(ATSE media release) Innovation and a thick skin wins out for top science award

Blamey Saunders hears, Media releases

Embargo 6pm Wednesday 15 June

Hearing aids are not all the same, despite claims to the contrary, and price is no longer a good indicator of quality.

This is a message from Dr Elaine Saunders, who is today set to receive Australia’s top honour for our leading visionaries, a prestigious ATSE Clunies Ross Award in the Entrepreneur of the Year Category. The award recognises her successful disruption of hearing service provision in Australia. Dr Saunders has made premium hearing aids more accessible by challenging business and pricing models.

Dr Saunders is one of only three winners nationally and will receive her award later today (15 June) from Dr Leonie Walsh FTSE, Chief Scientist for Victoria at a Gala Innovation Dinner at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth Hotel, to be addressed by NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Emeritus Professor Mary O’Kane AC FTSE and attended by the Australian Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO FTSE. The dinner will be attended by 400 eminent entrepreneurs, decision makers, government officials, researchers, academics and business leaders.

Dr Saunders, working with other hearing aid heroes including Professors Peter Blamey and Graeme Clarke – both also winners of Clunies Ross Awards – has made it her life purpose to make high quality hearing aids more accessible for more people.

“I am proud to say I’ve helped develop a world-leading, award-winning, cost-saving hearing aid system in conjunction with a world leading telehealth service. If adopted as industry standard, the system could reduce the cost of hearing health care by approximately 70 percent,” she said.

“Good hearing aid technologies result from good research. Australia has contributed significantly to international hearing aid development.”

“However, it takes entrepreneurship and a thick skin to get more innovation in health research and delivery,” said Elaine.

Elaine’s commitment to accessible hearing care is evidenced by the industry’s resentment of her efforts, which she feels is more than offset by the appreciation of clients who might otherwise be unable to access services. The direct economic impact of her technology is great, but dwarfed by the huge indirect economic and social benefits that stem from the reduced burden of hearing loss.

“Much in health care is ripe for innovation, partly in order to manage spiralling costs. It’s important that we develop new models of care that are not digital copies of traditional models, but that use technologies and skills to help people who are able to help themselves,” she concluded.

The select group of two other Clunies Ross Award winners in 2016 are:

  • Professor Peter Murphy, from University of South Australia, in the Innovation Category, for his world first plastic automotive rear view mirror which to date has seen more than 1.5 million mirror assemblies manufactured in Adelaide and exported to the USA.
  • Professor Maree Smith FTSE, from University of Queensland, in the Knowledge Commercialisation Category, for her significant and sustained contributions to pain relief and pharmaceutical development.

Issued by Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Contact Cathy Reade, Media Liaison, 0413 575 934 creade@squirrel.com.au or
Bill Mackey, Deputy CEO ATSE 0418 923 370 bill.mackey@atse.org.au