Sally-Ann Williams will leave Google to take the reins at Cicada Innovations, the deeptech accelerator backed by four Australian universities.

Australia-based multi-university-backed incubator Cicada Innovations has appointed Sally-Ann Williams (pictured) as its new chief executive, the Business Insider reported yesterday.

Williams is currently an executive program manager at internet conglomerate Alphabet’s internet subsidiary, Google. At Cicada, she will replace Petra Andrén, who left in February 2019 after three years at the helm.

Cicada Innovations is a deeptech-focused incubator and accelerator. Its academic shareholders are University of New South Wales, Australian National University, University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney.

Williams takes charge of the program on July 1. She told the Business Insider a robust framework would be crucial to maintaining Cicada’s role in commercialising local “blue skies” research.

She said: “Creating a framework that makes it easy for industry to invest in research and development and take some risks in new development can lead to new economic opportunities nationally for Australia. Raising the visibility of those who are doing this and helping remove frictions on the pathway is critical.”

Google hired Williams in 2006, assigning her work related to engineering, community and outreach that involved liaising with universities and schools as well as governments.

Williams pointed out her time at the corporate had coincided with its rise to prominence, drawing parallels with the path followed by startups: “Being part of growing Google in the early days has been an incredible experience. When I started, we were lean and scrappy and going through a stage of explosive growth.

“You did not know from one day to the next what new challenges would be coming your way and the way to thrive was to work together to solve them. Not dissimilar to the startup experience.”

Before joining Google, Williams held a position with University of Sydney’s Graduate School of Government from 2003 until 2006, having prior to that worked as project manager for Griffith University from 2000 until 2003.

She is currently a non-executive director with poverty aid charity World Vision and is also a member of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics partnerships forum of the Council of Australian Governments, the coordination body for the country’s federal and state authorities.

Williams also acts as a non-executive director to nonprofit co-working space owner Fishburners and is an “activator” at SheEO, a support network for women-led businesses.

– Image courtesy of LinkedIn