Cicada Innovations appoints Dr Katherine Woodthorpe as Chair, progressing diversity in STEM

Australia’s flagship deep tech incubator Cicada Innovations has appointed Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO FTSE FAICD as its new Chair, resulting in one of Australia’s flagship and longest-standing deep tech institutions now being helmed by two women for the first time in 23 years.


Sally-Ann Williams and Dr Katherine Woodthorpe of Cicada Innovations


Sally-Ann Williams and Dr Katherine Woodthorpe


Dr Woodthorpe will replace outgoing Chair, Andrew Rothery, who occupied the role for almost 8 years alongside CEO Sally-Ann Williams. Mr Rothery will now dedicate his valuable skills and experience to his extensive portfolio of board and committee roles.


Dr. Woodthorpe brings 30+ years’ experience commercialising technologies across a broad range of critical industries, including environmental and climate science, renewable energy, and healthcare.


She is a serial Chair, non-executive director (NED), CEO, director, and President, and recently became the first woman elected as President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).


Dr Woodthorpe’s Extensive Board Roles and Impact


Notable former board roles include the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, Sirtex Ltd, Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Antarctic Science Foundation, the Commonwealth Government’s National Climate Science Advisory Committee which developed the “Climate Science for Australia’s Future” report, Natural Hazards Research Australia, and Fishburners.


She still retains NED roles at the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, RACE for 2030 CRC, AnteoTec Ltd, and Bioplatforms Australia.


Dr Woodthorpe played a key advisory role in creating the home of Cicada Innovations, formerly named the Australian Technology Park or “ATP”, and now known as the South Eveleigh precinct. She was also on the advisory board of Cicada Innovations even before it was named ATP Innovations.


Her appointment demonstrates the strength, capabilities, and critical role women can and must play in deep tech and STEM which, according to Cicada Innovations, will be critical to Australia achieving its full potential in commercialising the critical technologies that will create the industries of tomorrow.


Sally-Ann Williams on Diversity in STEM Leadership


Sally-Ann Williams, CEO of Cicada Innovations, said: “Having a female trailblazer join Cicada’s board with the sheer breadth and depth of experience Katherine brings is a strong signal to everyone that there is a critical role for women to play in leadership in this crucial sector.


“Katherine understands the architecture, leadership and advocacy needed at a national level to facilitate growth in complex economies founded on science and engineering businesses. I believe she will help to elevate Cicada Innovation’s role not just nationally but also internationally.


“We need more women and people from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM and deep tech, because their skills, capabilities, experience, and different ways of thinking drive better decision-making and outcomes. Creating visibility around this also helps to remove the stereotypes and artificial barriers that tell the world there isn’t a place or role for women in STEM. This is patently untrue. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is needed.”


Advocating for Gender Diversity in STEM Leadership


Dr. Katherine Woodthorpe, incoming Chair of Cicada Innovations, said: “Australia is still struggling to find enough scientists and engineers to ensure we hold our place in an increasingly tech-orientated future. If we don’t encourage half the population to view STEM as a fulfilling career – and then create an environment where this is actually the case – then we are wasting half of our nation’s brain power.


“As the adage goes, you can’t be what you don’t see. In this context, the more normalised and uncontroversial we make it for women to occupy senior roles in STEM, the more girls and young women will see that there are genuine career opportunities awaiting them too.


“I look forward to the day when no one actually notices that there are two women at the helm of deep tech because it has become commonplace, a fact of life. As we strive towards this, I look forward to working with Sally-Ann to enable more deep tech entrepreneurs to achieve their full potential, while cementing Cicada Innovations as the leading deep tech incubator in the region.”


Promoting Women in Deep Tech and STEM Leadership


Andrew Rothery, outgoing Chair of Cicada Innovations, said: “Women have been under-represented in so many areas of business and public life, and we are all the poorer for it. We have to remedy this, if we are to achieve our full potential as a nation.


“I wholeheartedly welcome Dr Woodthorpe to Cicada Innovations. She brings significant experience and skills to the board table. I am confident that she will help elevate Cicada Innovations to another level of impact in the deep tech commercialistion space.


“In my time here, I have had the privilege of working with two exceptional CEOs, Petra Andrèn and Sally-Ann Williams. Both of these extraordinary women have excelled in their role of advancing the interests of deep tech commercialisation in Australia.


It’s difficult to speak about deep tech commercialisation in Australia without referring to Cicada Innovations in the same sentence. If there is a place for women to be championed and encouraged into deep tech and STEM more generally, it’s undoubtedly in this organization.”


According to The state of STEM gender equity in 2023 report, women make up only 37 percent of enrolments in university STEM courses, hold just 15 percent of STEM-qualified jobs, and earn 17 percent less than men in STEM fields overall.


Women also occupy just 23 percent of senior management roles in STEM, however this figure drops to a concerning 8 percent in the C-suite.

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Australia’s Premier Deep Tech Hub: Cicada Innovations


Cicada Innovations ( is the home of deep tech in Australia. Founded in Sydney, Cicada Innovations has a 23-year track record of developing deep tech ventures that tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. Cicada’s national incubators, commercialisation training, and community brings together the entrepreneurs, scientists, business leaders, and policymakers to solve complex challenges with deep tech like the future of human health, food security and the climate crisis.


Since its inception more than two decades ago, Cicada has seen an unprecedented $1.3 billion in exits from six deep tech ventures, and has helped over 300 companies raise more than $1.8 billion in funding. It has twice been named the ‘Top Incubator in the World’ by the International Business Innovation Association and has delivered commercialisation training to thousands working in the science and technology sectors.