The Bionics Institute

The Bionics Institute is an independent, not-for-profit research organisation working in the field of medical bionics.


To transform lives with innovative bionic health solutions.


To research, innovate and deliver bionic technologies that improve human health.

Our Work

The Bionics Institute undertakes high quality, collaborative research to create life-changing medical devices. We bring together experts from the biological, physical, engineering and medical sciences to achieve clinically relevant outcomes and train and inspire the next generation of researchers.

Using a multidisciplinary approach, the Institute’s research aims to deliver new solutions to major health problems and builds on years of research experience and technological expertise in cochlear implants. The Institute brings together researchers from diverse disciplines and collaborates with eminent clinicians from Melbourne’s major hospitals to ensure that its work and bionic technologies result in clinical outcomes.

We are focused on translating our research discoveries into real-world outcomes that benefit patients around the world. We work to ensure our knowledge, technologies and skills provide an effective pathway from world-class research to advancing the Australian medical bionics manufacturing industry.

The Institute is focused on providing bionic solutions for otherwise untreatable or drug-resistant conditions of the nervous system. Our three research programs, Bionic Hearing, Bionic Vision and Neurobionics, encompass the improvement and development of devices to address hearing loss, severe vision impairment and a range of intractable central nervous system disorders and certain psychiatric conditions.

Deafness and Hearing Loss

For over thirty years we have worked to improve outcomes for people with deafness and hearing impairment. We do this through a unique, multi-disciplinary approach that utilises diverse experimental tools, including brain imaging, smart engineering, nanotechnology and gene therapy.

Our research aims to develop new technologies and strategies that will improve the performance of cochlear implants and other hearing devices.

Specific projects include:

Designing new sound processing strategies to enhance the perception of music and the perception of speech in noisy environments.

The development of an automatic system to program cochlear implants, which is particularly important for those too young to provide feedback as to a sound’s volume.

The development of non-invasive and objective measures of hearing to improve detection and diagnosis of hearing problems, improve the fitting of cochlear implants and hearing aids and understand the variability of outcomes in users of these devices.

The development of techniques to introduce therapeutic drugs into the inner ear to support or halt the degeneration of the hearing nerve following deafness.

Investigation of neuroplasticity and how the brain responds to long-term electrical stimulation.

Blindness and Vision Loss

Our research aims to develop safe and effective retinal prostheses for blind patients. In 2012, as part of the Bionic Vision Australia consortium, three patients with retinitis pigmentosa were implanted with Australia’s first prototype bionic eye. The Institute used its engineering expertise and experience in safety and biocompatibility studies to establish safe surgical procedures and effective electrical stimulation strategies for this prototype device.

Ongoing research is evaluating the visual perceptions evoked by the bionic eye and is testing the safety and effectiveness of the next generation wide-view device (for navigation) and a high-acuity device (for more detailed visual images). We are also investigating novel stimulation methods to create ‘virtual’ electrodes in retinal prostheses.

In 2016 we were awarded Best Development Grant at the NHMRC Research Excellence Awards for a grant to develop a novel retinal implant to delay progressive blindness in retinitis pigmentosa. It is hoped that the implant will extend the years of useful vision for people suffering from this degenerative, incurable disease.

Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Implantable devices are being developed to detect, predict and suppress abnormal neural activity in the brain or elsewhere in the body. Such devices incorporate many of the successful elements of the cochlear implant and insights obtained from the ongoing development and testing of the prototype bionic eye.

Our current research is focused on:

The development of an advanced deep brain stimulation (DBS) system to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

The development of a safe and effective diagnostic device for epilepsy and blackouts.

Optimising outcomes in movement disorder patients with existing DBS devices.

The development of an implantable device to stimulate the vagus nerve and manage the symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The overall goal of our neurobionics research is to develop a sophisticated and flexible platform technology that can be tailored to treat a wide range of neurological disorders that have not responded to conventional treatments, including certain severe psychiatric conditions (e.g obsessive compulsive disorder).