Yew Lecture Theatre, Nucleus Building, King’s Buildings
The ups and downs: Some adventures in use-inspired research commercialisation
Prof David Skellern AO FTSE FIEEE
I thank Professor Prodromakis for inviting me to give a seminar and suggesting I might touch on a variety of my past experiences. This caused me to revisit my long and interesting career – something I have not done for over two decades, likely because I tend to be more excited about the future than the past!
I’ve been very lucky to have been involved in the huge success that is Wi-Fi. It is an interesting story and I will devote some time to telling it. My research in wireless networking was supported by and carried out in collaboration with CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, and in particular with former radioastronomers with whom I had worked previously.
Towards the end of my talk I will describe new work underway in a company that I Chair – Quasar Satellite Technologies – a start-up that is exploiting phased array technologies developed at CSIRO for the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radiotelescope, which commenced operations in 2019.
Between the WiFi and QuasarSat topics, I will briefly describe some innovative and very technically successful research-based commercial projects that resulted in the release and sale of competitive products, yet failed to produce significant impact. These are the downs.
Skellern worked in radioastronomy for 10 years, taught and researched electronics at Sydney and Macquarie Universities for 16 years and, concurrently for seven years, was a Member of Technical Staff and Visiting Academic at HP Labs.
He came to prominence in the IT sector through Radiata Inc, which he co-founded in 1997 to build wireless LAN chips based on research he initiated and led at Macquarie University in collaboration with the CSIRO.
Radiata developed the world’s first IEEE 802.11a High Speed WiFi chips. Radiata was acquired in 2001 by Cisco Systems, where he was Technology Director of the WLAN Business Unit, which grew to $1B annual revenue using the Radiata team chips.
Dr Skellern was CEO for six years from 2005 of NICTA, Australia’s ~700-person ICT national research centre.
He has awards for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, including: Officer in the Order of Australia in 2012 for distinguished service to science and engineering as a leading researcher and for design and development of world-leading information technology; the 2017 IEEE IEEE Masaru Ibuka Award, for pioneering research and development of high speed WiFi.