When Geoff Garrett took over as chief executive at CSIRO in 2001, he pledged to give the research organisation a greater commercial focus by increasing revenue for its intellectual property. In 2002 the strategic plan predicted that $73 million would stem from intellectual property sales.
So how disappointing to learn that seven years on, revenue from IP is just $30 million last year.
This fell from $32.4 million for the year before and fell well short of the $36 million goal.
Mike Whelan, deputy chief executive of operations, says that the $73 million was an aspirational target and a recent budget forecast was much lower: for $36 million. The fall in revenue was due to the effect of drought on cotton and other royalties, he says.
He says that back in 2002 income was $8 million a year and that CSIRO has worked closely with venture capitalists and the innovation community to more readily transfer technologies. Key measures such as number of patents and inventions, papers published per researcher and the level of citation of CSIRO research, has all increased.
He adds that CSIRO has also been taking equity positions in companies that should be included in assessments on CSIRO’s IP sales record.
“Often when we transfer technology to a company we take an equity position and the value of CSIRO holdings in companies has grown from $29 million to $44 million. We refer to that as stocking the shelves for the future because that will provide us with future earnings.”
He says CSIRO has taken stakes as small as 4.5% to owning the whole of the company. “The pipeline is very solid.”