Special Advisor to the Australian Government and Former Chief Scientist
One of Australia’s most respected scientific minds and an expert on low-emission technologies, Dr Alan Finkel AO is Australia’s former Chief Scientist and now serves as Special Advisor to the Australian Government.
After finishing a PhD at Monash University in electrical engineering, Alan worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience at the Australian National University.
In 1983, he founded Axon Instruments, a California-based company developing specialized medical instruments for neurosurgeons as well as precision scientific instruments used at pharmaceutical companies and universities for the discovery of new medicines. After selling his company in 2004, Alan became a director of the acquiring company, the NASDAQ-listed Molecular Devices.
In 2005, Alan developed the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience (ACAN) while also co-founding Cosmos Magazine with his journalist wife, Elizabeth. In addition to magazine publishing, Cosmos Magazine also ran a secondary school science education program. Alan and Elizabeth later gifted Cosmos to The Royal Institution of Australia.
He also served as President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) where he led the development and implementation of the STELR program for secondary school science. This program has since then been adopted in over 600 Australian schools.
In 2008, Alan became the first Monash University alumnus to become Chancellor of the university. Prior to this role, he was also the inaugural Chair of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics and chaired the Board of the National Research Centre for Prevention of Child Abuse at Monash University for two years. Alan was Chancellor for eight years before retiring.
However, his retirement didn’t last long as he was soon nominated and appointed the role of Australia’s Chief Scientist in 2016.
Later in 2016, Alan was chosen to lead the review of Australia’s National Electricity Market following the blackouts in South Australia. This later became known as the “Finkel Review”. During his time in this role, he also led the development of the national hydrogen strategy at the request of the Council of Australian Governments as well as the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, and the 2018 STEM Industry Partnership Forum report. Continuing his dedication to science education, Alan also led the development of the STARportal information website for extracurricular STEM activities.
Alan was named the 2016 Victorian of the Year.
In 2019, he received the IEEE Joseph F. Keithley Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the advancement of scientific instrumentation. Alan was also a recipient of the 2015 IET Mountbatten Medal (UK) in recognition of his research in science and engineering, as well as his technical and academic leadership.
During the lockdown period, Alan led the Government’s strategy to ensure Australia would have enough ventilators as well as developed the Rapid Research Information Forum (RRIF) to provide expert scientific evidence to the Government. In addition, he also led a review of the testing, contact tracing, and outbreak management capabilities of all Australian states and territories.
In 2020, Alan was appointed as Special Advisor to the Australian Government on Low Emissions Technology by the Prime Minister. As Special Advisor, he supports and promotes the Government’s technology-led approach to reducing emissions, as well as working with international partners to increase practical collaboration. He is also Chair of the Australian Government’s Technology Investment Advisory Council to further support Australia’s climate change and emission reduction strategies.
Throughout his career, Alan has distinguished himself in Australia’s scientific and engineering community by his passion for science and engineering education and strong advocacy for governmental and industrial support of innovation and research in science and engineering.