Finkel named chief scientist

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) and newly appointed chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel at Parliament House on Tuesday. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

DR Alan Finkel, a strong advocate for an end to coal-fired power, has been appointed as Australia’s next chief ­scientist.

The announcement was made in Canberra on Tuesday by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne.

“I’m absolutely honoured and excited about the opportunity to make a contribution,” Finkel, who is the outgoing chancellor of Monash University, told The AJN.

A Mount Scopus College alumnus, Finkel is a prominent engineer, respected neuroscientist, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist with a personal commitment to innovation and commercialisation. He is also president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Succeeding Professor Ian Chubb, Finkel will commence the prestigious role in January 2016. It will see him advising Turnbull, Pyne, and other portfolio ministers on matters pertaining to science.

He hopes to utilise his varied experiences across areas including education, research, engineering, business and philanthropy to formulate the best possible advice and ­advocate for science in the wider community.

“I would like to see our investment in research maximally improve our prosperity and productivity,” he said of his aims for the role.

As for his vision of an “electric planet”, this denotes a world where we have bypassed the problems of global warming resulting from carbon dioxide emissions. The vision would require an absolute commitment to reinventing our electricity supplies – replacing the likes of coal with renewable sources.

“It’s a very long-term vision which would take decades to achieve,” he acknowledged.

He said Australia is doing well in many areas of innovation, but needs to take further steps in high-tech, citing Israel as a leader in this field.

On making the announcement, Turnbull drew attention to Finkel’s business experience and an expectation that he would focus on engagement between research institutions and industry.

“He absolutely fits the spirit of the times in which we live. A scientist and an entrepreneur; an innovator, a communicator,” the Prime Minister said.