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Dr. Catherine Ball        

Author, Founder, Executive Director & Ethics Advocate

Catherine Ball is an associate professor, advisor, author, speaker, founder, executive producer, executive director, company director, charity patron, future-thinker, wife, mother, and a bit of a rebel.

Catherine enjoys working across global projects where emerging technologies meet humanitarian, education and environmental needs alongside world-leading academics and outliers.

Catherine also likes to create businesses, champion movements, collaborate with peers, and advise game-changers.

Current Work:

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.

A ‘social architect’, Catherine likes to connect people from different backgrounds across common themes. As 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 is at the heart of how we operate and curate emerging trends and capabilities.

Currently, Catherine is the 2020 patron of the Tech Girls Movement, a #SheFlies ambassador for Girl Geek Academy, and a mentor and advisor to the CEO of New York based Women Who Drone, as well as a mentor to the #SuperstarsofSTEM project by Science and Technology Australia.

An Honorary Associate Professor at the Australian National University, and an Industry Fellow at the University of Queensland; 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 2 young sons.

Speech Topics


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

The Education Revolution and the age of the ‘never-graduate’ 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 still have good recall when we are overwhelmed with hyperlinks? 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

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