PM announces new Chief Scientist


Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has announced the appointment of Dr Alan Finkel AO as Australia's next Chief Scientist.

Dr Finkel, who succeeds Professor Ian Chubb AC, will commence in the role in January next year.

Dr Finkel is a prominent engineer, respected neuroscientist, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist with a long-standing commitment to innovation and commercialisation. He is currently the Chancellor of Monash University and is President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

According to Mr Turnbull, Dr Finkel's experience in science and the commercial sector makes him uniquely qualified to act as one of the Government's key advisers on science and innovation, particularly on ways to translate scientific research into tangible outcomes.

Dr Finkel established Axon Instruments in 1983. The company supplied equipment and software for use in cellular neuroscience, genomics and drug discovery. It was listed on the ASX in 2000 and subsequently acquired by a US company in 2004.

Mr Turnbull said science and innovation are at the centre of the Government's agenda and key to Australia remaining a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net.

"The Australian Government recognises the importance of science, innovation and technology to our future prosperity and economic security in an increasingly competitive and diverse global economy," said the Prime Minister.

AusBiotech said it is extremely supportive of Professor Finkel’s appointment.

CEO Dr Anna Lavelle said: “Professor Finkel has distinguished himself in many ways that are relevant to this posting, both in industry and academia. I am personally very excited about the new possibilities for biotechnology’s role in the future, with the combination of this new appointment and the recent focus on innovation by the Prime Minister. 

“We would also like to acknowledge Professor Ian Chubb’s contribution to science in Australia and particularly for his work to promote collaboration between researchers and industry and raising the profile of STEM education, which supports development in biotechnologies,” added Dr Lavelle.

The Australian Academy of Science also welcomed Dr Finkel's appointment, describing it as an excellent choice.

"...I’m confident he will speak strongly and passionately on behalf of Australian science, particularly in his advice to government,” said AAS President Professor Andrew Holmes.

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, said Dr Finkel was selected following an extensive international search for candidates.

"Dr Finkel is renowned for his outstanding research, industrial and entrepreneurial achievements in Australia and overseas, his leadership and service in the university and education sector, the academies and national science bodies, and his experience in providing high-quality expert advice to government," said Mr Pyne.

"His will be a vital role in shaping Australia's economic future and leading our national conversation on science, innovation and commercialisation across the research, industry and education sectors and with the wider community," he added.

The new Chief Scientist will provide independent advice to the government on science, innovation and commercialisation and work to lift the profile of Australian scientific endeavour domestically and internationally.

Dr Finkel said he was thrilled with the opportunity.

"My personal experience across research, business and STEM education will guide my ability to formulate relevant advice," said Dr Finkel. "We exist in a competitive international environment and to compete effectively, business needs science, science needs business, Australia needs both."

Mr Pyne also praised Professor Chubb for his achievements in the role.

"Professor Ian Chubb has made an incredible contribution to science in Australia and we thank and commend him on his outstanding contribution as Australian Chief Scientist and also as an eminent university administrator and academic over the course of his distinguished career," he said.