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Robert Clark

Professor Robert Clark AO FAA DistFRSN

Senior Fellow

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Professor Robert Clark was most recently (since 2018) senior academic advisor to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Vice Chancellor. In this role he undertook significant projects: new micro-credentialed and blended educational models leveraging both the HE and VET sectors; the new Randwick Health precinct for which he coordinated the successful business case for the Comprehensive Children’s Cancer Centre and the new Sydney Children’s Hospital Stage-1 development; and a range of educational subjects spanning policy, sustainable sector-wide funding initiatives, governance and societal impact.

Prior to this he was appointed Chair of Energy Strategy and Policy at UNSW Faculty of Engineering in 2012, and Chief Scientist in Residence at UNSW Faculty of Art and Design in 2014. The Energy position had a focus on evaluating the potential for unconventional gas, in particular onshore shale and tight gas, to play a role in Australia’s reduced-carbon-footprint energy mix; evaluating implementation pathways for transport fuels from Australia's gas resources for increased energy security; and examining Australia's projected energy options and emissions strategy in the context of the Government's Energy White Paper. His work at Art and Design was on projects that combined the arts and science, with an initial focus on medical and mental health, that included leading the construction of UNSW’s state-of-the-art EPICentre facility for 3D immersive visualisation of medical research data. The role of the arts in communicating complex issues to the public, from emotional intelligence in healthcare to technical and economic aspects of the energy debate, was also a key focus.

Professor Clark was formerly Chief Defence Scientist (CDS) of Australia and Chief Executive Officer of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), a SES Band-3 position in the Australian Department of Defence, reporting directly to Chief of Defence Force (CDF) and Secretary of Defence (SEC). He served in this senior government position from 2008-2011.

As CDS, he was a member of Australias Defence Committee, comprising the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force and Defence civilian group heads, served as the Australian Principal of the 5-nation Defence Technical Cooperation Program (US, UK, Australia, NZ, Canada) and was a member of the Prime Ministers Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. CDS has responsibilities spanning the Australian Defence enterprise and more formally for providing scientific and technological advice to the Ministers of Defence, SEC and CDF. In this role he provided leadership of the activities of some 2500 DSTO staff at DSTO sites across Australia in four key areas: support of ADF operations, particularly in Afghanistan to which he made three operationally-focused visits related to force protection in the period 2008-2011; support of Army, Navy and Air Force current force structure; provision of formal advice to Government on technical risk associated with major equipment procurement within the Defence acquisition program; and future-proofing Defence by conducting advanced R&D guided by strategic assessment.

He relinquished an Oxford faculty position to return to Australia in 1991 to take up the Chair position of Professor of Experimental Physics at UNSW, where he founded and established the National Magnet Laboratory and Semiconductor Nanofabrication Facility. In 2000 he established the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computer Technology (CQCT), one of the world’s largest Centres devoted to this new science spanning six Australian universities with links to Australian and US government agencies, and provided leadership and technical foresight as its Director over its first decade until being appointed CDS. CQCT developed pioneering technology towards both a solid-state quantum computer based on single-atom spintronics in silicon and an optical quantum computer based on single photons.

On completion of his PhD and shortly after taking up a postdoctoral research position at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford he was appointed to the Faculty position of University Lecturer in Physics at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Praelector (Member of the Governing Body) of The Queens College, Oxford in 1984. He headed a forefront research group in experimental quantum physics at the Clarendon Laboratory and was responsible for the teaching of physics and engineering at The Queen’s College, including selection of student entry to Queen's in these subjects.

His early career, from the age of 15, was in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). He served as a Seaman Officer in eight RAN ships and qualified as a Ships Diving Officer (day and night diving). He was promoted to Lieutenant before leaving the RAN to complete a PhD in Physics at UNSW and the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford under a Commonwealth Postgraduate Award.

Throughout his career he has been privileged by recognition of achievement and service through a number of awards that include the Australian Governments Federation Fellowship on two occasions, Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science and the Royal Society of New South Wales and award of the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science for his pioneering role in making Australia a world leader in nanotechnology and quantum computing. Other significant awards include the Australian Defence Medal, the Australian Centenary Medal and most recently the US National Reconnaissance Office Gold Medal, the US Intelligence Community Award for Distinguished Service in Science and Technology and the United States of America Secretary of Defense Medal.

In the 2013 Australia Day honours list he was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia for distinguished service to science and technology through leadership and governance of the scientific community of the Australian Defence Force and contributions to quantum computing and nanotechnology.

His interests include running and he completed the 2007 New York marathon, 2008 Berlin marathon, 2010 Paris marathon and both the 2012 and 2015 Tokyo marathons.

Recent work