Dr Sarah Pearson is the inaugural Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Scientist at DFAT. In this role, she is responsible for leading, developing and scaling science and innovation practice and culture across DFAT, in neighbouring countries, and through whole of government activity.
Dr Pearson’s career has spanned industrial innovation, academia, management consulting, government, and science communication. Her involvement in innovation started when working as a strategic management consultant at McKinsey & Co in Sydney, where she devised strategies for high tech industries and co-authored a book chapter on innovation. She then went on to develop and patent new methods for cancer diagnosis whilst a tenured Physics academic, attracting over $700,000 in grants, including an ARC Discovery project.
She later moved into industrial innovation, where she was the inaugural Open Innovation Champion at Cadbury and part of the leadership team at their long term R&D unit in the UK.
Sarah has also spent time working in government, as acting Director of Science in the Office of the Chief Scientist where, amongst other things, she managed the Expert Working Groups and Secretariat for the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.
She contributes to the growth of innovation in Australia and globally through external roles in addition to her core roles. Relevant current examples include her position as a Director on the Board of the Global Innovation Fund (a $200M impact first blended finance fund), and as a member of the Investment Committee for CSIRO’s $200M VC deep tech fund, Main Sequence Ventures.
She has been actively involved in leadership of all parts of the innovation pipeline over the course of her career, as an employee, as a Board Director and through professional roles. She is passionate about helping Australia and countries in our region become innovative nations, creating economic and social impact, and her advice is sought out regularly at all levels of Government regarding new policy, strategy and programs for Australian and overseas innovation.
Sarah has a DPhil from the University of Oxford in particle physics, and has published her research in the areas of particle physics, medical physics, artificial intelligence, innovation, and science policy. She has published extensively through the media of TV, radio, books, journals, magazines and newspapers, and is an author on seven international patents, for cancer diagnosis and novel confectionary. Sarah was recently inducted as a Fellow of the Academy of Technology and Engineering.