Cathy Foley reflects on the importance of leadership in science as the buzz from Australian Museum Eureka Prizes still lingers.

Leadership in Innovation and Science Award finalists shown on a screen at the Euerka Prizes event

The annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes has left a buzz in the air. CSIRO is proud to sponsor the Leadership in Innovation and Science Award. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the impact that great leadership has in science.

The winner was announced on Wednesday night, 28 August. Congratulations Professor Branka Vucetic of University of Sydney for taking out the CSIRO-sponsored award.

Australia’s success as a nation depends on its leaders. Science leadership is vital to blaze new trails, solve seemingly intractable challenges and inspire future generations.

Australia has many gifted science leaders, who integrate their science talents with the management skills necessary to make a difference. They can be found in universities, research laboratories, government, the media and in schools.

For me, leadership is about having the ability to see the bigger picture and share it with others. To see into the future and what is needed. To bring different voices to the table, creating an inclusive and collaborative environment with all involved feeling empowered to be their best.

However, we can all demonstrate leadership regardless of our position. Leadership is more than a title, it’s a mindset, a way of thinking and way of showing initiative.

If we are going to harness the benefits of global disruption created by emerging new science and technology and turn challenges into opportunities, we need leaders who are willing to think differently and see what others cannot. We need leaders who are ready to create bold new visions.

As a nation we are not new to solving challenges; we bred cotton that’s grown around the world, invented fast WiFi for connecting us all – and even received the first images of humans landing on the Moon. We’ve taken on challenges and shown the world what Aussie ingenuity looks like. But what are we showing the world today?

The challenges we face as a nation are spelt out in the Australian National Outlook 2019 report. This is a report CSIRO produced in consultation with 50 leaders across more than 20 leading Australian organisations.

At CSIRO we are working hard taking a multidisciplinary approach and working collaboratively across the system to solve the greatest challenges we face.

There are many examples of leadership in CSIRO but a couple come to mind because of the impact they had are Louisa Warren from our indigenous office, Xavier Mulet working on future materials and Lynne Cobiac linking together health data for greater impact.

We recognise a significant opportunity to help shape the foundations of Australia’s future through great science and technology leadership that this Eureka prize acknowledges. We hope that through the recognition of leaders in innovation and science we will inspire others to step up.


  1. Great news. However, never forget that scientific research is not innovation. Innovation is what companies do. Yes, we did the science that led to wifi. However, Australian companies did little with the research, companies in other nations exploited it. The National Outlook is quite correct that Australia needs more innovation, Trick is that we dont have the companies that can exploit the kind of science illustrated in these awards.

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