The Role of Engineers in Australian Innovation

One of the most important and successful innovative Australian engineering projects was the bionic ear. Since it was launched in 1985, it has benefitted more than 250000 people in over 120 countries across the globe. 

Australia's Struggle

While this is no mean feat, John Stanhope, Deakin University Chancellor and Bionic Institute Chairman, recognises such triumphs are few and far between. “The bionic ear is the translation of a great idea into a product that obviously generates revenue, but also has a fantastic patient outcome, but now that’s more than 30 years old”. Stanhope says as a nation, Australia struggles to take ideas and innovation to commercial reality.

He says the issue is not a lack of innovation, but a struggle to find support in the Australian Market. He’s experienced it many times, when advanced manufacturing ideas end up going overseas because that’s where financial and commercial support comes from.

“We’re missing out on nationally creating jobs, and therefore growth in the economy – we need to have growth that is different from the traditional areas of mining and resources. People are going overseas, because the ideas are being commercialised overseas and people follow the money,” Stanhope says.

Time for Change

Stanhope will present his ideas at the Australian Engineering Conference in November, and will discuss how “engineers can – and must – be a catalyst for properly managing Australia’s transition to an ‘innovation economy’”.

He draws attention to how, 50 years ago, engineers were an integral part of innovation and general economic growth – and how they need to go back to that, to being more than just engineers and technicians.

In his presentation he will discuss what innovation really means, what can be done about it, and what an engineer’s role might be in it.

For tickets and more information about the Australian Engineering Conference, go on

This article was originally published on