Australian cochlear implant pioneer honoured as 2021 NSW Scientist of the Year
One of the original engineers to pioneer the development of the multi-channel cochlear implant, Professor James (Jim) Patrick has been named the 2021 NSW Scientist of the Year.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said Professor Patrick’s work has improved countless people’s lives by helping to improve or restore their hearing in more than 180 countries.
“With over 650,000 implantable devices, the innovation and drive displayed by Jim and his colleagues have seen Cochlear become a globally celebrated company employing over 4,000 people,” Mr Perrottet said.
“The Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering give the state the opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary contribution that NSW scientists and engineers make to our everyday lives.”
Professor Patrick said he was honoured to be recognised as NSW Scientist of the Year.
“The success of the cochlear implant is due to the outstanding efforts of many people both in Cochlear and in hearing organisations around the world,” Professor Patrick said.
“It’s one thing to have an idea that you hope one day might help millions of people around the world. The truth is that such hopes don’t come true without the support of your peers, your company and your government. I’m grateful for the support we received on our journey.”
Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Minister for Trade and Industry Stuart Ayres said a glance down this year’s list of winners showed just how important their work is to NSW.
“This is about honouring people who are leaders in their field in energy innovation, ocean ecology, infectious disease treatment, data analytics, indigenous health, nanotechnology, mental health, endangered species preservation and STEM education,” Mr Ayres said.
In 1981, Professor Patrick moved to Sydney as a member of the Cochlear ‘Tiger Team’ to develop a ‘clinically applicable’ cochlear implant. As a long-time member of Cochlear’s senior team, Professor Patrick held a number of technology management roles, including responsibility for R&D, Quality and Manufacturing.
Professor Patrick has also been involved in several projects that seek to use Cochlear technology in other medical bionics fields, including the use of implanted stimulators to provide sensory feedback for people using artificial hands.
NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Durrant-Whyte said Mr Patrick is not only a giant in health technology, but also an exemplar of how a great idea can be translated into a highly successful commercial outcome, while delivering ongoing benefits to society.
“I congratulate all our winners and thank them for their outstanding contribution to science, engineering and education in NSW,” Professor Durrant-Whyte said.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Gabrielle Upton, who presented the awards on behalf of the Premier, said backing innovative solutions and helping turn them into commercial realities was a key priority for the government.
“As we increase our support for translating research across NSW there will be real tangible benefits for the whole of the state. We are helping our researchers solve critical real-world problems,” Ms Upton said.
“We are committed via the NSW Government’s R&D Action Plan to building strong partnerships between our universities and industry and fostering opportunities for new industries and jobs creation.”
The NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering is an annual event held by the NSW Government to celebrate the achievements of the state’s finest scientists, engineers and educators. It is held at Government House in the presence of its patron, Her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of New South Wales.
The nine category prize winners, who will each receive $5,000, are:
- Excellence in Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry or Physics
Winner: Dr Shujun Zhang, University of Wollongong
- Excellence in Biological Sciences (Ecology, environmental, agricultural and organismal)
Winner: Professor Peter Steinberg, UNSW Sydney
- Excellence in Medical Biological Sciences (Cell and molecular, medical, veterinary and genetics)
Winner: Scientia Professor Gregory Dore, UNSW Sydney
- Excellence in Engineering or Information and Communications Technologies Winner: Distinguished Professor Fang Chen, University of Technology Sydney
- NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Biological Sciences)
Winner: Dr Louise Causer, UNSW Sydney
- NSW Early Career Researcher of the Year (Physical Sciences)
Winner: Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati, UNSW Sydney
- Leadership in Innovation in NSW
Winner: Scientia Professor Richard Bryant AC, UNSW Sydney
- Innovation in NSW Public Sector Science and Engineering
Joint winner: Nicholas Carlile, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and Dr Terry O’Dwyer, NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
- Innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics Teaching in NSW Winner: Ms Cassandra Portelli, Hunter School of the Performing Arts.