InnovationAus Awards: New leadership categories for 2023

James Riley
Editorial Director

There are a lot of things that need to go right for a great idea to be turned into a successful product or service. A huge part of the equation is down to a very human quality: Leadership.

It is a great pleasure to announce two new categories for the InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence that are focused on individuals, rather than a product or service.

Because very often, success is derived from the personal drive and energy and ideas of an individual, or on the leadership skills of that individual.

The two new Award categories are:

  • The Paul Shetler Disrupter of the Year Award
  • The Innovation Leadership Award

These new categories are open for nomination now. You can see the full list of categories, criteria and nomination forms here.

The new categories seek to honour the individuals that have displayed the singular focus, energy and drive to maximise their impact in their chosen field, and the leadership qualities that draw together the strengths of their team to deliver an excellent product or service.

The Paul Shetler Disrupter of the Year Award is named for the former chief executive officer of the original Digital Transformation Office, who died suddenly in 2020.

Mr Shetler was a disrupter in the true sense of the word, handpicked by then Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull to drive digital government. His short, sharp – and to some shocking – tenure in the Australian Public Service marked the beginnings of cultural change in the delivery of government services.

Paul Shetler worked in the public sector. But this award is open to nominations from across the public sector, private sector, and among NGO’s and institutions.

It aims honour people that don’t always take the conventional, popular road, but who’s drive and relentless focus – and willingness to fight – delivers maximum benefit.

Paul wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And as one senior business leader expressed to me, his confrontational style left a lot of broken glass. His short tenure as the nation’s chief digital officer is both admired and questioned.

But Paul Shetler delivered a lasting impact of cultural change within the federal bureaucracy.

The Innovation Leadership Award at the InnovationAus Awards for Excellence is more nuanced. It honours the individuals who demonstrate outstanding leadership of teams in the development of a product or service or drive toward a successful commercial research outcome.

This award would typically go to an entrepreneur, the person with the singular focus to ‘get things done’. But we hope to attract nominations from all parts of the ecosystem – from individual entrepreneurs to commercialisation leaders, to product managers to research leaders.

These are the people that bring together multi-disciplinary teams – sometimes from multiple organisations and institutions – to deliver an innovative product or service that has lasting impact.

“If we are going to get better outcomes for Australia, we have to do things differently, whether that’s comfortable or not,” said publisher Corrie McLeod.

“Whether that’s in building better digital services or improving the nation’s economic complexity through the creation of new companies and new industries, we need to acknowledge and celebrate the people who are able to push us to think and do things differently.

“These two new awards categories shine a spotlight on the outstanding change agents in our community, with the aim of giving them a standing ovation.”

The InnovationAus Awards for Excellence 2023 is a six-month program of recognition of Australia’s most exciting companies. The program culminates in a black-tie gala dinner Awards ceremony to be held at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney on November 1.

Any queries about entries and nominations for the InnovationAus Awards for Excellence should be directed to

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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