CSIRO chief joins Rio Tinto board

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CSIRO chief joins Rio Tinto board
Megan Clark.

Tech experience makes her 'great fit' for miner.

Outgoing chief executive of Australia's peak science and research body Megan Clark has stepped down a month early from her position to take up a spot on the board of mining giant Rio Tinto.

Clark had been due to resign from the CSIRO on December 31 after five years at its helm.

Clark - who has previously worked as the vice president of technology for Rio rival BHP Billiton - has spoken publicly during her time at the CSIRO about the need for mining companies to take up the opportunities presented by new technologies like big data.

She will be moving to a business already acting on this advice - under Rio's Mine of the Future program, the miner uses big data analytics to discover opportunities at its coal and copper operations, built a tool to offer a 3D display of the pit environment at its mines, invested in autonomous haulage, and implemented business intelligence to establish real-time visibility of its iron ore supply chain, among other efforts.

Rio chairman Jan du Plessis today said Clark's experience in mining coupled with her "strong reputation for driving a culture of innovation and technology" made her a "great fit" for Rio Tinto.

Clark was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2011 for her service to scientific research and development.

She leaves an organisation battling to adapt to a $115 million funding cut over four years following the federal government's May budget.

The CSIRO has been forced to take the razor to its workforce as a result, with up to 800 jobs in the firing line in the 2014-15 year, and another 80 expected to go in 2015-16. The approach was recently revealed to have had a significant effect on staff morale and employees' confidence in senior management.

Clarke will remain in an advisory role until the end of December to assist incoming CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall in the transition. Marshall will begin his role officially on January 15 next year.

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