2011 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Dr John Ness BE Hons PhD BA - Microwave Telecomunications
For a period of more than 30 years, Dr John Ness has been, and still is, an acknowledged leader in the microwave telecommunications field in Australia. He has established home-grown, successful and sustainable microwavecompanies in Australia with considerable national and international commercial success, and has had a major influence in the establishment of a group of other microwave companies in Brisbane. Dr Ness is widely credited with not only technical innovation at its finest but also with the creation of a significant Australian industry in wireless and microwave systems. John has been involved in developing the Australian microwave and RF industry and the manufacturing companies supporting it since he first left the University of Queensland (UQ) in 1977, having gained a BE, PhD and BA, to join the Interscan team at AWA. He returned to UQ in 1981 to establish the Microwave Technology Development Centre, which evolved into the commercial company MITEC in 1987. While at MITEC, John was the principal visionary and architect for the notable successes in market segments comprising but not limited to: microwave point-to-point radios; satellite ground station equipment; and a raft of RF/microwave components, subsystems and systems for metrological, search and rescue and military applications for customers in Australia and overseas. While the standard entree for Australian companies into the satellite industry was for “build to print” work and to rely on offset programs or lower-cost skilled labour to win contracts, MITEC only took on work where it was fully responsible for the complete product from design through manufacturing and testing to deliver fully spacequalified hardware. Under John’s direction, it persevered in the belief that the only way to develop a sustainable industry was to have control over product design and intellectual property. This persistence has been clearly visible throughout John’s career. Following the sale of MITEC in 1997, John changed his focus to try to foster a broader- based industry but with the central idea that the industry must be based on the education, skills and training of engineers and technicians. He believed that engineers should not only be builders of technology but that they should also be encouraged to become builders of companies, the vehicles that deliver the technology commercially. As a result of this focus, John has been personally instrumental in the creation of three new companies, MITEC, EMSolutions and Millatec and, through the staff that were originally employed and nurtured in them, a number of other related companies in the electronics and manufacturing industries in South-East Queensland. John has extraordinary technical expertise which he continues to use, to this day, in the design and development of microwave components. His commitment to his discipline has seen him teach, train and mentor hundreds of electrical engineers. Dr Ness has a unique ability to be able to solve a diverse range of difficult technical problems and apply them to equally diverse commercial opportunities while also engendering in others the similar ability to the benefit of the entire microwave and radio-frequency industry in Australia.