A mission to bring research and industry together
Innovation Aus, Larry Marshall
27 April 2021
In May 1926, the Australian inventor of the Sunshine Harvester, Hugh McKay, died. His homegrown invention had created the largest factory in Australia at the time, peaking at 3,000 workers, and transformed Australian agriculture.
Five days after McKay’s death, then Prime Minister Stanley Bruce gave the speech that would call into creation the CSIRO as we know it today, to “bring about co-operation” between industries, universities, and “every other agency at present handling scientific questions”.
Simply put, it was formed to be a national point of connection for research and industry.
His speech listed the successes of science agencies in the US and UK – but overlooked McKay, whose inventor-entrepreneur streak wasn’t recognised as being remotely connected to the question of universities or science institutes.
Nearly 100 years later and Australia still faces the same problem. Our universities have grown from about 15 in 1926 to more than 40 today, and our distinctly Australian industries in 1926 have diversified to reflect the global marketplace – but we still don’t have a national approach to commercialisation that embraces a diversity of paths to innovation.