Larry R. Marshall

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Larry Marshall
OccupationCEO of CSIRO
Known forPhysicist
Chief Executive
WebsiteCSIRO profile

Larry R. Marshall is an Australian entrepreneur and physicist. In January 2015, he became chief executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency and one of the most multidisciplinary research organisations in the world.[1]

Marshall was born in Sydney and he received both his undergraduate and postgraduate education, including a PhD in physics, at Macquarie University. He was a cadet scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

Following his PhD work, Marshall went to the United States where he spent time at Stanford University, and founded 6 startups over 26 years.[2] He has registered 20 US patents,[3] which were the basis for his startups [4]

Laser development[edit]

At Macquarie University, Marshall performed research with J. A. Piper on stimulated Raman scattering.[5][6] While in the United States his research work was mainly on the development of parametric oscillators,[7] diode laser-pumped solid-state lasers,[8] fiber lasers,[9] and laser stabilization.[10] Marshall was an extremely active scientist publishing over 100 papers mostly over a 6-year period.[11] He led a resurgence in Optical Parametric Oscillators, notably inventing the "eyesafe laser" enabling lasers to be used safely around humans,[12] the single-frequency solid-state blue laser for submarine imaging,[13] the highest efficiency frequency doubled laser,[14] solid state UV289nm laser for detection of tryptophan,[15] nonlinear cavity dumping using OPOs,[16] the intra-intra-cavity OPO for wide IR tunable medical lasers,[17] and the first high power all solid state green laser for ophthalmology.[18]

Australia's Innovation Dilemma[edit]

Marshall has twice been named in Australia's top 10 entrepreneurs.[by whom?][19][20] He was also named Australia's elder statesman of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley by The Sydney Morning Herald.[21] Marshall has been a supporter of Australian innovation since 2000 when ANZA Tech was taken over by David Cannington former President of Australian Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco.[22] Marshall sponsored several US VC tours of Australia for both Coalition and Labor governments and joined the board of Australian expat diaspora Advance in 2008,[23] and created Advances Innovation Summit. For over a decade he has stressed the difference between short term mercenary entrepreneurship and missionary entrepreneurs, and the unique ability of science in delivering long-term value and sustained growth.[24] He was a founder of several funds investing in Aussie startups including the Renewable Energy Fund,[25] and the Aussie founders fund Blackbird.[26]

Marshall's views on the CSIRO[edit]

As Chief Executive of CSIRO, Marshall has argued that this organization is uniquely positioned to help tackle Australia's "innovation dilemma".

"Australians are great inventors: as a nation, we're responsible for more than 100 great inventions, such as fast WiFi, ultrasound for medical imaging and the Cochlear implant. But of those, only one has built a great domestic tech company. This is our innovation dilemma."[27]

He credits the diversity of CSIRO as the driver behind its successes so far, and the foundation for its potential in the future.

"The genius and the power of CSIRO is distributed – it's in our people, our partners and our community. We know a diversity of views is critical to innovation performance."[28]

In July 2015, Marshall launched CSIRO's 5-year strategy for 2015-2020, "Australia's Innovation Catalyst". In a novel approach for the 90-year-old science body, it crowd-sourced ideas and suggestions from more than 7000 people including its research partners, other collaborators, its own staff and the public to help determine the direction of the strategy.

"Australia currently ranks 81st* in the world when it comes to innovation efficiency - the bang for our buck we get when we transform innovation investment into results. If that was a team sport ranking, we'd be outraged. As a country, we need to work together to improve this result. Australia's prosperity, health and sustainability is closely bound to our capacity for innovation – and CSIRO has a key role to play here."[29]

The strategy identifies a number of key ways CSIRO will deliver on its strategy: crowd sourcing; collaboration; entrepreneurialism; customer focus.[30]

A more 'entrepreneurial' CSIRO[edit]

Marshall, described in the business press as a 'serial entrepreneur' and 'innovator', has speculated that the combination of 'technical capability, business ability and risk-taking instinct' figured strongly in his appointment as CEO.[31][32][33] In welcoming Marshall's appointment, former Industry Minister, Ian McFarlane, said his "significant commercial experience", particularly his "experience in Silicon Valley, R&D development and the commercialisation of products and ideas" would assist in "fostering stronger links between business and science".[34] CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon said Marshall's combination of scientific and business experience equipped him to develop commercial opportunities for research and technology developments.[35]

Marshall has referred to himself as a 'company builder', and he has urged CSIRO to be more entrepreneurial: "I think [CSIRO scientists] are hungry to be entrepreneurial, I think they're hungry to increase their customer awareness, but they just don't know how to do it because they haven't done it before."[36] At the time of his appointment Marshall indicated his intention to break down "technology silos" within the CSIRO, and make the organisation more 'market facing'.[37] Marshall has stated that he wants to replace the "treadmill" of 'bad revenue" ("the revenue that you have to go out and earn starting from zero every quarter") with "good revenue", founded upon "a really good market vision": "You can't just go to industry and say tell me what problem to solve; you have to go to your customers and try to understand their markets ... and then invest the money to create the solution that you think their market is going to need."[37]

However, Marshall – who says he has found inspiration in Netflix' "high performance culture"[38] – has struggled in his attempts to apply the language of 'startups' and the logic of market disruption within the CSIRO.[39] Moreover, in making the transition from 'venture capitalist' to being the CEO of a large public sector institution with a 100-year history of public good science, Marshall has had to confront challenges of scale as well as culture. Marshall himself admits that prior to his appointment to the CSIRO the largest company he has ever run had only 300 employees, whereas the CSIRO has 5000 employees and an annual budget of AUS $1.2 billion.[37]

Marshall has also been dogged by a controversy from his time in the private sector, involving allegations against the board of Arasor by a speculative lawsuit launched by a litigation fund International Litigation Partners.[40][41] In an ongoing claim before the Federal Court, it has been alleged that Marshall, former Arasor executive chairman Simon Cao and other directors produced highly misleading prospectuses and financial reports and falsely claimed the company was on track to make millions of dollars in profit.[42][43] International Litigation Partners was itself sued by the Australian Tax Office for tax evasion,[44] and its founder Paul Lindholm charged with resisting arrest [45]

Controversy over climate research cutbacks[edit]

Australian and international scientists have criticized Marshall's cutbacks to measurement and modeling of climate change, in order to increase research into mitigation and adaptation. CSIRO announced layoffs of 140 researchers per year over 2 years in the agency's shift to deliver greater national benefit. The cutbacks were incorrectly reported to include the Cape Grim research station in north-western Tasmania, which has measured airborne greenhouse gases since 1976, and Australia's participation in the Argo ocean observation program, which has 3,800 floats about 180 miles apart, which collect data on sea currents, salinity and temperature. However, none of these were ever at risk. A petition by 3,000 scientists from more than 60 countries called the cuts "devastating" and said that research stations like Cape Grim are "critical and irreplaceable" to global climate science, because they will monitor how well other countries are complying with their international agreements. One scientist said that basic research on climate change was particularly important to Australia, which was particularly vulnerable with its desert, wildfires, and drought. CSIRO officials said that the measurements at Cape Grim and Argo would continue, but scientists said that the climate science team would lose 70 to 100 scientists, which would leave them unable to manage and interpret the data that they are collecting. Despite these reports, the actual reductions to the 440 staff of Oceans and Atmosphere group which contains climate science was a total of 65, of which 40 were from climate science. The New York Times headline "Australia turns its back on climate science" was probably the most outrageous, or as Marshall said in Senate hearings, "complete rubbish".[46][47][48][49]

Climate scientists attending the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) climate science conference in Melbourne stage protest against cuts to CSIRO climate research programs. Photo: John Englart

Sydney Morning Herald's environment editor, Peter Hannam, broke the story about CSIRO's proposed cuts to its climate research and capability on 4 February 2016, based on leaks from senior scientists in Climate science. After Hannam's story Marshall rushed to advise staff by email that, CSIRO's climate models "are among the best in the world", and contributed to proving global climate change.[50] In his email, Marshall wrote: "That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?" [50] The Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, UNSW Australia, Professor Andy Pitman, who successfully secured new government funding in collaboration with CSIRO for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, described this assertion as "among the most ill-informed statements I have ever heard from a senior executive."[51] Other experts rallied to vigorously challenge the underpinning logic of CSIROs proposed changes[52][53][54] prompting Marshall to issue an official statement on 8 February alleging "incorrect reporting by media".[55] In his statement Marshall claimed that CSIRO's plans had been misrepresented and, although Marshall claimed that the CSIRO would retain the ability to support climate measurement in Australia, he nevertheless defended the decision to reduce climate change modeling and measurement to increase mitigation and adaptation: "No one is saying climate change is not important, but surely mitigation, health, education, sustainable industries, and prosperity of the nation are no less important."[55] In defending his decisions, Marshall told the ABC "I guess I had the realisation that the climate lobby is perhaps more powerful than the energy lobby was back in the '70s - and the politics of climate I think there's a lot of emotion in this debate", adding "In fact it almost sounds more like religion than science to me"[56] Marshall later apologized for his reference to religion at the start of a subsequent Senate Estimates hearing.[57][58]

The CSIRO's proposed cuts to climate research and measurement have been subjected to criticism by the international science community, although not a single global entity has ever criticized CSIRO for this change.[59] The controversy even merited an editorial in the New York Times.[60][61] In Australia the CSIRO's plans also attracted intense political scrutiny by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens.[62][63][64] In addition, major questions have arisen about the adequacy of the governance and due diligence applied by the CEO and senior managers to decision-making around the proposed cuts and adherence to formal processes around consultation with staff and unions.[65][66] Marshall himself has admitted to a degree of naivety on his part, saying that he had not anticipated "how much politics this job would entail."[67][68]

On 8 and 9 March 2016, the Senate Select Committee into the Scrutiny of Government Budget Measures convened public hearings in Hobart and in Melbourne for the purpose of "looking at the potential ramifications of proposed cuts to the CSIRO".[69][70] Chair of the Hobart hearing, Senator Whish-Wilson(Australian Greens) commented at the end of that day's testimony: "I do not think much has been thought through about this decision, to be honest, looking at the weight of evidence that the committee has received."[69] In a subsequent hearing in Melbourne, the former chief of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Professor Tony Haymet, offered the following testimony: "The capability of the CSIRO that the executive proposes to cut is vital and is greatly needed for the future of all Australians." He went on to say that: "it seems that there is a complete lack of trust from these executives in their most valuable assets—the people who work for CSIRO". This, he suggested, "is unprecedented".[70] Documents provided by the CSIRO to the Senate Select Committee in response to Questions on Notice from the Hobart hearing appeared to confirm the scale of the proposed cuts to CSIRO's climate change research and monitoring capability.[71]

In a radio interview with Alex Sloan on Canberra's ABC 666 on 9 February 2016, former Liberal Party Leader John Hewson said the government is "cutting down the CSIRO's capacity to monitor climate change" despite the reality that "there's still more to be done". Why, he asked, would you "be sending negative signals while at the same time you're trying to send positive signals about innovation and a sensible response to [climate change]". The "problem", he concluded is that "[Malcolm] Turnbull did a deal with conservatives in the Party to stay with the Abbott climate change policies". This, he said, "doesn't make any sense in a world where we have to accelerate the response to climate change".[72] On 21 March 2016, in an interview with the host of Radio National's Late Night Live, Phillip Adams, former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran AC, said of the CSIRO's intention to cut 350 positions - including those associated with climate change research - "I don't know what the CEO or the Board thought they were doing when they made such a big change like that, you might have to make adjustments over time but to do it just a few months out from an election and totally disrupt lots of good work that's being done by the CSIRO in [climate change] and other fields is odd, odd, very odd. "Silly", as you said."[73]

Skeptics criticism[edit]

In 2014, Marshall was awarded the Australian Skeptics Bent Spoon award for being the "perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle" after publicly endorsing water divining. Marshall said 'is there instrumentality that we could create that would enable a machine to find that water?',[74] and that it is CSIRO's job to "push the envelope".[75]


  1. ^ The Guardian, December 2014
  2. ^ "Dr Larry Marshall". Retrieved 2015-10-02.
  3. ^ "Google".
  4. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald, October 2014
  5. ^ L. R. Marshall and J. A. Piper, Transient stimulated Raman scattering in lead vapor, IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 26, 1098 - 1104 (1990).
  6. ^ L. R. Marshall and J. A. Piper, Accumulation of Raman gain between closely spaced pulse pairs, Opt. Lett. 1345-1347 (1990).
  7. ^ L. R. Marshall and A. Kaz, Eye-safe output from noncritically phase-matched parametric oscillators, JOSA B 10, 1730-1736(1993)
  8. ^ L. R. Marshall, J. Kasinski, and R. L. Burnham, Diode-pumped eye-safe laser source exceeding 1% efficiency, Opt. Lett. 21, 1680-1682(1991).
  9. ^ L. R. Marshall, Fiber stub end-pumped laser, US Patent 5,663,979 (1997).
  10. ^ L. R. Marshall et al., Pulsed laser with passive stabilization, US Patent 5,982,789 (1999).
  11. ^ marshall&meta=1&cj=1&cc=1
  12. ^ "An Efficient Eyesafe Source at 1.59 μm", L.R. Marshall, R. Burnham, J. Kasinski, Advanced Solid State Lasers, OSA, vol. 6, pp. 271-276 (1990).
  13. ^ "All-Solid-State, High Power, Diode-Pumped 455 nm Laser" L. R. Marshall, Proceedings of Lasers '91, MD5 (Society for Optical & Quantum Electronics, 1991).
  14. ^ Highly Efficient TEMoo Operation of Side-Pumped Nd:YAG Lasers" L.R. Marshall, A. Kaz, R.L. Burnham, Opt. Lett., 17, pp.186-189 (1991).
  15. ^ Highly Efficient, All Solid-State 290 nm Source", L.R. Marshall & A. Kaz, CLEO '94, post deadline paper, Anaheim, CA (1994).
  16. ^ "Nonlinear Cavity Dumping" L.R. Marshall, A. Kaz, and R.L. Burnham, CLEO'93 (CThK7) Baltimore, MD (1993).
  17. ^ Noncritically phase-matched Degenerate 4μm OPO", A.Kaz & L.R. Marshall; OSA Proceedings on Advanced Solid State Lasers (1994) Vol. 20 pp. 443-446, Advanced Solid State Lasers, Salt Lake City, UT, Feb 7-10 (1994).
  18. ^ "Diode Pumped Solid-State Lasers in Ophthalmology" L.R. Marshall, LEOS'97, San Francisco, CA (1997)
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  45. ^ "Banker in DUI scuffle with police". 2011-04-04.
  46. ^ Scientists Protest Cuts and Commercialization at Australian Climate Center, By MICHELLE INNIS, New York Times, FEB. 27, 2016
  47. ^ 'Maybe I'm naive': CSIRO's Larry Marshall tries again to explain deep staff cuts, Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 11, 2016
  48. ^ Backlash against CSIRO's 'cowboy' chief Larry Marshall; As Larry Marshall signals cuts to various programs, CSIRO staff say he is either out of his depth or has questionable motives – or both. By Martin McKenzie-Murray, The Saturday Paper, Feb 20, 2016
  49. ^ CSIRO chief defends climate research cuts as staff weigh up industrial action; Larry Marshall says there will be no net loss of staff over two years as international climate scientists condemn the cuts, by Michael Slezak, Guardian, 8 February 2016
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