Plant biologist and Head of the Plant Sciences Division at the ANU Research School of Biology, Professor Owen Atkin, has been named the 2019 Vice-Chancellor’s Entrepreneurial Fellow for his work around entrepreneurial agri-technology.
Over the past 18 months, Professor Atkin has worked to bring ANU and AgriTech companies closer together to foster industry collaboration in the area of crop sustainability as a result of a changing climate.
Professor Atkin also heads his own research lab, the Atkin Group within the School. The lab focuses on understanding the interplay between plant and environmental variation. The lab’s research plays a key role in the broader work of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology.
“I am excited, and honoured, to have been appointed a VC Entrepreneurial Fellow to help create a vibrant agri-tech ecosystem at the ANU,” Professor Atkin said.
Professor Atkin attended the first public lecture of Professor Genevieve Bell, the inaugural VC’s Entrepreneurial Fellow, where she outlined the challenges and opportunities of a data-driven world and how, through her work, she could lead a program that will help society understand and prepare for the changes that a data-centric world would bring.
“Her inspiring seminar was a fantastic example of how a leadership position can be used to create meaningful and lasting change in society,” he said.
In August 2018, Professor Atkin helped launch the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology – a joint initiative between ANU, CSIRO and the ACT Government.
A feature of the Centre is to link the University’s staff and students with industry to build relationships, co-develop ideas and solve problems with the help of several agri-tech start-ups, and small and medium-sized firms.
Professor Atkin will work with the Centre’s newly appointed Director, Dr Mary Kelly, to develop an expanded, ANU-led academic research and innovation program that feeds into the Centre’s industry-oriented goals.
“I see exciting opportunities to bring together diverse capabilities across ANU and apply them to technology-based challenges of national significance to agriculture,” he said.
Aside from the formal aspects of the role, Professor Atkin says the Entrepreneurial Fellowship will also help him join experts with different skill sets – from biology, environmental science, computing and engineering – together to tackle issues related to a changing climate impacting our environment.
“There is also a need to show our young researchers how their skills can be used in an industry context, and that there are jobs for them outside of academia,” he said.
Director of the ANU Research School of Biology, Professor Allen Rodrigo, congratulated Professor Atkin on his achievement.
“Owen has always demonstrated tremendous drive to achieve his vision,” said Professor Rodrigo.
“The ANU is well-positioned to play a significant role in developing novel technology-assisted agricultural solutions, and I have no doubt that Owen is the right person to lead the charge.”
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said Professor Atkin’s work involving the Centre not only brought ANU and the private sector closer together, but multiple schools within ANU as well.
“Professor Atkin’s work in this area is exemplary. The fact that he helped to drive the establishment of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology is something which we are very proud of and has helped put ANU front and centre in AgriTechnology,” said Professor Schmidt.
“With Owen still working on harnessing these relationships, I have no doubt that the Centre has a bright future.”