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Five great inventions you may not know came from Queensland

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Our state’s startups are following a proud Queensland tradition of innovation. Some truly amazing inventions have come out of Queensland - some life-changing, some life-giving, and some a little bit left of centre. Here are five inventions from the Sunshine State that have left an indelible mark on the world.

The world’s first cancer vaccine
With world-leading universities and research institutes around the state, Queensland has become an internationally recognised hub for scientific development, commercialisation and innovation — and this has never been clearer than when the world’s first cancer vaccine was developed in Queensland in 2006.

The technology behind the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, sold as Gardasil and Cervarix, was developed and patented by Brisbane-based medical researchers Professor Ian Frazer and Dr Jian Zhou at the University of Queensland in 2006. HPV vaccines are now recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of routine vaccinations in all countries, with millions of women around the world at significantly less risk of developing cervical cancer as a result.

Today, Queensland remains at the forefront of medical research and development, with startups exploring everything from degenerative disease diagnosis to metagenomic sequencing technology.

Multifocal contact lenses
Queenslanders have always had a unique way of seeing the world, and sometimes we’re able to share it.

Multifocal contact lenses offer multiple prescriptions in one lens. They’re designed to give wearers with presbyopia — the gradual loss of the eyes’ ability to focus with age — the freedom to go without glasses and target their vision on objects at varying distances.

The versatile lenses were designed by Queensland optical research scientist Stephen Newman in 1992, and continue to have a transformational impact on the lives of vision-impaired wearers around the world.

The inflatable aircraft escape slide and raft
The inflatable escape slide, which doubles as a raft in emergency situations if the plane lands on water, has become a ubiquitous sight in every flight safety video. You could be forgiven for thinking the inflatable slide and raft dated back to the earliest commercial airliners, but it was actually invented in 1965 by a Queenslander named Jack Grant.

Grant was the operations safety superintendent for Qantas at the time. Ironically, Qantas’ strong safety record means the airline has rarely been required to deploy its employee’s invention, but regardless, it is now considered a mandatory safety requirement by all major airlines.

Queenslanders continue to play an important role in aviation. The state plays host to a rapidly developing aerospace industry, and is home to Australia’s largest share of aircraft manufacture and repair service enterprises.

The pineapple peeler
Now this is a quintessentially Queensland invention. We all know pineapples are delicious, but they’re not always easy to eat. Enter the pineapple peeler, invented by Brisbane’s Ray Ashdown as he watched his wife struggle to come to grips with the prickly fruit and thought there had to be a better way to enjoy its tropical flavour.

Ashdown’s invention, which could peel and core a pineapple of any size in one movement, made its debut on ABC’s The Inventors in 1972, and was eventually patented, manufactured and sold all over the world.

All these years later, Queensland is still thinking fast when it comes to food, and has come to be known as a hub for agricultural technology (agtech).

Scramjets
It might sound like a good name for a Decepticon, but a scramjet is actually a supersonic combustion ramjet – a jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow. An aircraft using a scramjet engine has the potential to dramatically reduce travel times.

The first successful scramjet test flight was carried out in 2002, by the University of Queensland’s HyShot team and their international partners at the Woomera rocket range in outback South Australia.

Today, Queensland continues to stand on the cutting edge of propulsion technology research and testing, highlighted by the development of a new hybrid rocket propulsion system by Gilmour Space Technologies on the Gold Coast.

Queensland keeps pushing forward – because the next great invention is just around the corner.

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