Thanks to our rich culture of innovation and creativity, Australia has produced some of the world’s most brilliant minds.
The hard work of our home-grown experts in science, medicine, technology and engineering has led to countless trailblazing inventions. From Google maps to bionic ears, Wifi to pacemakers, polymer bank notes to spray-on skin, many of the technologies relied on by millions of people around the world were discovered or designed by Australians.
Meet the people behind some of our greatest inventions and innovations.
Aussie Inventions - 30 second previews
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Meet Dr Hajime Suzuki - CSIRO's fast Wi-Fi
CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Dr Hajime Suzuki unpicks the invention of fast Wi-Fi at Australia’s national science centre in the 1990s. The team at CSIRO developed wireless local area network (WLAN) by solving the problem of reverberation – signal distortion caused by the echo from radiowaves bouncing around inside a room. They adapted a complex algorithm from radioastronomy – called 'fast Fourier transforms' - to figure out how to process multiple frequencies at the same time. Dr Suzuki considers CSIRO’s top research facilities, supported by Australia’s easy work environment, vital to the team’s successful research and its subsequent work developing innovative solutions for the next generation of wireless technologies.
Meet Dr Dharmica Mistry – co-inventor of breast cancer blood test
According to Dr Dharmica Mistry, Australia is the perfect place if you’ve got an idea. Along with her co-inventor Dr Peter French, she discovered a way to screen for breast cancer using lipid markers found in blood. They co-founded start-up company BCAL Diagnostics to commercialise a simple blood test based on the discovery. It has potential to detect breast cancer earlier and more accurately than existing screening tools.
Meet Dr Graeme Clark - developer of the first surgical, multi-channel cochlear implant
Professor Graeme Clark’s revolutionary invention has restored hearing for children and adults all over the world. Professor Clark says the best thing about his invention is the feedback he has received from patients: “Children say you have given me a new life, adults say you have given me back my life”. Watch Professor Clark, surgeon, and scientist, speak about his discovery and development of the world’s first clinically successful multi-channel cochlear implant used for severe deafness. Professor Clark emphasises how vital Australian Government financial support was for the discovery.
Meet Noel Gordon - co-inventor of Google Maps
Transport yourself back to the 1990s, when Software Engineer Noel Gordon found opportunity in the dotcom bust. It led him and three partners to develop moving maps for the web which gave us Google Maps. He recalls the group’s early days of working in a spare bedroom as one of the original lean start-ups, and the supportive ecosystem Australia offers innovators today.
Meet Dr Penny Stewart - creator of orebody learning software
Mining engineer and entrepreneur Penny Stewart has developed and deployed some of the mining industry's first machine learning algorithms. The founder and CEO of Petra Data Science designed software that more accurately models mining operations, to support decision-making from planning through to product recovery and make mining jobs less stressful. In this video Penny talks about her journey in the mining industry and how it has been supported by the culture of collaboration and innovation in Australia.
Meet Scientia Professor Martin Green – inventor of the PERC solar cell
Government funding for alternative energy sources during the oil shortages of the 1970s set Professor Martin Green on a pioneering path to create a better type of solar cell. Today, the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) he invented is the cheapest way to generate electricity using solar cells and used in over 90 per cent of solar panels made globally. As the global appetite for clean energy grows, this Australian-invented viable alternative to fossil fuels has never been more important.
Meet Dr Ash Attia - bringing back vision to the blind
Top Australian research and innovation is bringing closer the dream of restoring vision to millions of people around the world. Dr Ash Attia says there is nothing better than having a patient recognise their loved ones after years of blindness from the genetic condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Watch Dr Attia speak about the bionic eye development and the top research minds and organisations in Australia committed to high quality research.
Meet Dr Katerina Agostino - the lesson of the black box flight recorder
The invention of the black box flight recorder is a story of Australian persistence and determination. Australia's Dr David Warren had the idea in 1953 for a device that would record not only flight data but also voices and other sounds in aircraft cockpits immediately prior to a crash. Confident in his innovation, he built a prototype in his own time and demonstrated it all over the world. Dr Agostino, from Defence Science and Technology Group, outlines the support and funding available for scientists and innovators in Australia today that lets good ideas take flight.
Meet Dr Nasim Amiralian – making nanofibres from spinifex grass
Working with indigenous communities to harvest and process spinifex grass, Dr Nasim Amiralian’s pioneering bioengineering and nanotechnology research has the potential to create an entirely new industry. The University of Queensland researcher has discovered a process to extract unique nanofibres in spinifex grass that can be added to plastics and latex to make them thinner and stronger while still being flexible – attracting strong commercial interest.
Meet Dr Karen Lee-Waddell & Dr Keith Bannister – realising the Square Kilometre Array project
New world-class radio astronomy facilities in Australia are helping scientists grapple with questions like how galaxies form and whether we are alone in the universe. Dr Karen Lee-Waddell and Dr Keith Bannister talk about SKA – an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope in Australia and South Africa - and how the vast amount of data it will collect is a game changer for space science.
Meet Professor Ian Frazer – inventor of the first cervical cancer vaccine
Now Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland, Professor Ian Frazer, talks about how he and fellow researchers didn’t set out to find a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, but set out to build the virus in the laboratory so they could understand how it works. Today, 500 million doses of Gardasil have been given worldwide. Professor Frazer outlines how public health research funding and the efficient clinical trials system in Australia helped on his journey to success.
Meet Professor Fiona Wood AM – inventor of spray-on skin cells
Professor Fiona Wood explains how her work with burns patients led to the invention of spray-on skin cells – a ground-breaking discovery that has saved thousands of lives around the world – and how Australia’s vibrant research sector is helping advance the process even further through new technologies like 3D printing robotics solutions.
Meet Professor Veena Sahajwalla – inventor of green steel and green ceramics
Professor Veena Sahajwalla is a leading expert in the field of recycling science and inventor of two ground-breaking products – green steel and green ceramics. Watch Professor Sahajwalla explain how she came up with the idea of transforming waste tyres and plastics into high-quality steel, and turning waste glass and waste textiles into ceramic products. She also describes her excitement at working with a broad range of passionate people in research and industry to take her ideas from concept into the lab and, finally, to commercialisation.
Meet Dr Daniel Timms – inventor of the mechanical artificial heart
While completing a PhD in biomedical engineering in his early 20s, Australian mechanical engineer Dr Daniel Timms was inspired to invent a mechanical artificial heart after his father was diagnosed with a heart condition. In this video, Dr Timms talks about the design of the mechanical heart, its potential for reducing patients’ reliance on scarce donor hearts, and the support and encouragement he received from government, industry and the research sector in Australia to bring his invention to life.