University of Queensland

Sarah Pearson

About the Fellowship

How can philanthropic organisations support the forefront of innovative models for social impact, and how are these accelerating the rate of change?

Foundations have a long and rich history of supporting and driving significant and global “impact for good”. Tried and tested methods have left a legacy to be proud of, and new ones are showing promise as foundations adapt to a rapidly changing world.  

The pace of this adaptation needs to hasten dramatically if foundations are to leverage opportunities and address the growing inequity in our societies. Innovative approaches, entrepreneurship, new models for finance, the voice and empowerment of lived expertise, collaboration, open innovation, data and technological advances all offer great opportunities to adapt with speed and greater impact, and many foundations are exploring how best to utilise them. The inclusion of a diversity of voices and thought, a gender lens on the issues and opportunities, support for climate resilience, are all being applied as tools to help break the cycle of disadvantage, building equality of opportunity.  

Imagine the legacy if foundations could employ a range of innovative tools, all forms of expertise, to collectively build the enduring social solutions that the world needs. Imagine if we could leverage breakthrough ideas, technologies, collective approaches, to democratise access to opportunity and unleash impactful social change.

About Sarah

Prof Sarah Pearson, DPHIL (Oxon), GAICD, FTSE, has extensive global executive leadership experience spanning C-suite roles in the public and private sector, leading brands such as Cadbury & McKinsey, startups and Venture Capital. She has led the development of innovation ecosystems nationally and internationally, been an entrepreneur and intrapreneur, deep tech researcher, Board Director and Advisor, and represented Australia globally as Chief Scientist and Chief Innovation Officer for DFAT.  

Her current portfolio of roles include Director at RACQ, member of the ANU Council, Professor at UQ, Advisor to the SA Government, and she sits on Investment Committees and Boards responsible for over $1Bn of Venture Capital globally (Main Sequence Ventures, Global Innovation Fund, Mandalay, and Impact Investment Exchange Asia). Her passion is to leverage emerging tech & innovation to accelerate economic growth, disrupt disadvantage, address global challenges, and leave no one behind. For many years she worked with schools and through the media to encourage young women into studying science.

She holds a PhD in Particle Physics from the University of Oxford, is the author of eight international patents, for cancer diagnosis and novel confectionery, and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.  

Sarah is currently a Paul Ramsay Foundation Fellow and Professor at University of Queensland, amongst other appointments and activities.  

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