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Commercial research leader Sharath Sriram is president-elect at STA

RMIT University researcher and commercialisation leader Professor Sharath Sriram has been elected as president-elect at Science and Technology Australia as part of a broader board-renewal at the peak representative body.

Professor Sriram, who works with the Functional Material and Microsystems team within RMIT’s School of Engineering, has won acclaim for his track record as a “connector of commercialisation”, creating more than $6 million in commercial partnerships for the university in the past five years.

The commercial research work performed by his team includes a collaboration with Sleeptite on a smart bedding product for aged care, which last week won the Digital Health and Health Tech Award at the InnovationAus Awards for Excellence.

The team has also worked on a wearable for continuous molecular monitoring, and miniature biosensors for monitoring respiratory illnesses.

RMIT’s Professor Sharath Sriram

With an increased national focus in recent years in building commercial outcomes from research investments, the latest round of elections at STA has produced a president-elect in Professor Sriram that suits the times.

Professor Sriram has been involved at committee and board level at the STA for more than five years. He will now serve the next 12 months as president-elect before taking the helm of the organisation from current president Professor Mark Hutchinson at the AGM in November next year.

Science and Technology Australia chief executive Misha Schubert has worked closely with Professor Sriram in his capacity as STA Policy Chair and describes him as “a star at connecting the worlds of industry and research” with a prodigious work ethic.

“He’s supremely skilled at building strong relationships with Australian businesses and helping them to find exactly the right people in the university research sector who can help develop clever solutions to their commercial challenges.”

“He also guides his industry partners through the complex landscape of funding and grants processes to help them navigate those systems – and they love him for it.”

Ms Schubert says Professor Sriram brings a clear sense of how the nation’s innovation system must evolve and scale if Australia is to compete with the world for the next wave of jobs, and knows very well the stakes that are involved in the global science and technology race that the world is currently locked in.

“He sees the clear choice before us: we can either become creators of those new technologies, holding our destiny in our own hands – or consumers of the next wave of new technologies, increasingly reliant on other countries,” she said.

Other science and technology leaders elected to STA’s Executive at Thursday’s AGM include:

  • Jas Chambers, founder of Ocean Decade Australia, re-elected as secretary
  • Dr Kathy Nicholson, operations manager at the Australian Institute for Machine Learning, becomes STA’s new policy chair after serving as deputy policy chair
  • Superstar of STEM Dr Jiao Jiao Li, an early career researcher at UTS, succeeds Dr Chloe Taylor as Early Career Representative

STA President Professor Mark Hutchinson congratulated Professor Sriram and the newly-elected Executive and Board Directors – applauding the stellar talent STA attracts to its governance team.

“The science and technology sector is blessed with extraordinary talented leaders who contribute energy, insights and expertise to the nation’s peak body for science and technology,” he said.

“Sharath will be an outstanding President for Science & Technology Australia and champion for our thriving membership community. He brings vast expertise in policy, commercialisation and innovation.”

“Amid an urgent imperative to turn more great Australian science and engineering into new jobs, he is the perfect person to lead this inspiring organisation — a role model connector of commercialisation.”

Professor Sriram said he wanted to “help more Australian researchers deepen connections with industry and bridge the ‘valley of death’ in commercialisation, and be a powerful advocate to deepen Australia’s investments in discovery science”.

“I look forward to working with Mark over the next year as President-elect. He is an exceptional leader of STA who has delivered vast advocacy success for our sector and rapid growth for the organisation,” he said.

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