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About the 2020 speakers

  • Dr Sarah Pearson: Deputy Director-General, Innovation, Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development

    The Future is here - Thriving in an age of disruption

    We live in a disrupted time in an age of digital disruption. The COVID pandemic is affecting our supply chains and resource availability. Global demand for clean food is rising. Breakthrough technology is providing solutions to resource scarcity, whilst also disrupting the very essence of food and agriculture. This presents opportunities as well as threats. What does this look like and how can the agriculture and food sector adapt?

    About Sarah

    Sarah has a wealth of experience from varying roles and positions including Global Head of Open Innovation at Cadbury, Member of Main Sequence Ventures’ Investment Committee, Director on the Board of the Global Innovation Fund, member of Questacon’s Advisory Council, founding CEO of the Canberra Innovation Network, Australia’s Innovation Champion in MIKTA, and most recently, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Scientist at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

    Sarah has had a significant impact on innovation ecosystems in Australia and overseas, and led DFAT to build startup ecosystems, empower entrepreneurs in the Indo-Pacific, encourage women in STEM, and engage in economic and commercial diplomacy based on innovation globally.

    Along with her impressive resume, Sarah was also awarded a PhD in particle physics from the University of Oxford, and held a tenured academic position in Australia as a physics lecturer. She has published research in the areas of particle physics medical physics, artificial intelligence, innovation, science communication and science policy, and is an author on eight patents covering cancer diagnosis and confectionery.

    Sarah describes her career as ‘eclectic’, having specialised in innovation and entrepreneurship, scientific research, strategy, and managing change. She is passionate about leveraging innovation to increase impact. Her priority is ensuring Queensland puts innovation at the top of its agenda.

    “The main attraction for taking on the Deputy Director-General role was the holistic approach that Advance Queensland takes, covering all stakeholders from startups to corporates, to SMEs and government. The inclusion of diversity through programs for Indigenous and female founders is impressive, as is coverage of social innovation. And the challenge of connecting and growing regional jobs through innovation is incredibly exciting” Sarah said.

    When asked about what advice she would give to others looking to innovate, Sarah said to think about impact. “I have a very broad definition of innovation; it has to be ideas that are applied to create impact,” Sarah said. “Those ideas could be totally new or old ones applied in a different way. The important thing is creating impact.”