Science skills for our future

Portrait of Dr Charlie Day
ISA’s Dr Charlie Day wants science to solve real-world problems.

Dr Charlie Day, CEO of Australia’s flagship Innovation and Science Australia organisation, believes valuing and developing strong science skills is key to us becoming an innovative, globally competitive nation.

“The first kind of skill that Australians need for an innovative future is to have an appetite to try new things,” Dr Day says. “The second thing that's critical is science, technology, engineering and maths skills – the STEM skills.

“So many of the industries and the jobs of the future are going to be underpinned by these technologies, these capabilities. They’ll either be directly applicable in the jobs of the future or will help people to understand their jobs.

“So we really want to see the science, technology, engineering, mathematics literacy of the Australian workforce lifted across the board.”

To achieve this, Dr Day says it’s critical we engage our children in STEM early.

“As a father of two young boys, I’ve observed that young kids always start out as scientists. They're curious. They want to know more about the world,” he says.

“The challenge for us as a nation and for our education system is to nurture that in our young people, so we grow a generation of people who are very comfortable with the STEM disciplines.”

Science and real-world outcomes

Dr Day, a former Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate in jet engine design, says he has a passion for translating science knowledge into real-world outcomes. “Growing up I was always excited about science, but as I got older I understood that it isn’t just about creating ideas – it’s about applying new ideas or new ways of doing things in the real world.”

He sees getting women fully engaged at all levels of the STEM community as absolutely essential.

“It’s an equity issue and about our economic future,” he says. “To be successful we must embrace diversity, because teams that have more diversity in them are more robust, more resilient and more successful.”

Dr Day sees innovation as a team sport and says he sees lots of great Australian examples of business and researchers working together and assembling the most capable team for success.

“One example is CSL working with researchers at the Cooperative Research Centre for Oral Health Science at the University of Melbourne on a new vaccine for gum disease which affects over half of our senior Australians,” he says.

“And we have financial services companies working with big data scientists at the University of New South Wales on how they can identify greater insights from their customer data, and that's hard core mathematics and big data expertise being put to use.”

As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the Innovation and Science Australia organisation is leading the development of Australia’s national innovation strategy to 2030. It is an independent body responsible for researching, planning, and advising the Australian Government on all science, research and innovation matters.

More about Innovation and Science Australia

View the Science is vital to Australia video