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Australian American Chamber of Commerce Australia Day Innovation Awards

San Francisco

21 January 2017

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I’m delighted to join you for tonight’s celebration.

You may have noticed that I’m proudly Australian.

And I’m proud to be able to say that I represent one of Australia’s most multicultural seats in the Australian Parliament.

My Australian credentials are unshakeable, not the least because I’m a third-generation Western Sydney publican.

It’s therefore a delight to be invited to join you for tonight’s celebration which not only marks Australia Day but also is the 35th time the Australia American Chamber of Commerce has held its Australia Day gala.

I read on your website that the chamber ‘exists to embody, promote and advance the Uniquely Australian Way to Work and Play.’

In that context I want to make special mention of the fact that the chamber has imported an Aussie chef to prepare tonight’s food.

He’s Jason Gould, who I’m told hails these days from Houston, and has done a mighty job to bring the best in Australian seafood and meat to you tonight.

This is a night of celebration so I don’t want to talk too long, except to congratulate the chamber on 35 years of building strong links between the US and Australia on a person to person and a business to business level.

These are often the most important bonds because they’re the first things we turn to when need arises.

In that context it’s great that the chamber has created two Australian Innovation Awards to mark this anniversary, one for a company and the other for an individual.

Both recognise efforts to advance the environment and culture for innovation, as well as innovative excellence and a proven impact of that innovation. [1]

It’s appropriate that Australia’s premier research body, the CSIRO, is sponsor of the Individual award, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Before I do that, those of you who keep your ear to the ground will be well aware that the Australian Government is working to make Australia a leading innovation nation.

Just over a year ago, we released a National Innovation and Science Agenda which sets out the vision to acheive this.

It’s about encouraging Australians to embrace risk, to pursue ideas and to learn from their mistakes.

And an important part is boosting collaboration both at home and internationally, and developing and attracting world-class talent and skills.

It’s no accident that we’ve established one of five landing pads in innovation hot spots here in San Francisco.

The landing pads are part of our $36 million Global Innovation Strategy which is supporting collaboration by businesses and researchers with global partners.

It’s aimed at building links with key economies to improve Australian research, commercialisation and business performance and to access the global market.

Already the San Francisco landing pad is kicking goals.

Take a look at Rostify, a startup from Victoria working on new online technology that handles event staff rostering, training, recruitment and management. [2]

Following its successful placement in the landing pad, Rostify has rebranded to become Event Workforce Group.

And after its placement, it’s looking for a US office to handle clients like the 2018 SuperBowl, the Aspen Ski World Cup and the City of Minneapolis.

Bennett Merriman, one of the company’s co-founders, was quoted recently in a startup publication, saying that arriving in a new country with a support network already in place was the biggest positive of the landing pad experience. [3]

And this morning, an innovative Australian company Oventus formally launched its products to a huge potential US market.

Oventus is the corporate vehicle that’s commercialised an innovative mouthguard that alleviates airway obstructions that are major factors in sleep apnoea.

It’s a major collaboration between its developer, Brisbane dentist Chris Hart, and CSIRO, using CSIRO research and manufacturing knowledge to develop 3D printing processes to manufacture mouthguards tailored to each user.

It’s collaboration between research and industry in action.

The company’s expansion recognises the huge potential of the US market. It’s estimated that around 80 per cent of the 22 million Americans experiencing sleep apnoea are not being treated.

And that brings me to CSIRO, as I said, Australia’s premier research organisation and a world leader in delivering government-private sector science and research outcomes.

More than that, CSIRO is a global player – ranked in the top one per cent in 15 of 22 research fields.

Its Global Strategy is a key pillar of the CSIRO 2020 Strategy.

The strategy aims to deepen Australia’s connection to the global science, technology and innovation frontier, and to access new markets for Australian innovation.

Among other high value international partnerships, CSIRO has been engaged in collaborative research with Boeing US for the past 27 years.

To 2016 this represented around $120 million of joint investment in projects including specialised aircraft paint treatments, airspace modelling tools and sustainable aviation fuels.

While the CSIRO works in over 80 countries annually, its ties with the US are especially strong.

CSIRO expertise has supported US projects that include solar thermal research, the development of a rotavirus vaccine, the creation of materials for extended wear contact lenses and we’re licensing our telehealth system to a Silicon Valley spin off.

The US is CSIRO’s largest co-publication partner with 682 joint publications (or 11 per cent of total co-publications) in 2015. 

Against a background of Australian-led innovation that stretches back 100 years to the formation of the Advisory Council of Science and Industry, a precursor to CSIRO, it’s appropriate that CSIRO be involved in these awards by sponsoring the individual category.

Before I announce the two winners, congratulations again to the Australia American Chamber of Commerce on 35 years of success in promoting friendship between our two countries here in San Francisco.

I want to add my thanks to the sponsors of tonight’s grand raffle and wish you all the best as you soak up the Australian food, drink and culture tonight.

And the winner of the company category of the innovation award is the work of two people who describe themselves as repeat entrepreneurs.

The company, Nuheara, is the second hearing/audio technology company started up by two Western Australians David Cannington and Justin Miller.

Nuheara shows how an Australian technology startup can leverage a partnership with a leading Australian research organization to commercialise cutting edge technologies that solve real world problems and earn a place in global markets.

Nuheara has taken the idea for a wireless, intelligent earbud to the global market in just two years, including a successful crowdfunding campaign, listing on the Australian Stock Exchange, winning three major technology awards and shipping a commercial product just nine months after its development.

[present award]

And the winner of the CSIRO Innovation Award for an individual is a professional engineer with over a decade of experience in developing clean energy technologies.

In 2002, he was one of the founding team members of one of Australia’s biggest successes in solar, Ausra, started in a Sydney garage. He built Australia’s largest solar installation in 2005 in Singleton in regional New South Wales.

And appropriately his patented engineering designs continue to be utilised by the CSIRO which recently announced an agreement to license the technology to a Chinese solar firm.

He’s in demand to speak at top global solar and energy storage conferences, serves on a number of expert panels, volunteers at two Silicon Valley universities and mentors interns and tech startups.

There’s a host of other great stories about what our winner has achieved, it’s hard to pick highlights, but he was awarded the University of Sydney Faculty of Engineering Alumni Award for International Achievement in 2015.

He’s Andrew Tanner, who is spearheading Business Development and Product Strategy at Geli (Growing Energy Labs Inc), a team in Silicon Valley that is developing a software platform for the emerging internet of energy which provides analytics, automation and aggregation for energy storage and microgrid systems.

[present award]



[1] http://www.sfaussies.com/Innovation-Awards

[2] http://www.startupdaily.net/2015/12/melbourne-startup-rosterfy-is-helping-train-and-mobilise-workforces-for-large-sporting-events/

[3] http://www.startupdaily.net/2016/11/rosterfy-rebrands-to-event-workforce-group-as-it-targets-us-growth-after-signing-on-super-bowl-2018/