Innovations ranging from speeding up the manufacture of solar cells to the development of synthetic skin, from using science to boost manufacturing jobs to speed breeding wheat, are among the achievements honoured at a gala event in Sydney.
On 13 June, researchers and entrepreneurs received the Clunies Ross Awards, the Batterham Medal, the ICM Agrifood Awards and the Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship, all administered by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.
The awards presentation was addressed by Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.
Academy President, Professor Hugh Bradlow FTSE, congratulated all the award-winners.
“The nation’s future prosperity depends on embracing new technology to address critical national challenges.
“More than ever, we need knowledge creation, technology and innovation that can be harnessed to drive commercialisation and economic and social benefit.
“All the winners have made a tremendous contribution to solving some of the complex problems facing Australia.”
Clunies Ross Innovation Award: Professor Thorsten Trupke FTSE and Adjunct Associate Professor Robert Bardos
Professor Trupke and Dr Bardos have transformed the research and development of solar cells and improved solar cell manufacturing worldwide.
They are jointly based at the University of New South Wales and at BT Imaging Pty Ltd, a company they founded as a spin-out from UNSW.
Products based on the technology have been sold by BT Imaging to almost all leading manufacturers in the solar panel supply chain globally, including the world’s five largest solar cell manufacturers.
Clunies Ross Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Dr Jane Oppenheim
Dr Oppenheim’s leadership and innovation has seen a manufacturing plant expand 10 times, creating valuable jobs.
She is the Scientific and Operations Director of Ego Pharmaceuticals in the Melbourne suburb of Braeside and leads the research and development of skin products, all based on strong science, that help resolve issues like skin tears and eczema. They include well-loved brands such as QV Skincare and SunSense sunscreen.
With exports now making up 50 per cent of the business’s sales, demand for Ego’s products across 24 nations has grown by a compound average rate of 12 per cent over 30 years, with staff numbers in Melbourne growing from 192 to 450 over the past decade.
Clunies Ross Knowledge Commercialisation Award: Professor Anthony Weiss AM FTSE
Professor Weiss has developed synthetic skin to treat wounds and scars, leading to a multi-million-dollar commercial deal.
Innovative work with tropoelastin and elastin – the unique biological ingredients that give human tissue its elasticity – led to the breakthrough.
Professor Weiss, who is at the University of Sydney, used his inventions to found a spin-off company called Elastagen, which was last year bought by Allergan, one of the world’s 20 largest biopharmaceutical companies, for a total price of $US260 million.
Other awards presented at the event were:
Batterham Medal: Professor Michael Milford
Professor Milford from the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision at the Queensland University of Technology is at the cutting edge of the development of autonomous vehicles and robotics.
His latest project involves the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) and the iMOVE Co-operative Research Centre (iMOVE CRC), taking an artificial intelligence system on a 1200km road trip of south-east Queensland.
Professor Milford is also leading research on new positioning systems for autonomous mining vehicles, working with Fortune 100 company Caterpillar, Mining3 and the Queensland Government.
ICM Agrifood Award: Dr Lee Hickey
Dr Hickey leads a research team at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation at the University of Queensland that focuses on plant breeding and genetics research into Australia’s most important cereal crops, wheat and barley.
He has played a key role in applying “speed breeding” technology that enables up to six generations per year for major crops like wheat, barley and chickpea.
ICM Agrifood Award: Dr Lydia Ong
Dr Ong, who is part of the ARC Dairy Innovation Hub at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, uses microscopy to study the behaviour of food components such as protein and fat on a molecular level.
She uses this to work out how to improve processes in Australia’s $3 billion-a-year dairy export sector.
Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship: Naomi Paxton
Naomi Paxton from the Queensland University of Technology is a PhD student working with industry on better ways to 3D print body parts.
She is bringing together polymer science and engineering in an emerging field called biofabrication.