UNSW Business School appoints Michael Crouch Chair in Innovation

Esteemed academic Professor Mary-Anne Williams has been named the Michael Crouch Chair in Innovation – a position made possible by the late Dr Michael Crouch AC and his family.

Most recently, Professor Williams served as director of the Innovation and Enterprise Research Lab (also known as The Magic Lab) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Professor Williams has worked with the United Nations on the risks and challenges of AI, and industry leaders, such as Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Inc, to bring science fiction to reality through the design of intelligent autonomous technologies.

The first to hold the Michael Crouch Chair in Innovation since 2016, Professor Williams will work with the broader innovation community to grow entrepreneurship across the University and accelerate innovative thinking in Australia.

“My main focus will be to engage and help energise the UNSW community in innovation and entrepreneurship,” Professor Williams said.

“I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the UNSW Business School, the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre, UNSW Founders, our amazing alumni and the broader innovation community in startups, business, industry and government. Together, we will seek to broaden and strengthen UNSW’s connections within the national innovation ecosystem and enhance Australia’s appetite for transformation.”

Mary-Anne Williams

Professor Williams will take up the appointment in the School of Management @ UNSW Business School.

Professor Williams has a passion for digital transformation. She says Australia needs to extend its commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship and investment in research and development to achieve impact. And it has to be interdisciplinary in nature.

“We are facing a perfect storm of challenges threatening humanity, the environment and the global economy,” Professor Williams said. “COVID-19 has been a kind of wild experiment. It has uncovered surprising insights and unexpected risks. It has laid bare a range of societal vulnerabilities, from labour markets to care for the elderly, and the need for more inclusive technologies and institutions.

“There is an urgent imperative for universities, business and government to collaborate in multi-disciplinary efforts to intensify and scale innovation that can deliver societal benefits essential for a prosperous future. Our entrepreneurs will continue to play a critical role in driving economic activity and building societal resilience as they reimagine and radically transform people’s lives, business and society.”

With over 30 years of experience leading teams of researchers and transforming business, Professor Williams will build on the legacy of Dr Michael Crouch, who believed: “our future as a nation is bound in our ability to move forward, ahead of other economies and at the same time ensuring the greatest efficiency and productivity in all we undertake.”

Dr Michael Crouch, who passed away in 2018, donated generously to encourage innovation at UNSW, establishing the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (MCIC) on the Kensington campus and donating $2 million to establish the Chair. His son, George Crouch, noted he was an enthusiastic supporter of innovation.

“Throughout his distinguished career, my father advocated for building Australia’s innovation capability and increasing the competitiveness of Australian businesses for the country’s long-term economic prosperity,” George Crouch said.

“We are delighted to learn of the recent appointment of Professor Mary-Anne Williams as the new Michael J Crouch Chair in Innovation at UNSW. We have no doubt that Professor Williams will make a significant contribution to the advancement of innovative thinking in Australia that will build on my father’s important legacy.”

Professor Chris Styles, Dean of UNSW Business School, said: “Professor Williams is an outstanding addition to our community of scholars, students and alumni who have built a strong reputation for being entrepreneurial and innovative. Supporting research and teaching in innovation and enterprise has never been more important for the economic future of Australia.”

Biography of Professor Williams

Professor Williams has a PhD in Computer Science (University of Sydney) and a Master in Laws (University of Edinburgh). She is a Fellow at Stanford University, and at the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE). Professor Williams is a leading authority on data science and AI with transdisciplinary strengths in strategic management, innovation, entrepreneurship, computer science, robotics and law.

About Dr Michael Crouch AC

Michael Crouch AC was a distinguished Australian business leader and philanthropist who made significant contributions to the UNSW Business School, serving as a Director to the Faculty’s Advisory Committee and as a Member of the Advisory Council from 2001-2012.

Dr Crouch and his family helped establish the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre (MCIC) in 2015. The first for an Australian university, the MCIC is where students from all faculties can design, experiment and build their ideas with guidance from visionaries and corporate partners.