Professor Mary-Anne Williams

My Expertise

I am the Michael J Crouch Chair in Innovation in the UNSW Business School where we lead inclusive and responsible business, and helping our students and alumni make a difference. I also lead the new UNSW Business AI Lab. It focuses on how we can use AI to ignite, launch and accelerate innovation. I work with amazing colleagues across the University in the UNSW AI Institute. One of my research projects is exploring how AI can transform digital Diagnosis with researchers form the School of Medicine and Roche.

With a PhD in AI and a Masters of Law in Innovation, I have been able to ride several waves of innovation from the personal computer wave in the 1980s to the generative AI wave that is currently gaining momentum and accelerating innovation to new levels.

My research centres on human-AI collaboration and the questions that I am curious about how people change their minds and behaviour? How can we use our understanding of people to design AI systems that people want to work with? How can we utilise generative AI to ignite, launch and accelerate innovation? How should we design and build inclusive, safe and responsible AI?

If you are curious about how I think Australia can lead in AI check out this easy-read paper: The AI Race: Will Australia Lead or Lose.



I am the Michael J Crouch Chair for Innovation at UNSW where I collaborate to grow entrepreneurship and accelerate innovative thinking in Australia. Micheal Crouch was an inspiring Australian entrepreneur and business leader. He was a visionary and extraordinarily generous benefactor. In 2017 Michael Crouch was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to the community through philanthropic contributions to youth,...view more

I am the Michael J Crouch Chair for Innovation at UNSW where I collaborate to grow entrepreneurship and accelerate innovative thinking in Australia. Micheal Crouch was an inspiring Australian entrepreneur and business leader. He was a visionary and extraordinarily generous benefactor. In 2017 Michael Crouch was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to the community through philanthropic contributions to youth, cultural, medical research and health care organisations, to business in the areas of manufacturing and international trade, and as a supporter of innovation and higher education.

I have pioneered unique transdisciplinary approaches in AI, innovation, venture, cognitive science, computer science, robotics, and human-AI collaboration. I have led 12 research teams to international competitions and world championships. I have led numerous projects technology-enabled innovation and built solutions using AI, Design Thinking, Experimentation, and Analytics. Our industry and government partners included Roche, EY, South Western Sydney Local Health District, IBM, Google, Disrupt, Linkedin, bigtincan, Willow Garage (now Savioke), Amazon, Visual Risk, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Denmark's National Bank, Samsung, Sony, and Softbank.


  1. ChatGPT: Amazing AI engineering can be beneficial, 2023.
  2. Protecting your privacy - should AI write hospital discharge papers? With the next big shift in AI advancements just around the corner, businesses must ensure these new tools are ethical – before it’s too late. Mary-Anne Williams with Peter Leonard and Lamont Tang, 2023.
  3. Business AI- the game-changer in predicting and enhancing employee retention. AI can help organisations anticipate employee turnover and significantly improve retention rates, Mary-Anne Williams with Andrew Dhaenens and Karin Sanders, 2023.
  4. AGSM Podcast: Privacy and responsible AIThe Business of AI Episode 3: How can consumers and citizens safeguard their right to privacy when using AI, and how can businesses stay ahead of the AI privacy compliance curve? Mary-Anne Williams with Peter Leonard and Lamont Tang, 2023.
  5. Interview with Xero Chair David Thodey with Mary-Anne Williams.  Three tips to become an innovation leader. Skill development, risk-taking and passion combined with purpose are three key ingredients in the recipe for successful innovation, 2023.
  6. Steer it – don’t fear it: navigating AI with confidence - When it comes to designing and implementing AI, business leaders have to navigate an incredibly complex landscape – but there are steps they can take to make the journey less risky, 2022
  7. SheRobot Exhibition - Robot Empathy & Deception Nursery - Anthea Sims and Mary-Anne Williams. page 96-97.
  8. Interview with Faethm's Mike Priddis: how COVID changed the future of work - there have been significant changes in the world of work with a dramatic acceleration in automation and related technologies, 2022
  9. How leaders should weigh up the risks and rewards of AI, Sam Kirshner and Mary-Anne Williams, 2022
  10. How machine learning is improving job transitions through skills matchmaking - Researchers have developed a machine learning-based system that acts as a skills matchmaker to assist with the process of effective job transitions, 2021
  11. Four ways managers can support women in leadership - Women in business still face social and cultural barriers when it comes to leadership, but managers can create an environment that supports women and provides them with leadership opportunities - Panel with Nick Wailes, 2021

My Grants


  1. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2016 - 2018 $380,000; Project Title: Robust Intelligence: Rational Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partners: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden), Henri Prade (CNRS); Summary: Intelligent agents exercise profound and growing impact in business and society. However, significant problems arise in intelligent agent deployment as their theoretical underpinnings do not ensure rational decision making in complex real-world settings. This project will bridge the gap between theory and practice with an innovative framework for rational decision making under risk and uncertainty. It will open the door to transformational technologies that will drive new entrepreneurial opportunities in agent-based global services.
  2. Australia Research Council Linkage Project 2012 - 2014 $335,000 + significant in-kind support; Project Title: A Framework for Physical and Social Collaboration: Towards the Smarter Planet Vision; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams, and Benjamin Johnston; Partner: IBM Australia; Summary: This project developed a new approach to intelligent collaborative technologies by advancing the theory of collaborative action and developing an innovative framework and practical methods which will allow intelligent systems to undertake the collaborative actions required for applications in transport, energy management, sustainability, and healthcare.
  3. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2012 - 2014 $320,000; Project Title: Adaptive Cyber-Physical Technologies with Attention Driven Common-sense Behaviours; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner Investigator: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden); Summary: This project focused on intelligent cyber-physical systems for open, complex and changing environments presents enormous scientific challenges. It developed an innovative framework, methods and tools that provide cyber-physical technologies with attention based common-sense capabilities for adapting to new, unexpected and unforeseen situations.
  4. Australia Research Council Linkage Project 2011 - 2014 $280,000 + significant in kind support; Project Title: Establishing a Next Generation Framework to Determine the Influence of Intelligent Water Metering on Householder Attitudes and Behaviours; Chief Investigators: Stuart B White, Rodney A Stewart, Mary-Anne Williams, Damien P Giurco, Kelvin R O'Hallora; Partners: Mid Coast Water and the Institute of Sustainable Futures; Summary: This project tested competing theories on how householders respond to interactive water consumption data from smart meters. The outcome is a novel framework for intelligent water management; underpinned by innovative research into causal mechanisms linking data communication to knowledge, and the impact of knowledge on attitudes and behaviours.
  5. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2008 - 2011 $270,000; Project Title: Developing and Managing Sustainable Technology-enabled Innovation Capabilities; Chief Investigators: Steve Elliot (University of Sydney) and Mary-Anne Williams; Summary: This project helped organisations develop sustainable innovation capabilities using disruptive technologies.
  6. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2007 - 2011 $340,000; Project Title: Planning, Communication, and Collaboration in Cognitive Systems; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden); Summary: This project developed a better understanding of collaboration in complex environments.
  7. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2004 – 2007 $150,000; Project Title: Intelligent Agent and Semantic Web empowered eFinance: A Knowledge Management Approach to enable and sustain Innovation; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams and Steve Elliot (University of Sydney) Partner: Dieter Fensel (University of Innsbruck, Austria); Summary: This research project made strong theoretical advances by developing an integrated and scalable knowledge engineering approach to the problems confronting Australian Industry.
  8. Australia Research Council Discovery Project 2002 – 2006 $200,000; Project Title: Agent-Oriented Concept Management; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund University, Sweden); Summary: In order for agents to communicate effectively they must share concepts, and attribute the same meaning to shared concepts. We developed a innovative approach to concept management a new area of research with important application to intelligent systems.
  9. Australia Research Council Project 2000 - 2003 $200,000; Project Title: Information and Knowledge Integration; Chief Investigator: Mary-Anne Williams; Partner: Grigoris Antoniou (University of Crete, Greece); Summary: One of the key issues in global information infrastructures like the World Wide Web and enterprise networks is the ability to combine information from different sources in meaningful ways.
  10. Australia Research Council Project 1998 - 2001 $180,000; Project Title: Exception-Tolerant Information Systems for Managing Uncertain Information; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams; Partners: Didier Dubois and Henri Prade (CNRS, France); Summary: This project designed and developed exception-tolerant techniques to allow business systems to perform effectively when using qualitatively uncertain information.
  11. Australia Research Council Project 1997 - 2000 $200,000; Project Title: Reasoning with Changing and Incomplete Information Project; Chief Investigators: Mary-Anne Williams and Grigoris Antoniou; Summary: Developed a decision making framework for handling decisions based on changing and incomplete information using techniques from Knowledge Representation and Reasoning.
  12. Australia Research Council Project 1996 - 1999 $170,000; Project Title: Entrenchment Based Reasoning about Action; Chief Investigators: Norman Foo UNSW, Pavlos Peppas and Mary-Anne Williams; Summary: This project developed innovative algorithms for challenging planning problems that allowed for changing requirements.

My Qualifications

Stanford Executive Program, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2016

PhD, Artificial Intelligence, University of Sydney, 1994

Master of Laws (LL.M.), Innovation, Law and Technology, University of Edinburgh, 2008

Master of Science, Computer Science, 1991



My Awards

Fellow, AAAI 2022 - AAAI is the international peak body for AI.

Most Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award, Enactus Australia 2022

Google International Faculty Award Machine Learning 2021-2022

Google International Faculty Award Machine Learning 2019 - 2020

Australasian Artificial Intelligence Distinguished Research Contribution Award 2019

Fellow, Australia Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), 2015

Fellow, Australian Computer Society (ACS), 2014

Pauli Fellowship, Austrian Ministry of Science and Research, 2008

IBM Faculty Award2007

University of Edinburgh Law School Fellowship Award 2006 - 2008

Commonwealth Fellowship Award, Australian Academy of Science 1996

British Council Fellowship Award 1996

Australasian Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award 1995 Comp Sc Association (CORE)

My Research Activities

Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can enhance, improve and scale human expertise is dramatically changing and impacting our social and working lives, influencing how we perceive and interact with the physical and digital world. 

Society is rapidly moving into the AI-Age where individuals, citizens, societal groups, businesses, governments and the global economy increasingly rely on the perceptions, decisions and actions of AI. 

Human-AI collaboration is the study of how humans and AI work together to accomplish tasks and shared goals. 

My research focuses on addressing the significant barriers and risks that prevent AI from delivering the extraordinary benefits it has the potential to generate. Today, AI can outperform humans in making predictions, but it cannot explain its predictions to humans. People are often unable to find the insights fro blackbox AI technologies to fully realise the benefit of AI. Without insights and understanding, humans cannot demonstrate the extent to which AI algorithms are safe, fair and responsible. This is an urgent problem that needs to be solve. We need robust AI solutions to unlock the benefits for business, society and humanity.

A related research focus is explainable AI. Today, however, AI is not transparent or accountable, unable to explain perceptions, decisions and actions. AI that cannot explain its behaviour and decisions is a significant problem for business, government and society. 

People need explanations to develop trust and confidence in AI, execute AI recommendations, and accept AI actions and outcomes. Furthermore, regulators insist that business, industry and government demonstrate that their AI algorithms comply with the law. How will AI systems avoid discrimination against specific groups, and comply with anti-discrimination law?

My current focus is on developing new approaches to eXplainable AI (XAI) as a means of making AI more transparent, accountable, and trustworthy. Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to have a profound impact on all aspects of business, government and civil society. To help bring more clarity and to explore potential solutions to the rapidly growing urgent issues, we launched the AI Policy Hub in 2018.

You can find one of my papers at the Royal Society that outlines how Australia can lead in the new AI-driven world. It is provides a summary of a presentation to the four esteemed national academies at NSW Government House in Australia in November 2018. 

My Research Supervision

Supervision keywords

Areas of supervision

  • Human-AI Collaboration - modeling how humans and AI work together to make decisions, and accomplish tasks and shared goals. 
  • Innovation, Strategy and Entrepreneurship - startups, scaleups, value (creation, capture and delivery), value proposition, business model, business strategy, digital transformation
  • Artificial Intelligence - integrating reasoning with learning, human-machine interaction
  • Social Intelligence - social choice, cooperation, collaboration
  • Decision Making - under uncertainty, incompleteness and change; cognition; software cognitive architectures
  • Behavioural Insights- bias and noise in human judgement, design for human enhancement

I am excited to work with students who:

  • are super curious and want to make the world more inclusive and equitable and work better, faster and/or cheaper;
  • have business ideas they want to bring to life that will have a significant impact on society and business, and able to transform people's lives;
  • want to design AI that can transform business by creating new value e.g. AI is law-abiding, ethically sound, trustworthy, fair, responsible, explainable and accountable; 
  • want to advance the frontiers of decision making, behavioural design, social intelligence, trust and management in organisations.

I have supervised 27 higher degree research students to completion - see list below.

Currently supervising






  • Sidra Alam: Persuasion in Human-Robot Collaboration: Exploring intelligent and robust persuasive behaviours to support human-robot collaboration. Co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston and Jaime Valls Miro.


  • Sarita Herse: Building Trusted Technology in Human-Centric Intelligent Environments. Sarita has a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours from UNSW. She received the Best Paper Award – International Conference on Social Robotics 2019, and was co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston, Jonathan Vitale and Christopher Jackson.


  • Nikolas Dawson: Economic Impact of AI and the Future of Work. Nik was awarded a fellowship to work at the United Nations and a 2020 OECD Future of Work Fellowship. Nik was co-supervised together with Benjamin Johnston and Marian-Andrei Rizoiu.
  • Sammy Pfeiffer, Autonomy for Intelligent Social Robots: Exploring mechanism to help robots make autonomous decisions as they carry out their missions unsupervised.  Sammy is co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston.
  • Meg Tonkin, Sociable Human-Robot Interaction. Meg won the Social Robot Design Award in 2018. Meg was co-supervised with Benjamin Johnston.


  • Suman Ohja: Ethics and Emotion using Artificial Intelligence: Exploring how to embed ethics into social robots decision making. Gained First Place in the Master of IT at The University of Sydney in 2015. 


  • Mahya Mirzaei Poueinag: Disruptive Innovation: Integrating Business Analytics and Design Thinking. CBA Top-Up. 99.8 ATAR B Aeronautical Space Engineering at the University of Sydney, Funded on an APA with ARC Discovery and CBA Top-Up. Awarded 2xIBM PhD Fellowships US$40K. Also joined UTS Hatchery+ Entrepreneurship Program. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston.  
  • Srinivas Madhisetty: Managing Privacy in Photos and Videos in Social Media Applications. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 


  • Syed Ali Raza, Reinforcement Learning using Human Demonstration. ARC-funded scholarship and project focused on machine learning techniques for teaching robots new behaviours through human demonstration. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Mark.van Rijmenam, Organisations in times of disruption: Towards a data-driven framework for sustained competitive advantage. Supervised with Jochen Schweitzer.


  • Jonathan Vitale, Cognitive Robotics. International Student Italy. Funded on an ARC Discovery complimentary APA. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Muhammad Anshar, Designing New Automated Behaviours and Skills. International Student Indonesia. Funded on a 4-Year Endeavour Leadership Scholarship.  


  • Wei Wang, Social Network for Automated Share Information and Skills. International Student, IBM PhD Fellowship. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Shaukat Abedi, Semi-Supervised and Unsupervised Extensions to Maximum-Margin Structured Prediction: ARC-funded scholarship and project focused on machine learning techniques for recognising human activity. Supervised with Massimo Picardi.  
  • Nima Ramezani Taghiabadi, Optimising Robot Motion. Funded on APA with CBA Top-Up. Previously working as a researcher at the German Research Institute in AI. Now working as a Senior Data Scientist at CBA.  


  • Rony Novianto, Attention-based Cognitive Architecture: funded on an ARC Discovery Project. Received an Endeavour Fellowship to work at Lund University Sweden 2011, and an IBM PhD Fellowship 2012. Supervised with Benjamin Johnston. 
  • Edward Wei, Designing an innovative human-ai decision system for marketing managers to predict customer choices.


  • Shan Chen, Privacy and Personal Information Management: funded on an APA and ARC Discovery Project. Received an Endeavour Fellowship to work at Indiana University at Bloomington USA in 2012.  
  • Edward Wei, Learning How to Make Good Decisions: co-supervised with Professor Jordan Louviere.


  • Xun Wang, An Innovative Framework for Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Management: funded on an ARC Discovery Project. Received IBM PhD Fellowship 2010-2011. Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow. Currently leads the CBA's Social Robotics program.


  • Jebrin Sharawneh, Recommendation in Social Networks using AI: funded on an APA. Received a Best Paper Award at a top-tier conference in Information Systems. Currently, developing a Start-Up based on an AI recommender system he developed for his PhD.  


  • Benjamin Johnston, Commonsense Reasoning: First Class Honours & University Medal, University of Queensland. Won 2011 UTS Chancellor’s Award for the Best PhD Dissertation. Nominated to ACM Best Dissertation. Won the Kurzweil Prize for Most Creative Idea in Artificial Intelligence 2011. UTS Chancellor’s Post-Doc 2012 - 2015.  


  • Muh Anshar, High-Performance Robot Motion: Master of Science (International Student). Funded on an Endeavour Scholarship. Returned to undertake a PhD.


  • Christopher Stanton, Grounding Representations. First Class Honours, Dean’s Medal University of Newcastle. Funded on a Faculty Scholarship. 


  • Numi Tran, Agent-Oriented System Design Methodology. (First Class Honours and the University Medal University of Newcastle).  


  • Suku SInna, A New Approach to Marketing: Classifying Customers using Conceptual Spaces. Currently, leading his own AI start-up.  


  • Wei Liu, A New Approach to Belief Revision. PhD was funded on a highly competitive IPRS. Currently, Associate Professor at UWA.  

My Teaching


     AGSM9132 Corporate Innovation (Course Coordinator and Lecturer)

     MGMT5803 Business Innovation (Course Designer) - new course designed and launched is 2023

     LEARN TO LEAD Leading Innovation Module (designed and delivered) - available to alumni, staff and students online.


     MGMTJ2 Innovation, Strategy and Entrepreneurship (Champion)

     COMMKS Strategy and Innovation Major (Management and Governance Lead) - new Master of Commerce major designed and launched in 2022.


     MGMTJ2 Innovation, Strategy and Entrepreneurship (Champion) - new Bachelor of Commerce major designed and launched in 2021.

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School of Management and Governance
UNSW Business School

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