Managing Director, Allaran

Zoe Piper is operating at the intersection of policy, practice, and research. She led the development of IC Global at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). This integrated suite of platforms was developed to catalyse innovation by facilitating capability discovery, problem solving and data visualisation. Besides her professional career, she is a founder of two companies, one in sustainable manufacturing and another one in blockchain technology. She is a professional Spanning Boundaries agent whose career is dedicated to driving collaboration across industry, research, and government.


Zoe’s role as a Spanning Boundaries agent

Zoe is regularly engaged in a range of boundary spanning roles, often concurrently. Roles she has held include:

  • Designing and developing Expert Connect (a key part of IC Global) which aggregated data to automatically create researcher profiles and make this available to industry in a business-friendly way (helping to facilitate industry-researcher linkages);
  • Serving as a mentor for the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS), which breaks down barriers and fosters a culture of innovation and collaboration between industry and academia;
  • Working at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to drive industry productivity by implementing the latest research;
  • Driving business engagement with Australia’s Source IP platform, which allowed research sector patent holders to signal their licensing intent to industry;
  • Working on the government taskforce that developed the 2030 strategic plan to help guide investment in Australian’s innovation, science and research system;
  • Guest lecturing to university students about entrepreneurship and career development


What is Zoe’s main motivation?

Approaching issues from a different perspective, learning new things, and seeing connections are some of Zoe’s personal drivers. She has always been very interested in acting at the intersection of a range of different industries and sectors. After realising the disconnect between researchers and industry, despite the benefit of their collaboration, Zoe became even more motivated to overcome barriers leading to this divide. This interest led her to undertaking a PhD where she is investigating the careers of individuals who concurrently work across industry, research, and government.

How important is having specific knowledge, skills or traits?

Spending time in each of the sectors allows us to gain knowledge about how the different sectors of academia and industry operate. Spanning Boundaries agents are often stepping outside their comfort zone; thus they need the skills to be adaptable and should be able to ask the right questions. Networking and communication skills are also valuable inclusions in the Spanning Boundaries agent’s portfolio.

Boundary spanning is a journey and there is a lot of failure to overcome, so the traits of being resilient and being at ease with ambiguity and uncertainty can aid one in understanding and successfully navigating their situation.

What are some drivers or barriers for a fruitful cooperation between academia and industry?


Gaining experience across a wide variety of engagements helps Spanning Boundaries agents to cultivate a diverse range of skills and develop extensive networks that can add value to any roles they take on.


Organisations are often not well prepared to attract and retain boundary spanning talent, particularly when individuals have taken non-traditional career paths. Narrow hiring practices, such as requiring many years’ experience in only one domain need to evolve and be replaced with more flexible approaches that consider the full suite of skills and experiences an individual can offer and what value this can add to the organisation.

Authored by Elif Celik Lecturer in Technology-Based Entrepreneurship at TU Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship.