STEM education advocates, disability support workers, and a healthtech startup advisory are among the innovative ventures recognised as state recipients as this year’s Pearcey Awards program builds up to the national winners ceremony on 24 November.
Winners of the state prizes, which recognise achievement and entrepreneurship in the ICT industry, included ANU physics professor and former NASA engineer Professor Daniel Shaddock – who received the ACT Chief Minister’s Pearcey Entrepreneur Award for his work founding Liquid Instruments and its Moku:Go ‘lab in a backpack’.
Driving a growing international business that employs over 40 engineers and has attracted over $10m in venture capital, Moku:Go has “revolutionised STEM education around the world,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in announcing the award, and “enables universities to provide quality physics and engineering education to students remotely.”
Queensland’s award also recognised efforts around STEM education, with STEM Punks CEO and co-founder Michael Holmstrom recognised for the program’s success in delivering STEM programs to students in years 1 to 12.
“Michael has transformed ideas into global businesses and endured the journey of the startup through great failures and awesome successes,” Pearcey QLD chair Paul Gampe noted.
The Tasmanian award went to PopUp WiFi co-founder and CEO Nina McMahon, who judge James Riggall said has “carved out a profitable niche at a global scale” built on rugged Wi-Fi appliances that combine multiple carrier connections for rock-solid connectivity in areas where connectivity is difficult – such as cashless payments at festivals, remote livestreams or onboard moving vehicles.
New South Wales’ award recognised the work of Jordan O’Reilly and Laura O’Reilly, a brother-and-sister team that built disability support startup Hireup into a community of more than 150,000 registered users.
Citing the O’Reillys’ “inspirational leadership”, Pearcey NSW judging committee chair Jamila Gordon said the organisation “has fundamentally changed the way that people with disability access support in the community”.
Victoria’s state award went to Bronwyn Le Grice, CEO of healthtech support company ANDHealth – which has supported over 450 emerging digital-health companies that have attracted over $70m in funding – while the Western Australian award recognised Charlie Gunningham, managing editor of The Property Tribune and Startup News and founder of digital strategy advisory Damburst.
The South Australian winner is yet to be announced, but they will join the other state winners at the Pearcey Foundation National Awards – which will be held in an online ceremony and November Conversation on 24 November.
Designed to recognise Australian ICT innovation, the foundation’s awards program has been running since 1998, and each year recognises industry pioneers who have distinguished themselves through their contribution to the local industry.
Categories include the annual Pearcey Medal for Lifetime Achievement – awarded last year to cryptographer Professor Jennifer Seberry and previously won by the likes of telecoms pioneer and investor Steve Baxter, speech-recognition pioneer Dr Mary O’Kane, industry advocate Neville Roach, and computer-technology pioneer Dr Peter Jones.
The Pearcey Foundation also maintains a Pearcey Hall of Fame, which recognises “very significant” lifetime contributions by individuals working in Australia’s ICT research, industry, or professional development.
“By celebrating the heroes in our industry, past present and future,” the foundation notes, “the Foundation is looking to attract and encourage young Australians into this most exciting of global high technology sectors.”
Update 17/11/2021: The SA award recipient, announced last night, is Mohan Koo, co-founder and CTO of cyber security vendor DTEX Systems.