​Data61 completed 317 projects in first two years of operation

CSIRO's data innovation arm has commenced 681 projects across areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity since it was stood up in mid-2016.

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The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) Data61 has completed 317 research projects since it was officially formed in July 2016, with an additional 364 still flagged as in progress.

Of those 681 projects, 413 have been funded in full or in part by external organisations, Data61 revealed in response to questions on notice from Senate Estimates in October.

A total of AU$115 million has been received by Data61 to complete its research into the 681 projects. The Australian government has provided AU$76.7 million, private enterprise AU$14.8 million, and academia AU$1.5 million, with the remainder coming from "international" investors or those listed under "other".

Read also: Data61: A year into the digital transformation of an entire economy

Data61's core purpose is to carry out innovative data science research and to develop technology and outcomes that can be applied and used to create benefit for Australia.

The organisation splits its projects up into six research themes: Data analytics; cyber physical systems; business development and commercialisation; engineering and design; and decision sciences, software, and computational systems.

There are currently 46 active projects under the data analytics banner, which includes projects in data capture and analysis, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, text analytics, predictive analytics, and data visualisation.

Data61 said it has completed 37 data analytics-focused projects.

The combined 83 data analytics-focused projects received a total of AU$9.8 million in funding, with government stumping up the majority -- AU$7 million -- to be used on commercialisation opportunities such as in asset monitoring and AI, and on prescriptive analytics, for example, through its retail AI play Hivery.

A total of 133 projects fall under cyber physical systems, with 55 flagged as completed and another 78 still in the works.

With AU$15.4 million at tow, Data61 is looking into robotics, automation, autonomous systems, the Internet of Things and sensor systems, image analytics, and communications.

The majority of the funding -- AU$7.3 million -- has been provided by private enterprise.

Some commercialisation opportunities under cyber physical systems include autonomous mapping technology GeoSLAM, drone-mounted lidar scanning technology Emesent, and audio networking technology startup Audinate.

Decision sciences, which includes projects in predictive modelling and simulation, social media and text analytics, augmented reality and virtual reality, and risk quantification, has so far been funded with AU$12.3 million, comprised mostly of government funding.

Of the 131 projects, 60 have been completed.

Projects exploring trustworthy systems, cybersecurity, and blockchain have been given AU$30 million under the software and computational systems header.

49 of the 123 projects have been completed, with the government providing AU$17 million and international contributors providing another AU$10.7 million to explore commercialisation opportunities such as the SeL4 secure microkernel operating system, which has applications in securing defence capabilities both locally and abroad.

With AU$21.5 million, Data61 is also exploring spatial information, data visualisation, and platform and tool development under the banner of engineering and design.

64 of the 159 projects under this banner are still in progress.

Business development and commercialisation, which includes projects in megatrend analysis and insights, skills development, information platforms development, and data governance meanwhile has AU$25.4 million to spread across a total of 52 projects.

Data61 hasn't identified any commercial opportunities in this area as yet, with 31 of the total projects still underway.

Speaking at D61+ LIVE in Brisbane in September, Data61 CEO Adrian Turner called on the country to form a collective movement to change the trajectory of Australia.

"We're at a fork in the road," he said. "It's now or never for Australia."

Turner is concerned Australia is lacking compared to its global peers when it comes to innovation, saying that although Australia offers world class research expertise and a skilled workforce, the nation still does not quite grasp that it needs to up its innovation game.

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