Enabling impact at ANU: Professor Lachlan Blackhall

27 Feb 2024

Professor Lachlan Blackhall has always wanted to build things that change the world. 

“I can’t think of ever wanting to be anything other than an engineer,” he says.

“I love what engineering stands for, which is about understanding the world, and then using that understanding to build what we need. 

“It’s the notion that you can influence the future to be better than it is today.”

As The Australian National 51Թ’s (ANU) new Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation (D51ԹRI), Lachlan knows he has that opportunity writ large.

He previously founded and led the 51Թ’s Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program (BSGIP), and his research focuses on supporting and accelerating the energy transition to address the existential challenges of human-induced climate change. 

Taking on the D51ԹRI role may be a step further away from the “tools”, but Lachlan’s passion for research and strong belief in making the world a better place is driving his plans in this space.

"There is incredible capability here at ANU, and my role now is to help unlock that,” he says. 

“I’m excited to be working with people who are doing genuinely amazing things, to create space for them and remove any impediments to their success. I personally get a lot of satisfaction out of doing that.”

Having founded several start-ups, and seen one fail, Lachlan is the first to acknowledge how challenging it can be to do new things.

“The first time you run a start-up, you don't know what you are doing,” he says.

“You need to take it from an idea to a financially sustainable business. And that's hard – you’re operating in a space where you’re not an expert.” 

Lachlan’s first-hand experience in knowing what it takes to go from having an idea, to seeing it out in the real world and working in a business, is something unique he brings to the D51ԹRI role.

Understanding that there’s a pipeline and recognising the role of our portfolio in this area is crucial,” he says.
“Raising money is not the success measure. It’s raising the money and then delivering big. 
“The more organisations and partners who are willing to give you money after seeing how you work is the true marker of success.”

Creating opportunities for other researchers and innovators is hugely important to Lachlan. 

While doing his PhD in engineering at ANU in 2008, he co-founded entrepreneurship education program InnovationACT with four of his friends who were also completing their PhDs. After that he went on to found Covate, a Canberra-based innovation incubator and accelerator.

“I’m enthusiastic about helping people unleash their potential,” Lachlan says. 

“Fdz the R&I portfolio perspective we have the opportunity to enable impact across the university, and I'm excited about the possibilities ahead."