Message from the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer


Professor Mary O'Kane AC

It’s been a big year for R&D in New South Wales and the Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering provide a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our very best scientists and engineers and the significant contribution they make to our everyday lives.

The judging panel, made up of our esteemed former NSW Scientists of the Year, was again pleased with the quality of nominations. Thank you to the judges for their wisdom and insight.

It’s a tremendous honour and privilege for my Office to organise the Premier’s Prizes. I would like particularly to thank our Patron, the Governor of New South Wales, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), and his wife, Mrs Linda Hurley, for their ongoing support of the Prizes and hosting us at Government House.

Thank you to the Premier of New South Wales, the Honourable Gladys Berejiklian MP, for her strong commitment to the Prizes, now in their 10th year, and to science and research more generally; and to our Minister, the Honourable Niall Blair MLC, for his enthusiastic support of the R&D community in NSW.

A robust research and development capability is a critical driver for innovation in the NSW economy and, as such, the NSW Government continues to support high-quality, high-impact research projects through its ~$14 million Research Attraction and Acceleration Program, which complements research support funds in other portfolio areas, such as health, transport and primary industries.

In the last 12 months, the NSW Government has provided support, through the RAAP, for seven prestigious ARC Centres of Excellence either headquartered or with a major presence here; three new Industrial Transformation Research Program Research Hubs and Training Centres; two new Cooperative Research Centres and three Cooperative Research Centre Projects; three new inter-university research networks specialising in cyber-security, defence innovation and smart sensing; 12 student teams from NSW universities to participate in major national and international science and engineering competitions; and 38 research conferences held in Sydney and regional and rural NSW.

RAAP funding has also been used to support R&D projects to solve contemporary problems facing NSW communities, including a $600,000 investment in promising research undertaken by University of Newcastle which has shown hemp seed to be effective in removing PFAS chemicals – those at the centre of the Williamtown RAAF base contamination – from water.

The Government  recently announced its new $26 million Quantum Computing Fund to help supercharge the development and commercialisation of quantum computing – the first investment of $8.7 million awarded to the new UNSW-led consortium, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd, as they attempt to build the world’s first quantum computer in silicon.

In another big boost for NSW, as it looks to cement its spot as the tech start-up capital of the Asia-Pacific Region, the $25 million Sydney School of Entrepreneurship recently opened its doors at Ultimo. The School, headed by Nick Kaye, will teach entrepreneurial skills to top students from a range of disciplines as part of their university degree and TAFE course.

NSW researchers were awarded the lion’s share of ARC Laurate Fellowships in 2017 – six of the thirteen in fact! Congratulations to Professor Jill Bennett (UNSW Sydney), Professor Paul Griffiths (The University of Sydney), Professor Edward Holmes (The University of Sydney), Professor Fedor Sukochev (UNSW Sydney), Professor Dacheng Tao (The University of Sydney) and Professor George Willis (University of Newcastle) who received a combined $17.3 million or ~37% of the total funding awarded by the Commonwealth

Professor Holmes, who is one of our category prize winners tonight, was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society this year.

Finally, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 2017 Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering, and my heartfelt congratulations to this year’s winners!