Merged CSIRO and NICTA to become ‘Data61’

Merged CSIRO and NICTA to become ‘Data61’

Duplication expected in support areas of both organisations, creating uncertainty for staff

The CSIRO's Digital Productivity group and NICTA will merge to create a new organisation called 'Data61’ but the future of around 200 support staff still remains uncertain.

CSIRO chief executive, Larry Marshall, told a Senate estimates hearing in June that many of the jobs lost would be backroom support staff.

A CSIRO spokesperson told CIO that the organisation’s priority was to maintain current levels of research capability.

“We do know there is likely to be some duplication of support areas in this new entity and it is anticipated that some of these positions may be redeployed into the broader CSIRO functions,” the spokesperson said.

The CSIRO's Digital Productivity business unit has around 350 staff and 180 affiliates. These staff are based in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.

NCITA – which will no longer receive government support from June 2016 – currently employs around 350 staff and 3000 PhD students at offices in the same cities.

Data61 will be led by Australian technology entrepreneur, Adrian Turner, who has been based in Silicon Valley for the past 18 years, firstly working for tech giant, Philips, and then building his own companies from the ground up.

Communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the new national organisation will produce focused research that will deliver strong economic returns and ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of digital innovation.

“The new combined entity will continue to train Australia’s future digital technology leaders through the enhanced PhD programme, with more than 300 technology PhDs enrolled at partner universities.”

Minister for industry and science, Ian Macfarlane, said both CSIRO and NCITA are two world-class research organisations with leading scientists.

“Both have an impressive track record in digital innovation and have demonstrated their ability to take home grown technologies to the market.

“Together, they will be a force to be reckoned with, creating an internationally recognised digital research powerhouse that will benefit Australian industry as it reaches into new global markets and seizes new opportunities for jobs and growth.”

David Myers, COO at audio networking company, Audinate, said the organisation was pleased to hear that NICTA will continue its work as part of the CSIRO but was sorry to see it disappear as an independent entity.

"Government funding, and specifically support from NICTA, was crucial in the incubation and development of the project that became Audinate, the first company to commercially spin out of NICTA in 2006," Myers said.

NICTA provide the Audinate with space and opportunity to develop deep expertise, core technology and intellectual property that underpins its success, Myers said.

​"​This is a testament to the role that government-funded organisations like NICTA and CSIRO can play in ensuring that core technologies are down-streamed into world-beating commercial products that benefit the Australian economy and technology community as a whole," he said.

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