Innovation – “not just talking about it, but making it work by design” – and technology are twin pillars at the core of UTS that helped Catherine Livingstone decide to take on the role of Chancellor.
They match the priorities and passions she has pursued over most of her career, she told guests at a welcome event held in her honour, and helped her answer the question “Why UTS?”
“I’ve spent two decades talking about innovation and often it feels like groundhog day,” Ms Livingstone said, noting there had been 75 reports on innovation in Australia prepared over a 12-year period.
“The starting point for any discussion of innovation must always be people: it’s people who innovate, not government, not institutions, not businesses, but the people inside them. It’s an intensely human activity – minds rubbing on minds.
Innovation is an intensely human activity – minds rubbing on minds.
“That is what is so compelling about the UTS philosophy: it’s all about enabling people-to-people connections.”
Ms Livingstone took the reins as UTS Chancellor in December after the retirement of Professor Vicki Sara. UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs told guests Ms Livingstone has been a “true trailblazer” in business and for women over a career spanning more than two decades. NSW Governor David Hurley acknowledged her as one of the most powerful voices in the country.
Ms Livingstone said UTS is uniquely poised to act as a circuit breaker – “and we do need a circuit breaker because innovation is key to Australia’s future prosperity, yet … [people] see it as something that is done to them rather than by them.”
Technology, the arena in which Ms Livingstone has spent much of her executive career, is where a university of technology has clear roles and important responsibilities. That includes “providing a place for open and informed debate about respective benefits and hazards at the societal level”.
The field of data analytics is one such area, where regulation is needed to anticipate difficulties rather than solve yesterday’s problem.
“These are complex issues and may require challenging policy responses. As a university of technology we should be ready to contribute to the possible design of those responses.”
She said academic experts are a trusted voice in a post-truth, alternative facts world.
After her keynote address, Ms Livingstone joined a panel discussion with Pip Marlow, head of strategic innovation for Suncorp, and Mayha Mirzaei, a UTS graduate of the Hatchery+ program who founded Learned Hub, a start-up that aims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help every student to learn maths.