through collaborative research and co-publication, student supervision, Cooperative Research Centres and partnering with 30 Australian universities through the ON program.

Cooperative Research Centres

The Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program supports collaborations between researchers, industry and the community to foster high-quality research and development. The Australian Government has funded 225, with 30 CRCs active in 2018–19. We have contributed to more than 150 CRCs over time and participated in 14 during 2018–19.

We also participated in 13 CRC Projects (CRC-Ps) during 2018–19. These are smaller collaborations that operate on project timelines of up to three years and grants of up to $3 million.

2018–19 highlights

  • We participated in 14 CRCs and 13 CRC-Ps with total cash and in-kind contribution to CRCs and CRC-Ps of $19 million.
  • We became a member of MinEx CRC, which is modelled on the previous Deep Exploration CRC, in which we were a key research participant. Officially launched in late 2018, the $218 million MinEx CRC brings together CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, six universities, all state and territory geological surveys, industry and government. MinEx CRC will tackle the industry’s main issue – the decline in the discovery of major new mineral deposits that are required to deliver a pipeline of mineral resource projects. Its work to improve the effectiveness of drilling, while at the same time collecting data, will drive down the time and cost of mineral discovery and deposit ‘drill-outs’ and bring forward production.
  • In April, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, announced the outcomes of CRC Round 20. We will participate in an additional two CRCs, with funding to start in early 2019–20:
    • Blue Economy CRC: This CRC will bring together national and international expertise in aquaculture to develop innovative and sustainable offshore industries to increase Australian seafood and marine renewable energy production.
    • SmartSat CRC: This CRC will aim to foster the creation of next generation space technologies and make Australia more competitive in the global space economy by supporting the next wave of growth in critical industries including agriculture, transport, logistics, communications and mining.

Advanced Victorian Manufacturing

The advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Victoria is a network of research, industry and government organisations working together to boost manufacturing in the region. A CSIRO broker was appointed under the CSIRO Precinct Strategy to work with other local R&D providers to find a mutual path for working together in a more coordinated fashion. The broker acted as a neutral agent working across existing collaborations to bring the organisations together into a larger, more cohesive ecosystem. Working together increased the visibility and access to research capability of industry. It also enabled opportunities to access funding from multiple players. For example, the Monash MedTech Facility benefited from a $30 million investment ($10 million each from CSIRO and Monash University to leverage $10 million from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund) to provide a broad range of equipment and technical expertise. Key infrastructure includes a magnetic resonance and position emission tomography (MR-PET) scanner, materials synthesis and processing equipment, and a cell therapies and regenerative medicine platform. This improved research capability helps companies meet the translational issues of the medical technologies industry.

The Victorian Advanced Manufacturing innovation ecosystem.

a diagram depicting the parties and collaboration in the Victorian Advanced Manufacturing ecosystemCSIRO (2018) Advanced Manufacturing Collaboration: A case study in managing complex partnerships. The case study is based on interviews with senior leaders in the sector and outlines what and how it was achieved over 5 years.

ON program

ON, powered by CSIRO, is Australia's sci-tech accelerator that helps researchers from all fields of science and technology to discover their impact pathways and then take their research from the lab into the world.

ON conducted three formal programs and associated activities throughout the year, and additionally supported runway and ecosystem services. These programs are designed to support teams from across CSIRO, the university sector and other publicly funded research agencies. We delivered one ON Accelerate program (44 per cent university teams, 56 per cent CSIRO teams) and two ON Prime pre-accelerator programs: Prime5, which was delivered to 156 participants; and Prime6 was delivered to 281 participants.

More than 300 participants were from Australian universities. More than 96 per cent of participant survey respondents from university led teams reported a willingness to recommend ON programs to their colleagues and other prospective participants. This demonstrates the demand for science accelerator programs in the research sector and the proficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of our programs. The program offerings continue to be developed and expanded in response to the needs of Australian researchers.

Since its formation in 2015, ON has supported 398 teams with deep tech ideas, coaching more than 1,440 people from 31 universities, five publicly funded research agencies, five medical research institutions and CSIRO. There have been 43 new companies formed, 14 of which have raised more than $36 million in investment capital. ON program participants have (post program) attracted more than $29.2 million in commercial grants.

Customer and user satisfaction

Creating deeper, more innovative relationships with our customers help us to focus on delivering science that solves the biggest challenges facing our nation.

During 2018–19, we again used the industry benchmark Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology as a measure of customer satisfaction. The NPS for 2018–19 was +45, based on a 10 per cent larger sample of customer responses. This shows a consistent upward trend in customer advocacy – our NPS in 2017–18 was +40 and +34 in 2016–17.

We continue to provide excellent scientific services to our customers, whose overall satisfaction with our price, quality and service (at 73 per cent favourable) has increased over the last four years. They like the way they are treated (89 per cent), that we value their opinion (85 per cent) and that we have their best interests at heart (81 per cent). More customers noted that our research is good value for money and an effective investment for them. Customers are experiencing the positive outcomes of our customer-focused initiatives in recent years: our internal Customer Experience Program training, strategic account management, focused business development, commercialisation pathways, targeted market analysis, and insights and improved systems.

Customers rate our responsiveness higher than in previous years, while their feedback also indicates room for further improvement in the timeliness of project delivery. Although we have become more commercially realistic over the last few years, we can still improve our communication, resourcing and complexity of contracting processes.

In response to this feedback, we conducted a review of our website’s business section to clearly articulate our services to industry no matter where they are in their innovation efforts – from strategic planning to commercialisation. Our new Commercialisation Marketplace helps customers explore our pipeline of investment and partnership opportunities as well as licensing options to catalyse innovation and create competitive advantage. It ensures we are more transparent with our research, intellectual property, technology and capabilities.

In 2018–19, we engaged with 3,300 customers, generating $433 million of revenue from research, consultancy and testing services, and earning more than $45 million in licence, equity and royalty revenue from applied technology. We entered into more than 1,800 new commercial agreements totalling $708 million. The average contract value was more than 80 per cent higher than the previous six-year average. Our top 10 contracts in 2018–19 were valued at $191 million, representing 27 per cent of the total of all commercial contracts signed this year.

Government partnerships

In 2018–19, we worked with 207 customers from all levels of Australian government, federal, state and local, representing $175 million of scientific engagement. One example is working with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to develop guidance on the regulation of software as medical device and cyber security for medical devices.

Strategic agreement with South Australian Government

In May, we signed a strategic agreement with the South Australian government to develop capabilities in key sectors such as space, defence, health, energy and resources. Building on this partnership, we will expand our local innovation efforts through investments aimed at improving and up-scaling facilities as well as developing new ones. This will encourage collaboration with the South Australian research sector including universities, research institutes, industry and state government agencies. The agreement will help to create new industries and jobs aligned with the state’s agenda of impacting local and national economic growth.

Blue Economy

The Blue Economy focuses on working with a range of industry and government partners for the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. In the recently announced Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), we are a core partner through our Oceans and Atmosphere and Energy Business Units. This is a $329 million 10-year research collaboration between 45 national and international partners from industry, research and government, underpinned by a $70 million cash investment from the Federal Government. The CRC seeks to create integrated seafood and energy production systems in the offshore environment.

Bureau of Meteorology

CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have successfully collaborated for more than 40 years, delivering scientific impact of mutual and national benefit. In 2018, we signed a new relationship agreement to increase the strategic and national benefit from our collaborative endeavours. One of the key projects, BLUELink, has been running since 2002 in conjunction with Defence through the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). It is proposed this be extended an additional six years, bringing the lifetime value of the project to $13 million to ensure RAN can take advantage of the improved performance of global and regional ocean models and forecast services, and maintain its world-class position.

Industry partnerships

Applying our research directly to industry is central to our purpose. In 2018–19, we worked with more than 3,300 customers including 377 Australian large corporates, 375 international corporates and more than 950 small and medium-sized enterprises.

2018–19 highlights

Australian National Outlook: In June, we released the Australian National Outlook 2019 in partnership with the National Australia Bank and more than 20 non-government organisations. This second iteration explores how Australia can have a future with prosperous and globally competitive industries.

front cover of the australian national outlook 2019In June, we released the Australian National Outlook 2019.

Fortescue: In November, we partnered with Fortescue to determine whether our metal membrane technology can be developed on a commercial scale to meet the growing global demand for clean hydrogen fuel.

Australian Plant Proteins Pty Ltd: After we helped Australian Plant Proteins improve its manufacturing process of extracting protein from faba beans, Australian Plant Proteins invested in a $20 million facility, which will create 20 jobs and produce more than 2,500 tonnes of protein powder each year. A further $15 million is planned for the facility, which will double its annual production by 2021 and create additional jobs.

SME Connect

Another way we support collaboration between industry and research institutions is through our SME Connect programs, designed to bring together small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with Australia’s best researchers and facilities. Our SME Connect team works with SMEs across Australia to support and enable innovation through funding, expertise and resources. SME Connect delivers three programs; Innovation Connections, funded by the Australian Government as an element of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Entrepreneurs’ Program; STEM+ Business Fellowship program, funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund; and CSIRO Kick-Start. In 2018–19, SME Connect facilitated 222 research projects nationally for 202 companies, injecting more than $24 million into the research and development of these projects. Of these projects, 189 SMEs were delivered by 32 Australian research organisations, including 22 universities and CSIRO, and 33 were grants for recent graduates to work on in-house research projects for SMEs.

Industry roadmaps

At CSIRO, we align our world-class science with key industry sectors. The Industry Growth Centres (IGC) Initiative is an industry-led approach to focus science and research in key areas, with the aim of delivering commercial outcomes. The initiative covers six industry sectors:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals
  • Mining Equipment, Technology and Services
  • Oil, Gas and Energy Resources
  • Cyber Security

We have collaborated with all six IGCs – Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, Food Innovation Australia Limited, MTPConnect, METS Ignited, National Energy Resources Australia and AustCyber – as well as across government and industry to understand emerging industry opportunities and associated enabling science and technology. These efforts have produced Industry Roadmaps for each IGC industry, with the final roadmap for Cyber Security delivered during 2018–19. We also delivered the Space Industry Roadmap in collaboration with the Australian Space Agency to drive opportunities for growth in the Australian space ecosystem; the National Hydrogen Roadmap which provides a blueprint for the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia; and produced a vision and set of enabling priorities for Australia’s health sector through the Future of Health report with inputs from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Department of Health.

Public perception of CSIRO

We are well-known and trusted by the Australian community. Each year, we assess our reputation through external community and business surveys, and an internal staff survey. The results provide us with insights to guide our communication and engagement activities to strengthen our role as Australia’s national science agency.

Public awareness of CSIRO remains high at 87 per cent, with 64 per cent of Australians perceiving us positively, consistent with previous years. The awareness of the ability to engage with us, as derived from a survey of Australian business, has remained stable from 2018 at 35 per cent, while the knowledge by businesses of what we do has increased to 50 per cent from 45 per cent in 2018.

Our Corporate Affairs Strategy continues to strengthen our awareness and reputation by creating more relevant and accessible opportunities to engage our community and customers. The launch of our online Commercialisation Marketplace provided a central, searchable database of opportunities available to commercialise CSIRO technology and capabilities, enhancing our reputation as being open and ready for business.

Our campaigns to promote innovation breakthroughs made international headlines: campaigns on super-bug-fighting platypus milk, a crease-free cotton and smart ear tags for livestock reached a combined media audience of 22 million.


  1. Each case study is assessed within the context of a common framework, as outlined in the CSIRO Impact Evaluation Guide. See: https://www.csiro.au/en/About/Our-impact/Evaluating-our-impact.
  2. Each case study is published, once completed and reviewed to exclude confidential or commercial details. See: https://www.csiro.au/en/About/Our-impact/Our-impact-in-action/Latest-impact-case-studies