The question begs. Just what drives a former geoscientist to take on the lofty role of artificial intelligence (AI) chief advocate across a state 273 times bigger than Singapore or roughly seven times the size of Great Britain? “That’s easy,” says recently appointed Queensland AI Hub CEO, Dr Sue Keay, matter-of-factly. “I’m pretty stubborn.”
Stubbornness, arguably matched only by foresight, as mirrored in Sue’s determination to accelerate the much-needed application and value of disruptive technologies to Australia’s future: socially, economically, and ecologically. Stubbornness, perhaps better described as a ‘never give up/can do’ vision that has earned her recognition as one of Queensland’s most influential leaders (The Courier-Mail’s Power 100), and among Science & Technology Australia’s first Superstars of STEM.
Before taking up the reins at the Queensland AI Hub, in August 2020, Sue worked as Research Director for Cyber-Physical Systems at CSIRO’s Data61. Among a long line-up of achievements (indeed, far too many to list), she led the set-up of the world’s first robotic vision research centre, alongside development of Australia’s first Robotics roadmap, outlining how robotics and automation positively impacts every sector of the national economy. Read Sue’s full bio here.
Not surprisingly, her #1 responsibility after joining the Hub – itself launched in April, with $5.5 million in seed funding under the Queensland Government’s landmark $755-million Advance Queensland initiative – is to further bolster the state’s profile as an ‘AI Capital’, not just within Australia, but globally. Established by a consortium of technology-focused companies – including KJR – the Queensland AI Hub has a broad and exciting remit to foster and develop local AI talent and act as both a wayfinder and launchpad for businesses and startups, in tandem with attracting international investment and partnerships, and building confidence – and talent – in Queensland and across Australia.
For Sue, the genius behind the Hub’s creation comes in the opportunity for it to become a trusted game changer in the space, signalling a call to action (backed by education and mentoring programs) for all Australians to ‘get behind AI and initiatives like the Queensland AI Hub’ for the good of all.
One thing’s for sure! Sue’s stubbornness in the pursuit of focused, realistic and meaningful outcomes, will remain her constant ally. She talks to KJR about her vision, career highlights and WOW-factor moments (not least being evolutionary robotics); an unswerving commitment to championing diversity in all its forms; intriguingly, how unicorns, moats and crown jewels factor into her journey; and why AI has her number when it comes to Korean TV dramas.
KJR: There’s probably no such thing as an average day, but what does a really good day at work look like for you?
Sue: I’m inspired by the wealth of talent and interesting technologies being developed across all sectors of our economy. So, a great day for me involves meeting people – particularly founders of AI companies – to learn more about the amazing things they’re doing.