By DAVID MYTON

People with a background in science could be far better prepared to run a business than those who study management, according to Dr Larry Marshall, Chief Executive of CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

In an article to coincide with National Science Week, which has seen more than 1000 events being held across the country to promote science and technology, Marshall asserts that Australia needs to embrace a more diverse model for success if it is to be competitive in rapidly changing world.

Writing in The Australian, Marshall says people are much more than the sum of their qualifications – and it is “one-dimensional thinking to try to label them or confine them to a box”:

“Not only is that absurdly narrow minded, it’s also hugely damaging for the next generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics specialists, kids in school who see that and think, well, I like science but I don’t want to be called a nerd.”

In the US, he says, scientists are not called nerds – “in fact they call some of them billionaires. They drive Ferraris and provide the wisdom and angel funding to the next generation of brilliant minds”:

“They invest in bold, brave, risky new ideas, because they’ve done the maths – and the biology, or chemistry, or physics – to understand how these game-changing benchtop concepts can be turned into world-changing products.

“You don’t change the world by thinking the same as everyone else; diversity of perspectives is the compass to navigate the ambiguity of innovation.”

Marshall writes that a “false delineation” between scientists and business in Australian venture capital is preventing investment in local talent.

“According to the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, we’ve had only two Australian venture-backed start-ups make it to Nasdaq: one in 2000, founded by pioneering internet entrepreneurs (Looksmart); the other last year, founded by scientists and run by a PhD chief executive (Quantenna) based on a CSIRO invention.”

Sydney-born Marshall, who began his career as an engineer with a PhD in physics and went on to become an international technology entrepreneur, argues that the “artificial separation of careers and capabilities” must stop if Australia is to navigate the transition to an innovation economy.

“Most businesses need more science in their strategy, and the future chief executives of Australian companies can’t be from central casting,” he writes.

“Consider that there is a place in the world where the ‘nerds’ create multi-billion-dollar companies and still take time out to teach at Stanford, and the bankers and lawyers chase them in search of the next unicorn.”

Read the article in full here.