Five CSIRO scientists credited with developing some of the technologies underpinning modern wi-fi networks have become the first Australians to receive the prestigious European Inventor Award.
The scientists – Dr John O’Sullivan, Dr Terry Percival, Mr Diet Ostry, Mr Graham Daniels and Mr John Deane – received the non-European award at the ceremony held overnight in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Other winners included researchers behind a tailor-made hearing aid, a potential drug for hepatitis B, a laser eye surgical device and portable fuel cells.
The awards were established by the European Patent Office in 2006 to recognise innovation.
“This is the first time an Australian team has won this award and a wonderful recognition for a technology that has changed our lives," science minister Chris Evans said in a statement.
Though it invented some of the technology required to stand up a wi-fi network, CSIRO never successfully commercialised it. Instead, it was spun out as a separate company, which ultimately sold to Cisco in 2001 for $US300 million.
CSIRO patented the technology invention in the early 1990s in Australia, US and Europe and has garnered $450 million in license fees from wi-fi equipment manufacturers since. The patent expires next year.
The science organisation has attracted international criticism from some media and others, however, over claims its actions were reminiscent of 'patent trolls'; those that patent inventions without significantly or materially contributing to the market.
“The work completed by Dr O’Sullivan and his team perfectly demonstrates how a publicly funded Research Centre can use patent protection and licensing revenue to finance further innovation," European Patent Office president Benoit Battistelli said.