As the 2020 SA Science Excellence and Innovation Awards open for nominations, 2019 winner of STEM Professional Mark Skanes highlights the importance of new ideas for solving the state’s scientific issues.

Creating a culture of innovation is critical to South Australia’s standard of living and economic success according to one of the state’s leading STEMM advocates.

Dr Mark Skanes has spent almost 40 years leading and consulting on project and engineering teams within the defence, energy, mining and manufacturing sectors and was named STEM Professional of the Year at the 2019 SA Science Excellence Awards.

Nominations for the 2020 awards are now open and feature a new category, SA Innovator of the Year, to highlight the importance science, research and innovation plays in the development of industry and bolstering the state’s economic prosperity.

“Innovation is critically important to tackle the major dilemmas we are facing – coronavirus, bushfires and climate change – there will always be issues that we need to confront,” Dr Skanes said.

“It can help us ensure we become more resilient against these challenges, to manage them better and give us options.

“Innovation is so important for our state, as it dovetails into what drives the economy and the quality of life.”

The 2020 SA Science Excellence and Innovation Awards recognise the work of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) leaders and teams working in research and education institutions, schools, industry and the community.

The awards encourage people to become involved in science and innovation and to recognise the depth and diversity of scientific endeavour and research in SA.

Scientist of the Year and the Innovator of the Year recipients will each receive a prize to the value of $25,000.

Winners of the remaining four categories will receive a prize to the value of $10,000 to use towards their career development.

Last year’s recipients include Professor Jozef Gecz, who was named Scientist of the Year for his leadership in genetics and biology of childhood onset neurodevelopment disability, STEM Educator of the Year, Anthea Ponte and Skanes, who was named STEM Professional of the Year.

“Embedding innovation and STEMM into our policy settings and our education culture will ensure we are well-positioned in SA to be progressive – our economy, our health, our standard of living, and our general way of life depends on it,” Dr Skanes said.

“Countries where the integration of STEMM and innovation is deeply embedded results in a higher quality of life and longer lifespan, this relationship is not a coincidence.”

SA’s Chief Entrepreneur Jim Whalley said the new award category was an important addition and emphasised the state’s need for more businesses to engage with researchers and thinkers to innovate and produce commercial outcomes.

“Through our FIXE strategy, we are creating a culture of collaboration that connects researchers with industry and entrepreneurs to transform and translate South Australian ideas into global products and services,” Mr Whalley said.

“There’s nothing stopping us from building on our innovation, growing our research excellence and sharing South Australian success stories with the world.”

Chief Scientist for South Australia Professor Caroline McMillen, said the awards were an important platform to highlight and celebrate our global STEMM talent.

“We understand how important successful collaborations between researchers and industry are to deliver innovations that drive strong social, environmental and economic outcomes for our communities,” Professor McMillen said.

“The Awards also provide insight into the strength, determination and passion required to deliver world-leading education research and innovation which place us on the global stage as the State of Science.”

Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said the new Innovator of the Year award category was introduced to recognise individuals or teams who have developed new products or services or delivered social, economic or environmental impact through innovation.

“We are elevating this year’s awards to highlight the importance of innovation and its translation for impact, and to celebrate the exceptional achievements of our researchers, innovators and educators that drive economic growth and job creation for our state,” Minister Pisoni said.

“It’s also an opportunity to recognise our inspiring educators who are teaching our future workforce and equipping young people with creative, analytical and entrepreneurial skills to thrive in a STEMM-reliant future.”

Dr Skanes hopes his role as a leader and mentor will assist the state’s youth and less experienced STEMM professionals become more aware of the differences they can make.

“It meant that my passion in mentoring and in providing leadership in STEMM was appreciated and recognised,” Dr Skanes said.

“It provided encouragement that I may leverage further opportunities to do more of the same but in more of an influential and opportunistic manner and on a broader and more diverse platform.”

Applications close April 24, with winners announced on August 14.

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