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"This list serves as an optimistic reminder of what’s possible, and who we need to support if we’re to truly achieve the brighter future we all deserve,” says David Swan. Photo: Unsplash


Meet the innovators and change makers pushing boundaries


From tech startups to platforms that make healthcare more accessible, UNSW alumni, students and staff feature as some of the movers and shakers in this year’s ‘Innovators 2022’ list.

Academics, alumni and students from UNSW Sydney have featured in this year’s The List: Innovators 2022 published by The Australian. Selected by a panel of experts, the list reveals entrepreneurs, founders and change makers pushing boundaries right across the nation. 

David Swan, editor of The List: Innovators 2022 said the innovators featured in this year’s issue are just a small snapshot of the innovation happening across the country. “There are thousands of worthy entrepreneurs and founders working away on their projects – covering them all is an impossible task – but hopefully this list serves as an optimistic reminder of what’s possible, and who we need to support if we’re to truly achieve the brighter future we all deserve.”   

Director of UNSW Knowledge Exchange, Warwick Dawson said he was delighted so many UNSW innovators and entrepreneurs have been recognised for their significant achievements to date. "Innovation and Engagement are at the heart of our strategy and we are committed to delivering transformative social and economic impact from our research and enterprise initiatives."

"UNSW has a unique culture of innovation," said David Burt, Director Entrepreneurship at the UNSW Founders Program. "As a world-class research university that had its beginnings as a technical college, UNSW alumni know that great new ideas must also be put into practice – it’s only through the implementation that ideas have a positive impact on society. UNSW is nurturing the next generation of Australia’s leaders and it’s fantastic to see so many of our alumni and staff recognised in the top 100.”

Staff, alumni and students affiliated with UNSW include: 

Josh Abulafia – Co-founder and co-CEO of Chefprep, a food marketplace startup that connects food producers to food-loving customers across NSW. 

Tim Brunette – Co-founder of Crypto Tax Calculator, a company that supports more than 300 crypto exchanges and performs calculations with a high degree of accuracy, allowing users to calculate their crypto taxes in minutes. 

Emily Casey – Helping to make health innovation fun, accessible and connected, Emily launched healthtech newsletter What the Health – a platform with the intention to share stories about local health innovations that would otherwise have gone untold.

Read more: The quest to make Australia great at maths again

Professor Gavin Conibeer – Co-founder of Extraterrestrial Power, a company that is busy delivering on its mission of producing mass manufacturable, radiation tolerant, silicon solar cells for 10 times cheaper than current space solar cells.  

Michael Fox – Co-founder and CEO of shiitake mushroom-based meat alternative, Fable. 

Charlie Gearside – Co-founder of Eucalyptus, a digital health startup that provides healthcare in a more accessible and innovative way. 

Michelle Grey – Co-founder of NFT curated platform and creative agency, Culture Vault. 

Bob Groneman and Julio Ribeiro – Co-founders of Inventia Life Science, a hi-tech startup that builds printers and bio-inks that together allow human cells to be printed in three-dimensional structures. 

Rob Hango-Zada and William On – Founders of Shippit, a shipping company that has been responsible for millions of deliveries across Australia and New Zealand since its founding in 2014 and is now expanding into Southeast Asia. 

Professor Heinrich Hora and Dr Warren McKenzie – HB11 Energy recently achieved a world-first hydrogen fusion milestone using a laser. Prof Hora is the founder and Scientific Director of HB11 Energy and Dr McKenzie is Managing Director.  

Jono Herman, Marina Wu and Dan Brockwell – Co-founders of Earlywork. They have a shared mission to foster meaningful future careers in tech, startups and impact. 

Joshua Ismin – Chief executive officer and co-founder of Psylo, a preclinical biotech firm with ambitious plans to revolutionise the treatment of mental illness, using naturally occurring psychedelic drugs as the starting point. 

Professor Veena Sahajwalla at a recycling centre.

Professor Veena Sahajwalla is an expert in the field of recycling science and the founding director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at UNSW. Photo: UNSW

"For me, thinking about problems and challenges in new ways is at the heart of being able to bring about new solutions. Science and engineering are crucial disciplines in the innovation space and at the UNSW SMaRT Centre, we are driven to continue developing innovations that reform various waste streams often destined for landfill into new, value-added materials and products. Apart from our next-generation research into our patented Green Steel Polymer Injection Technology®, we are also focused on developing our new MICROfactorie® technologies which are engineered modules to transform problematic wastes usually considered too difficult to recycle, into new ‘green products and materials' for advanced manufacturing. Waste is not a problem to be managed, it is an opportunity to be explored." - Professor Veena Sahajwalla

Nicole Liu – Founder of Kin Fertilty, a digital platform that helps women take control of their fertility journey. 

Dr Ben McNeil – Co-founder of Emmi, a platform for Australian companies to navigate their carbon transitions and show where the risks lie as they head towards net-zero.   

Ajay Prakash – Founder of edtech startup, EntryLevel which offers graduates and job seekers virtual experiences at some of the best companies across the globe in order to get a foot in the door.  

Professor Veena Sahajwalla - Recently named NSW Australian of the Year, Professor Sahajwalla’s most notable invention – polymer injection technology – has diverted millions of old tyres from landfill globally. 

Peter Scutt – Founder and CEO of Mable, an online platform for connecting users in the special needs and aged-care sectors with care providers.  

Dan Silver – Co-founder of Stake, a digital brokerage startup catering for the next generation of Australian investors, many who may remain locked out of the nation’s property market.  

Mike Smith – Founder of ZeroCo, the world’s first company to offer refillable and single-use, plastic-free, personal care products. 

Justin Truong and Sandy Li – Founders of Pushas, an online sneaker store that handles every aspect of the resale process, from authentication to distribution.  

Tim Vale – Founder of Telemattica, an overhead wiring condition monitoring company that works with rail networks, pinpointing defects and enabling railways to operate more safely and efficiently as a result. 

Dr Erin Watson – Renowned public policy expert Dr Watson will this month launch a government relations and public policy firm, Baker and York. Dr Watson’s public profile rose when she won the Australian government’s Policy Hack competition in 2016.

In 2020, 2021 and 2022 UNSW placed in the AFR Top 100 Future Leaders Awards for the Most Employable University and has educated two of the top 10 rich listers in Australia, as reported in the AFR Young Rich List 2020.  



This article was originally published on the UNSW newsroom on 21 July, 2022