Ten trailblazers honoured with Australia’s prestigious prizes for tech and engineering

26 October 2023

Weaving Traditional Knowledge with western science for a new approach to pain relief, tapping into green energy using recycling byproducts, and a revolutionary new approach to sustainability for the beef and lamb industry, are all being celebrated at the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering’s Annual national Awards tonight.

The winning engineers and technologists have been recognised for their groundbreaking work on Australia’s toughest issues, spanning climate change, mining, plastic waste, battery tech and food security among others, during a ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra.

Nyikina Mangala West Kimberley Elder John Dadigar Watson and Professor Ronald Quinn AM FTSE from Griffith University were named as the inaugural recipients of the Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award. John’s personal experience – losing a finger in a crocodile attack – led him to the Mudjala mangrove tree’s bark for pain relief. Collaborating with Professor Quinn, they identified active compounds in the bark with anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties. This treatment holds promise as a gel for athletes at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, and heralds widespread application for Traditional Knowledge, while maintaining Aboriginal ownership.

Winner of the prestigious Batterham Medal for Engineering Excellence, Dr Conrad Wasko from the University of Melbourne, has revealed through his research that while small floods, crucial for water supplies, are decreasing, large catastrophic flooding events are becoming the norm. His work demonstrates the uneven impacts of climate change and the threat it poses for safe and sustainable water supplies Australia-wide.

Clunies Ross Technology Innovation Award recipient Dr James Tickner, revolutionises mineral exploration using x-ray technology. Dr Tickner, of Chrysos Corporation Ltd, developed the PhotonAssayTM  which can rapidly and safely identify gold, silver, and other elements in rocky samples. This groundbreaking technology has redefined the landscape of mineral exploration, offering unprecedented efficiency and safety.

ATSE President, Dr Katherine Woodthorpe AO FTSE, said the winners’ innovation, drive, and impact were exemplars for the game-changing application of Australian research.

“The winners of the 2023 ATSE Awards are exemplary engineers, applied scientists, and leaders in technology; their shining example is an inspiration as we reflect on and celebrate the novel science and engineering endeavours that are bettering our world,” Dr Katherine Woodthorpe said.

“Australian innovators are changing the world for the better. I am thrilled to see our national award winners’ game-changing work forging new territory in medical technology, climate solutions, critical minerals, food technology, and waste reduction.”

2023 ATSE Awards winners:

Clunies Ross Technology Innovation Awards

  • Dr James Tickner / Gold-standard entrepreneur / Chrysos Corporation Ltd
    • Inventor of PhotonAssayTM, X-ray technology to detect gold, silver and other elements in mineral ores in a matter of minutes.

Traditional Knowledge Innovation Award

  • John Dadigar Watson / Partners in traditional pain treatment / Nyikina Mangala Community
    • A Nyikina Mangala man whose finger was bitten off by a crocodile, used Traditional Knowledge of the Mudiala mangrove tree to relieve his pain and now aiming to commercialise it for the Brisbane 2032 Olympics.
  • Professor Ronald Quinn AM FTSE / Partner in pain treatment / Griffith University
    • An enduring partner with the Nyikina Mangala people and John Dadigar Watson, who helped identify the active compounds in the bark and fused Traditional knowledge and western science

Batterham Medal for Engineering Excellence

  • Dr Conrad Wasko / Climate trailblazer / University of Melbourne
    • A hydrological engineer changing our understanding of how climate change affects floods and our water supplies.

David & Valerie Solomon Award

  • Dr Marzi Barghamadi / Lithium battery innovator / CSIRO
    • The Battery Materials and Design team leader at CSIRO, tackling some of the biggest challenges in battery research to make longer-lasting, safer lithium-metal batteries.

ICM Agrifood Award

  • Dr Natalie Morgan / Poultry nutrients data-analyst / Curtin University
    • A data analyst who is shaping better diets for chickens to improve their health and productivity.
  • Dr Benjamin Holman / Meat science maestro / NSW Department of Primary Industries
    • An international leader in meat science whose award-winning work on Australian beef and lamb has enhanced the sustainability of the industries.

Ezio Rizzardo Polymer Scholarship

  • Laila Halim / Plastic to fantastic engineer / Monash University
    • A PhD student tackling the global plastic waste problem by filtering out recyclable components.
  • Bailey Richardson / Polymer paradigm-shifter / Queensland University of Technology
    • A PhD student blending light energy and biology, focusing on creating natural processes like photosynthesis using synthetic molecules.

President’s Medal

  • Peter Laver AM FTSE / Academy impact champion
    • Instrumental in building the Academy’s innovative modern governance structure, which has positioned it for impact against its mission of helping Australians understand and use technology to solve complex problems.

View all 2023 ATSE Awards winners.