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Global leader on the applications & ethics of emerging technologies

Future businesses will be more about the why and less about the dollar.

Associate Professor, Dr Catherine Ball is a scientific futurist, speaker, advisor, author, founder, executive producer, executive director, and company director working across global projects where emerging technologies meet humanitarian, education and environmental needs. Catherine also likes to create businesses and champion movements, collaborate with peers, and advise game-changers.

A sought-after voice across the start-up, futurist and tech world, Catherine works globally across a wide range of projects from creating documentaries and world-leading conferences and events, to advising on the use of novel approaches (e.g. drones) across environmental and humanitarian projects. Catherine is a proponent of community engagement with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and likes to demystify emerging tech.

Having been called a ‘social architect’, Catherine likes to connect people from different backgrounds across common themes. A champion of diversity and inclusion, Catherine believes we need points of difference to truly innovate and curate the changes we want to see in the world. Working to protect the natural environment and empowering all members of society through mutual education are core aspects of the projects Catherine chooses to spend her time and energy on.

Catherine continues to support Australia as being the world leader in the advancement of ethically driven technological applications. Industry 5.0 is emerging; with society and community at the heart of how we operate and curate emerging trends and capabilities.

Current Work:

Catherine is the only Australian on the International Advisory Board of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, which follows her work as a judge on the Ocean Discovery XPrize. A proud #SheFlies ambassador for Girl Geek Academy, and a mentor and advisor to the CEO of Women Who Drone, and a regular mentor to many rising stars across the STEM fields in Australia and abroad, Catherine believes in actively paying it forward.

An Associate Professor at the Australian National University and Honorary Associate Professor at the 3AI Institute; Catherine is leading national conversations around technology and its place in the current and future challenges in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Catherine’s latest business ventures include the internationally renowned World of Drones and Robotics Congress, established in Brisbane in 2017 and the free community resources of World of Drones Education, established in 2018.

Catherine is a board director for Aviation Australia; and is on the international advisory board for the Ocean Impact Org, a not-for-profit ecosystem for businesses working towards a healthier ocean.

Catherine holds a BSc Honours (Environmental Protection) and a PhD (Spatial Ecology, Descriptive and Predictive Statistics) from the University of Newcastle- upon-Tyne in the United Kingdom. Catherine lives in Queensland with her husband and two sons.

Awards and Honours:
2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards: Outstanding Micro Business Winner
2020 Analytics Insight Worlds 50 Most Renowned Women in Robotics Award
2018 Global Contribution to UAV Industry award from Shenzhen UAV Industry association
2017 AFR’s BOSS Magazine True Leaders Game Changers
2017 Women in Leadership Awards - Finalist Innovation Category
2016 Financial Review & Westpac 100 Woman of Influence
2016 Top 25 Women in Robotics List
2016 Courier Mail QBM Magazine: 25 Influential Movers and Shakers of Queensland
2015 AFR’s BOSS Magazine Young Executives of the Year Winner
2015 National Telstra Business Woman of the Year, Corporate and Private Award
2015 Queensland Telstra Business Women’s Awards Winner
2015 Queensland Telstra Business Woman of the Year, Queensland Corporate and Private Awards Winner.
2015 Innovator of Influence at Innovation Week
2015 Courier Mail Q Magazine: Queensland 50 Best and Brightest

Talking Points

Gigs and Start-Ups: The Future of Business is not the same as the Future of Work

Current desires for work/life balance, and the ongoing battle between personal wellbeing and corporate lifestyle means that in 10 years’ time, some 50% of Australians are likely to be self-employed. Does the ‘gig economy’ offer real opportunity or a type of enforced zero hours contracting?

How many hours a day do you work? Do you do unpaid overtime? How many days a week do you work? Do you commute? All of these questions are likely framing an old way of doing things. People are predicted to work less overall, work more flexibly, work from non-CBD locations, and to work fewer days in the week. What will this mean for the economy, the tax system, the way we get loans, and the way we value ourselves?

Key takeaways:
-The gig economy is stretching all the way to the C-Suite
- More people are creating start-ups from side shows
- Working unpaid overtime is a bad sign

‘Every day is a school day’: The future of education and the age of the never graduating student.

Micro-learning, non-accredited training, virtual classrooms, immersive avatar experiences, gamified learning, haptic suits, virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality, and app-based teacher tracking… whatever happened to sitting and making notes in a classroom with a textbook?

Technology is the new teacher, and the universities never want you to graduate. The phrase “Every Day is a School Day” is becoming literal as we constantly imbibe from new ways of learning.

And what is this all doing to our brains- can we really still have good recall when we are overwhelmed with hyperlinks? In order for our brains to develop long, stable neurons and neurological connections we still need the slow-food of education: good, old fashioned reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Ever feel like the internet and social media are making you less smart? You might just be right, so let’s look at how we can flip that on its head. Personalised education is just as much a hot opportunity as personalised medicine. What would you want to learn about?

Key Takeaways:
- What you can get from the university system to keep up to date.
- Free resources - are they a waste of time? Have you considered making your own?
- Are non-accredited training courses, coaches, mentors, and apps worth the money?

Beauty and The Beast: How Artificial Intelligence (AI) will allow us to be more human

The Singularity: When we create an artificial intelligence of the same power as a human brain. Is this smoke and mirrors- can we truly recreate the magic of the mind? How would you teach such a thing? How do we ensure that there is diversity in this being? Who are the people creating AI? And what on earth is #AIForGood all about?

Robots, like people with English accents, are very often the baddies in the movies. AI or robots going mad and killing all humans is something many famous Sci-Fi movies are based on. But, in reality, AI, (or IA: Intelligence Augmentation as some now refer to it) is the only way we, as humans, are going to be able to cope with an increasingly digitised world. Some 90% of the current data that exists in the world was created in just the last two years. Big Data and AI go together like strawberries and cream- and we need AI to help us separate the signal from the noise.

With AI and robotics doing the boring, repetitive tasks there will be more time for us to smell the roses, talk to a neighbour, hang out with the family, and/or tackle some of the hard challenges we face today such as climate change, and world peace.

How can you get educated and up to speed with the latest hot topic and also the ethical and economic issues and opportunities they bring? What are you able to apply at work and home that can make immediate and positive changes in your life? If you could change one thing about new technology, what would that be? And, what is the kind of tech waiting for us to call it into action? Life on Mars? A cure for cancer? A chance of a longer, healthier, and happier life? Or just a better social media photo filter? In the end, it is up to us to create the “5th Industrial Revolution”; Industry 5.0 where humans are the reason why.

Key Takeaways:
- What is Artificial Intelligence and how it is already in your life?
- How much can we control what data we share and who uses it?
- What's coming next and what we need our politicians to know.

Diversity and Success are Two Sides of the Same Coin: Why we need points of difference to truly innovate.

Want to put a bet on a business? Invest? Buy shares? A start-up is doing a ‘friends and family’ round of funding? Could there be just one metric alone that could give you an indicator of performance for your possible investment? Some people believe there is, and they call it ‘diversity’. More diverse companies are more stable; plus female-founded businesses give, on average the best return on every dollar invested. Diverse companies not only are more successful, but they are also happier places to work at and have better staff retention.

If these ideas are true, then why is it that only approximately 2% of global venture capital goes to female-founded businesses. In the top 100 share indices across the world, you’re more likely to find a bloke called Richard in charge than a woman at the top of the table. Some companies unbelievably still have all-male boards. Is this something you ever check when making large purchasing decisions?

Diversity is not just about gender. If you’re sat around the table and looking back at you are people who look, speak, were educated, or live the same kind of life as you, then ‘Houston, we have a problem’. Diversity and inclusion in the corporate world can seem like an uphill battle. Diversity is being asked to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance. Just numbers are not going to make the difference, the final push towards equality will be a change in culture, where differences equal corporate strength.

Look to mother nature, diversity is directly related to ecosystem health: The same is in the business world. Engage with the idea of 2D diversity, which means you can increase your diversity quotient by training in a new language, learning to dance, picking up a card game or chess, and hanging out with people different to yourself. Travel broadly, try new things, and broaden your horizons in ways that translate to better performance at work.

Key Takeaways:
- Key statistics and information we can use to be better informed.
- What is 2D Diversity and how we can add value to our teams and projects?
- How can we plan and prepare for the next generation entering the boardroom?.

Industry 5.0 (Boardroom Briefing)

Impress your clients, inspire your team, and engage your staff with a boardroom briefing.

Industry 5.0 is on the horizon and will affect Australia. But what is the 5th Industrial Revolution, haven’t we just started the 4th one?

Well, in Japan they call it Society 5.0 and it is the economic plan for the next 10 years. How to take the best of the technology available and putting purpose and humans at the centre of our business models.

Technology is not just for technology’s sake- there are already aspects of health and safety legislation, as well as investment risk and business performance indices that will be directly affected. 5G will play a fundamental role in the applications and uptake of 5IR, but why is 5G making global headlines?

Proper planning creates opportunities for business to lead the change and build sustainable purpose into their offerings and services. 5IR will add value for Australian businesses, as we already have a strong ethical and innovative ecosystem across all levels of corporate culture.

Get to learn more about drones, robots, AI, AR/VR/MR, big data, and what these could mean to you.

Key takeaways:
- What’s real and where’s the hype.
- Changes to HSE and Risk management.
- How to bet on the right future trend.

Where X marks the spot: Geo-ethics, location data, and the rise of drones.

You can’t find the treasure without a map, and you can’t solve some of the world’s most difficult problems without geospatial data. Working across a global portfolio of research, education, training, and competitions such as the XPrize has led me to some amazing places and to meet some inspirational game-changers.

In this presentation, you will be challenged to think of ways that your knowledge and skills can be used to help improve lives and save the planet. From using reconnaissance drones to search for endangered turtle rookeries, to engaging global digital humanitarians following cyclones or natural disasters; the digital world allows us all to assist with our time and skills when we can.

Local projects and community awareness can be augmented using new and emerging tech. And a diverse portfolio of jobs and opportunities are now presenting themselves as we explore the merging skills sets from spatial data and exponential technologies.

A drone to deliver your pizza? Sure. How about a window cleaning drone? Or one with a flame-thrower attached? All already exist. What would you use a drone for? Would you get in one for your daily commute? How about drones that dry your hair or 3D print your jewellery to order? How about nano-drones that fight cancer, or drones to walk your dog? The wonderful, weird, wired, and hilarious world of drones is here to stay, and we may as well have some fun with it while we can.

Key takeaways:
- Drone technology is business as usual
- We generate and give away our personal location data- who is using it?
- How spatial data in 4D will determine our future health outcomes

Master of Ceremonies

Quick-witted, well prepared, broad horizons of life experience, and the ability to react to sudden changes or last-minute moments. Coolheaded and articulate, Catherine also likes to bring her unique sense of humour and geek chic to any MC role. Audiences and event organisers both appreciate being kept on time and in good humour. Catherine particularly likes to keep the audiences engaged with the content and presenters by creating interactive ice-breakers, micro-breaks, and having fun!


Dr Catherine Ball appreciates a good moderator when presenting herself, and has learned over the years what makes a good one. Ensuring that the most is made of everyones' time and energy by asking the right questions and pulling the best out of the presenters, artists and panellists. Working in the world of documentary and film-making means Dr Cath loves to interview people and ask pertinent and (when necessary) the difficult questions.

Workshop Facilitator

Dr Catherine Ball runs a series of professional workshops, boardroom briefings, and delivers content that is developed by herself and can be tailored to individual needs and group sizes. Many clients have appreciated the workshop aspects of Catherine's work as part of a longer presentation, or as a warm up for the day or an event. Primarily focussing on innovation culture, new and emerging technology, and even governance and risk management for boards.


Dr Catherine Ball really adds value to any panel discussion, bringing current affairs and news to any technical dialogue. As a mother of two sons, she brings her real-world voice that is unique in the realms of technology communication. Catherine's academic works and writings translate to a value add, technically having the most current ideas at hand. Having Catherine speak on a panel also immediately removes the risk of having a #manel. Bonus.
Many thanks for your valuable contribution to our GHD Executive Forum yesterday afternoon. We thought the forum was a great success and were delighted with not only your direct contribution, but also your valuable interaction with Virginia Trioli and all the other panellists. GHD

Securing Dr Catherine Ball as guest speaker at a recent forum proved a highly valuable investment. During her presentation, the room was captivated by her presentation which ticked all the boxes; informative, engaging and thought provoking. It was off the stage where Catherine totally exceeded our expectations. With her dynamic personality, approachable nature and generous character, Catherine enthusiastically interacted with organisers, exhibitors and attendees whilst happily responding to media requests promoting the event.

Western Downs Regional Council

Our invited speaker Catherine Ball was amazing. She spoke for 45 minutes with 15 minutes for question time. She got the audience involved by asking random delegates to stand up and introduce themselves to the wider group, as well as asking others what their “super power” was. She encouraged collaboration between the different sites and encouraged “round tables” where everyone’s opinion is of equal value. She was very captivating and we got excellent feedback from the delegates. She was definitely a breath of fresh air and set the scene for the day. It was a privilege to hear her speak - very inspiring!

Australian Institute of Radiography (AIR)

A very big thank you for presenting at our Women in Leadership breakfast this morning. We have had rave reviews about your speech and cannot thank you enough for coming along and adding such a great energy and mood to the event. I saw our guests laughing with you at one moment and then shedding a tear the next. You left our audience with inspiring messages and I am sure they all left today feeling positive.

Australia Property Institute

Catherine is fantastic. So pleased we had her involved in the event. Her energy lifted the room and her thoughts and perspectives were referred to again and again throughout the rest of the conference.

Criterion Conferences

Catherine’s knowledge, passion and energy delivered an engaging, inspiring and educating session including using visuals that captured and enhanced the subject, so it didn’t matter that we were on-line. She followed through with a Q&A session that kept everyone engaged until the very end. Catherine understands our business and matched her presentation well to the brief as well as keeping it very current and topical. Easy and professional to work with, we look forward to another opportunity to hear from her again.

NSW Environment Protection Authority
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