Peter Cockbain AM

2021 Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence

Bachelor of Science (Electrical Engineering) 1973
Co-Founder, Ampcontrol

A distinguished innovator, entrepreneur, industrialist and philanthropist, Peter Cockbain AM is one of Australia’s most highly regarded and influential engineers. Peter is the Co-founder of Ampcontrol, one of Australia’s largest privately-owned electrical engineering companies, and has served the University of Newcastle in numerous leadership roles, including as a Member of the University Council, Chair of the Controlled and Associated Entities Committee, a Member of the Finance and Audit Committee, the Risk Management Committee, Strategic Development Committee, Tender Committee and the Board of University Services.

Now considered a captain of industry, Peter has built his exceptional engineering career from humble beginnings.

“I left school when I was 15, long before I'd be able to go to university. Over the years, I realised that whilst I knew a lot about the practical side of electrical engineering, I still had a lot of theory to learn. I was fortunate enough that in 1966, at the age of 26, I could apply for entry into the university as a mature aged student.

"The theory I learnt, together with the practical experience I had gained from 10 years in the workplace before that, really enabled me to build up a whole host of understanding of where we were and how we could better ourselves, both technically and in safety."

The long list of high-profile national, state and regional awards that Ampcontrol has received for its innovation, design, and technology is a testament to Peter’s founding philosophies set down in 1968 on the dirt floor of the shed in suburban Jesmond, his company’s original HQ.

In March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, Ampcontrol responded to the NSW Government’s call-to-arms, designing and delivering a fully functional emergency ventilator prototype for testing in just 18 days. For a company specialising in resources, infrastructure and energy solutions, rapidly pivoting its world-leading expertise and production facilities into manufacturing critical emergency medical equipment in the Hunter Region during a global pandemic demonstrates the ‘can do’ foundations, engineering excellence and ingenuity built over the past 53 years.

Video: 2021 Alumni Excellence Awards

Under Peter’s leadership, Ampcontrol has maintained strong ties with the College of Engineering, Science and Environment, including contributing to undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships, internships, lecturing and tutoring, and funding a Chair in Power Engineering.

Peter acknowledges that the University of Newcastle has been extremely important to his career and to the growth of Ampcontrol.

“Even after I graduated, I still relied on the University to provide a lot of information to me and my team so that we could take Ampcontrol from what it was in 1968 to what it is today, with nearly 1,000 employees. Over the years, recent undergraduates, postgraduates and even a couple of professors have joined us as we have grown and expanded outside of Newcastle, into the UK, Europe and America. Without the University, none of this would have been possible.”

In 2004, Peter was instrumental in establishing ResTech, a collaboration between Ampcontrol and the University of Newcastle. He is also a substantial contributor to the University’s medical research team working towards the early detection of ovarian cancer.

"The biggest thing I am proud of is that we provide hundreds or possibly thousands of jobs for people. We're now employing two further generations of some of our original employees.”

Despite his incredible career achievements on local, national and international stages, Peter has remained steadfastly, and modestly, anchored in his home community of Newcastle.

"These achievements are not all mine. I've been a dedicated member of some very, very professional teams and I am proud to be a mentor to many of those teams. I say, ‘I can't do it, you can't do it, but we can,’ because collectively we can achieve anything we set our sights on."

Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

3 - Good health and well-being8 - Decent work and economic growth9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.