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The top 100 Australian Innovations

Who says that Australia does not  ‘punch above its weight’ as an ‘innovation nation’?

Australians have come up with brilliant innovations and  have created successful products, processes and systems and people based on many of those ideas.

We are more than just a hole in the ground that exports raw materials!

Australians have developed innovations in nanotechnology,  biotechnology, information and communication technology at the cutting edge, and sustainability has become a major driver of Innovation. Mobile technology and Apps continues to change our lives, and we are still innovating in food, household, transported, health, education and leisure.

Innovation is all about trial and error, and over the years, many outstanding innovations have failed for a variety of reasons. It is the entrepreneurs that have an unwavering belief in themselves and their ideas and dreams, and persevere through incredible hardships to make their dreams a success.

We as a nation should encourage these innovator, and entrepreneurs and assist them in any way possible. Many of these innovations would not have occurred without the support of Government Programmes, start up investors (fools, family and friends),  that have enabled these innovators to survive and thrive! Let us hope that the policies of assisting innovation and entrepreneurship is encouraged over the years to come.

In the list that follows, there are some world-changing innovation stories

  • like Florey’s leadership in taking penicillin from unstable product of a mould to useful life-saving antibiotic, 
  • the legendary blackbox that is in every aircraft; 
  • That much-cited icon of suburbia, the Victa lawnmower, makes the cut because it created a local industry that has thrived through continual innovation and has earned substantial export income. 
  • Other innovations, like Racecam TV sport coverage, which spawned a family of cams including stumpcam and slamcam, serve mainly to brighten up our lives. 
  • Referron – the worlds leading referral application

SO HERE ARE THE TOP 100 Innovations of the last 100 years:-

Agriculture and food

1.     Fire-stick farming
2. Boomerang
3. Australian merino
4. Ridley wheat stripper
5. Harrison’s mechanical refrigeration

6. Granny Smith apple
7. Peppin merino
8. Ammonia refrigeration to freeze meat for export

9. Stump-jump plough
10. McKay stripper-harvester
11. Wolseley shearing machine
12. Federation wheat
13. McKay Sunshine header-harvester
14. Howard Rotavator rotary hoe

15. Vegemite
16. Nematodes for pest control, by CSIRO
17. Nogall pest control for fruit trees and roses
18. Pink Lady apple

Communication and IT

1. Pre-paid postage

2. Secret ballot, introduced in Victoria in 1856

3. Automatic totalisator
4. School of the Air

5. Mountbatten Brailler

6. Eddie special effects software
7. Ericsson’s phone queuing system
8. Passport security
9. WiFi, a spin-off from CSIRO’s radio-astronomy research
10. GiFi, NICTA’s gigabit wireless chip
11. Jira, collaborative workplace software by Atlassian
12. Imceda – compression algorithms to sequel servers
13. Referron – referral social network system

Energy and environment

1. Goldfields Water Supply Scheme

2. Cactoblastis moth for biological control of prickly pear

3. Snowy Mountains Scheme

4. Flat plate solar hot water system
5. Rib Loc pipes
6. Clean Up Australia (and the World)
7. Buried contact solar cell
8. Orbital Combustion Process engine
9. Evacuated tube solar hot water system
10. Cap-XX capacitors to power mobile devices
11. H2Zero, Caroma’s waterless urinal
12. Earth Hour
13. CSIRO ultrabattery
14. Ausra large-scale solar thermal system


1. Tea-tree oil disinfectant
2. Flying Doctor Service
3. Penicillin
4. Begg orthodontic braces
5. Microsurgery
6. Grey-scale ultrasound
7. Resmed breathing aids to treat sleep apnoea
8. IVF embryo freezing
9. Relenza influenza medication

10. Spray-on skin for burns victims

11. Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine

12. Peptic ulcer treatment with antibiotics
13. Compumedics devices for sleep diagnosis
14. Signostics hand-held ultrasound
15. Starpharma dendrimers
16. Cochlear Implant

Household and clothing

1. Brick veneer construction Speedpanel
2. Speedo swimwear
3. Shepherd castors
4. Hills hoist
5. Victa lawnmower
6. CSIRO wool technology
7. Caroma dual flush toilet
8. Balarinji designs
9. Bonds
10. Fashion – Collette Dinnigan, Akira Asigowa, Jets, Zimmerman


1. Didgeridoo
2. movie, the world’s first being The Story of the Kelly Gang
3. Surf lifesaving movement
4. Fairlight music synthesiser
5. Sydney Opera House
6. Super Sopper for drying sports fields
7. Racecam
8. Water Cube

Mining and manufacturing

1. Froth flotation to separate ores
2. Humespun pipe
3. Continuous refining of lead
4. Warman slurry pump
5. Isasmelt process to win metals from ores
6. Coalscan rapid analysis of coal
7. Jameson Cell for mineral separation
8. Polymer banknote
9. Whittle mine planning software
10. Kelsey centrifugal jig for mineral separation
11. RAFT process for precise production of polymer molecules


1. X-ray crystallography

2. Flame ionisation detector for gas chromatography

3. Atomic absorption spectrophotometer

4. Australia Telescope

5. Gradiflow for separating proteins


1. Michell thrust bearing

2. Black box flight recorder

3. Baby safety capsule

4. Bishop variable ratio steering

5. Audio-tactile pedestrian detector

6. Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System
7. Wave-piercing catamaran
8. Solar Sailor
9. Thompson coupling
10. Park Assist
11. CAtec’s Caliper Support System


1. Kylie Minogue
2. AC/DC
3. Midnight Oil
4. Crowded House
5. Doobie Brothers
6. The Wiggles
7. Barry Humphreys
8. Rolf Harris

Globalisation and Exports

Today, many products are born global, perhaps designed in Australia and made in China for sale in the USA and Europe.

Some innovations on the list are the result of international efforts led by Australians:

  • X-ray crystallography, penicillin, 
  • the Snowy Mountains Scheme, 
  • Sydney Opera House 
  • Water Cube, the swimming venue for the Beijing Olympics. 
  • The Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS) has been adapted for use in over 30 cities around the world, 
  • Parkassist enable one to find parking in shopping centres with a lighting system and has exported their technoloigy around the world!
  • The use of tea tree oil as a disinfectant is particularly interesting because this very old product is now used around the world, including as a component of Bactigas for the very modern task of banishing bugs from air-conditioning systems. 
  • CSIRO’s WiFi breakthrough has been commercialised by several large overseas companies, as has IMCEDA – SQL server compression algorithms , sold to Quest for $60m that then sold to Dell for $1.2b. The founder Douglas Chrystal is now partnering with Ivan Kaye to roll out 
  • REFERRON www.referron.com  

Many creative industry companies have international clients. For example, Animal Logic began by creating Eddie special effects software, has continued to innovate, and has enjoyed much success in servicing the film industry.


  • The dual flush toilet reduces water use. 
  • Vegemite makes good use of a waste product from the brewing industry. 
  • Polymer banknotes last much longer than paper, saving energy in manufacture and transport. SCATS improves traffic flow, reducing fuel waste
  • CATEc in Portland has developed the Caliper Support System. The CSS is designed to significantly extend disc brake pad and rotor life for road transport vehicles.
  • The Michell thrust bearing was an early twentieth century innovation that improved energy efficiency. By radically reducing friction compared to older bearings, it reduced the amount of waste heat generated and made large turbines for ships and power stations feasible, leading to further gains in energy efficiency. 
  • In renewable energy, Martin Green’s team at the University of NSW has long been at the forefront of photovoltaic research, and its buried contact solar cells are made in large numbers overseas. 

There are several other Australian groups contributing in this area,

  • Solar Sailor is an application with large potential. 
  • Solar thermal has a bright future: 
  • Ausra is building large systems in several countries; and millions of flat plate and evacuated tube collector hot water systems on roofs worldwide are based respectively on technology developed by CSIRO and by the University of Sydney. 
  • Nulok has develop a tiled roof system that is franchised worldwide. 
  • Speedpanel – has produced a building product that is better than Hebel!


  • Nogall was the first genetically modified organism released to the market anywhere in the world. 
  • The Pink Lady apple, bred by John Cripps, is the focus of an innovative marketing campaign. It is protected under Plant Variety Rights legislation that was not even imagined in Maria (Granny) Smith’s day. 
  • Meanwhile, biotechnology tools are being used to assist conventional breeding programs that constantly improve many of our crops and livestock. 
  • Starpharma has a core technology (nanoscale dendrimers) that has great potential, it has some diagnostic products on the market, and it is close to releasing Vita-Gel, an HIV barrier with a huge potential market and the potential to save many lives. 

Much of GDP in Australia has been from service based industries while  mining is currently  19% .

Let’s focus on innovation and again become known as the Innovation Nation!

Posted on July 3, 2013

One response to “The top 100 Australian Innovations”

  1. TheRiddick says:

    Interesting that no research was conducted for this blog – the Australian boomerang is more than 10,000 years old. The Australian Merino was first bred in the early 19th centrury, with the original Merino being bred in the 13th century. Tea Tree Oil has been used as an antiseptic for thousands of years. Nice article and I am sure you mean well, but when people ignorant of Australia and her accomplishment will believe this.

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