SEMIP Innovation Showcase 2013

SEMIP Innovation Showcase 2013

Last week I attended the SEMIP Innovation Showcase at the Hemisphere Conference Centre. This annual showcase is for local technology researchers and developers.

 

Kees Eijkel

 

Kees Eijkel of Kennispark

Kees Eijkel of Kennispark

Kees Eijkel led off with a description of how Kennispark in The Netherlands had fostered cooperation between entrepreneurs, financiers, researchers and industry. It is a 30 year process so far and has shown considerable gains. The key in part to this success is based on a simple approach to evaluating opportunities:

 

  • focus on the business case
  • decided on a case by case basis and not on a technology focus
  • ideas can come from anywhere, so foster widespread collaboration
  • deal fairly with IP
  • create an environment to leverage talent, investment dollars and facilities
  • measure success by how many jobs are created

 

He also had some advice for us in Australia where we are just starting on this journey:

 

  • Public Research Organisations are ready to collaborate, but inexperienced at it
  • Industry recognises the need
  • Government is looking for good ideas
  • We have the STC which could act as the primary cluster to build around

 

STC - Small Technologies Cluster

STC – Small Technologies Cluster

 

And if you haven’t already checked it out, the Australian Synchrotron is an amazing piece of technology. They have regular open days so take advantage of one. I did.

 

The Valley of Death

Next we had a session looking at the funding problem known as “The Valley of Death“. This is the gap in between publicly funded basic research or a private invention stage of technology development, and the successful launch of a market ready product.

 

The Valley Of Death - funding the gap

The Valley Of Death – funding the gap

We had input from Kim Walker of Capstone Partners, Peter Lewis of Hydrix and Bill Matthews of Dulux who shared their experiences in addressing this fundamental problem. The core issues are:

 

  • inventors and startups have minimal investment funds
  • public funds usually only cover basic research
  • venture capital funds and marketers want a market ready product before they will provide funding

 

What this usually means is that up to 90% of the funding isn’t available until the product is ready for market. This is the funding needed to get it to that point. It is a classic catch 22.

 

So how do you fill the void?

 

The best options presented were:

 

  • a license or trade sale to the natural owner of the technology is the best option
  • pre-sale agreement from a party who wants to sell the product when it is ready
  • ensure the voice of the market is clear and compelling from the beginning

 

Researchers In Business

We then had 2 case studies showing successful examples of the CSIRO Researcher In Business program. This is where a researcher directly focuses on a specific industry challenge with a specific client, often operating within their business. The 2 examples were:

 

 

Michael Egin of the CSIRO then rounded out the session with his view of how the program works.

 

Chief Scientist of Australia

The keynote address was given by Prof. Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia.

 

Prof. Ian Chubb - Chief Scientist of Australia

Prof. Ian Chubb

He took us through a history of Australia and our slow progress toward scientific and entrepreneurial self-sufficiency. His primary point was that unless we chose to collaborate and cooperate and move beyond the current chasm between academic researchers and private industry operators then we would not be able to progress toward a truly modern economy.

 

His point closely mirrored the observations by Kees Eijkel that it is only by fostering this collaboration that we can create the jobs and opportunities needed for a vibrant economy.

 

I’m already convinced. The trick is how to get the ball rolling. I have already had one excellent insight into the problem and one of the main roadblocks. I share that when I’ve got my thoughts fully together.

 

SEMIP stands for the South East Melbourne Innovation Precinct.

 

SEMIP

SEMIP

Also check out the 2012 SEMIP Inovation Showcase.

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2013 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

SEMIP Innovation Showcase 2012

SEMIP

Today I was at the SEMIP Innovation Showcase 2012. If you aren’t aware, SEMIP is the South East Melbourne Innovation Precinct and aims to improve collaboration between manufacturers in Melbourne’s South East and Research and Innovation providers, principally the CSIRO and the Tertiary Institutes and Universities.

 

SEMIP

SEMIP

I took some notes and thought I’d share the highlights with you.

 

Predicting Future Trends

Dr. Stefan Hajkowicz of the CSIRO shared some research findings on future trends from the CSIRO Global Foresight Project. He also did a comparison of Australia and Switzerland looking at what we can learn from a country that has already made the transition we need to make now that we are a high cost economy.

 

Dr. Stefan Hajkowicz

Dr. Stefan Hajkowicz

The take away message for me on this is that Australia had better focus on making higher value products and providing high quality experiences to our customers. The mining income stream is currently in boom but productivity is declining as we tap out the richest ore bodies and need to work harder to extract new material from poorer ore sites. So we have to make sure we have something of value to offer once that runs out.

 

Switzerland has positioned itself in a few sectors and is doing very well. Some examples of these sectors are:

 

  • Chocolate
  • Watches
  • Financial Services
  • Precision Machine Tools
  • Pharmaceuticals

 

And they have a signature product, the Swiss Army Knife.

 

One of the Questions raised by Stefan was “What is Australia’s signature product”? If you have some ideas, please post them as comments. I’m still thinking about that particular question but it would be good to have a list to consider.

 

Clean Green Technology

There were 3 presenters in this breakout session and 3 very different stories.

 

Peter Voigt

Peter Voigt

Peter Voight shared the story of Clean TeQ who provide water and air purification products and had to bootstrap their company the hard way, all funded themselves, until they got to the size of going public in 2007. Perter gave an interesting analogy to the current climate debate.

 

What do you do when the oil warning light on the dashboard of your car comes on while you are driving?

 

  • do nothing – it probably doesn’t mean anything
  • do nothing – it is a conspiracy by the oil moguls to force you to buy more oil than you need. There isn’t anything really wrong.
  • pull into a service station, get some oil and put it into the vehicle

 

By implication he suggests that we should all treat the current trend in the environment seriously because ignoring it will lead to a disaster. I agree. We can do much better at looking after this planet than we currently do. And even if the environment does turn out to be less fragile than some fear, reducing pollution and cleaning up our act is the right and best thing to do either way.

 

Peter also described the process Clean TeQ went through to get up and running and how hard it was. A process he called the “Valley of Death”.

 

My take away from Peter’s talk was that we need to better support viable and valuable business start-ups in Australia.

 

Marcel Kamp

Marcel Kamp

Marcel Kamp of Marand Precision Engineering shared about their commercialisation of the CSIRO high efficiency electric motor for solar racers. The CSIRO had an efficiency of 97.4% and Marcel shared how they were able to lift it to 98.3% and also make it a viable product to manufacture.

 

I’ll skip the engineering details this time because my key take away was that the CSIRO are a valuable and cost effective resource where your need and their projects or capabilities overlap, but you need some persistence with the process. However once you are connected, then other opportunities can flow in both directions. This is a classic SEMIP success story.

 

Roger Knight

Roger Knight

The final speaker in this session was Roger Knight of AquaDiagnostic. He shared about their PeCOD technology which came out of the University of Queensland and measures organic pollution levels in water using a process that takes minutes and doesn’t use hazardous chemicals. The standard test takes hours and uses very nasty things like Mercury and Sulphuric Acid. They are now selling test kits and equipment around the world. The technology is manufactured at the STC in Melbourne and protected by patents and meets a need that will only grow in time.

 

My key take away was that if you have a good idea, you might have to move to the right place in order to get it to market. By moving to the STC, AquaDiagnostics placed themselves in the middle of the cluster of companies, like MiniFab, that became pivotal in their success.

 

How to build a company

Amanda Gome of SmartCompany then shared her story of leaving her job at BRW to set up SmartCompany, and her philosophy on how to go about it. I was very impressed. Amanda is a passionate and articulate presenter who clearly lives the lessons she shared with us.

 

Amanda Gome

Amanda Gome

Here is the executive summary:

 

  • Don’t stuff up the message – stay on message and stay clear
  • Don’t lose focus
  • Innovation must be integral. Don’t be scared of the word – think of it as problem solving.
  • Make it easy for people to buy from you
  • Don’t hate your competitors – some you can make friends and do profitable deals with
  • Don’t be a ‘me too’ – set a high barrier for competitors to have to hurdle
  • Start with enough money
  • Don’t sell yourself cheap – in fact, always look at how to charge more
  • Don’t hire duds – if you do, fire them as quickly as you can
  • Don’t run at a loss
  • Don’t stick your head in the sand – stay aware of news, industry trends, what others are doing
  • You job is to lead and strategise, let others execute
  • Don’t be afraid to offer equity – you will need capital if you build a successful growing company
  • Don’t do old style business plans – constantly review and be agile
  • Don’t be afraid of your staff, empower them and let them get the job done. They should know how to make the decision themselves.
  • Don’t hate nerds. These days we are all technology companies. Embrace it.
  • Don’t burn out. Your greatest value comes from longevity so look after yourself

 

And Amanda told a funny story about the day she forgot her skirt. The lesson being that things won’t always go well, but deal with it and move on.

 

My take away is this. If you are going to do it, then do your homework, point it in the right direction, and go for it with courage and conviction.

 

Doing business with Siemens

Jurgen Schneider then shared how Siemens views the world and how to go about doing business with Siemens. Siemens is huge with 460,000 employees, R&D groups everywhere and $4B in R&D this year. And Siemens has structured its business around the 4 megatrends they identified at the start of this century:

 

  • Climate Change
  • Demographic Change
  • Urbanisation
  • Globalisation
Jurgen Schneider

Jurgen Schneider

So to engage with them, you have to be able to chow how what you have is relevant to one of their offerings in one of these megatrends. Be specific. Be sure your business pitch is carefully thought out and offers value to the potential partner. And Jurgen gave 6 tips for presenting and for engaging with Siemens:

 

  • Be unique. You have to offer something they can’t get elsewhere.
  • Remain Persistent. The likelihood you get in front of the best person first time is low in an organisation that big. Keep trying. One ‘No’ means very little.
  • Think Big. Siemens will want it in large quantities if it goes ahead. How will you scale up?
  • Plan for fast growth. Show the plan. Justify it.
  • Prepare for scrutiny. After you get an MOU, the Siemens contracts team will go through you very thoroughly. Prepare for one of your key people to be completely consumed for 6 months by this process.
  • Build on existing friendships and partnerships. Who you already know could be able to introduce you to the right person.

 

That sounded pretty daunting. But it helps to know in advance. My take away was that if you want a slice of the Siemens pie, you have to be prepared to do what it takes to get that.

 

Bionic Eye

The final session was on the Bionic Eye project.

 

Professor Arthur Lowrey

Professor Arthur Lowrey

Professor Arthur Lowrey showed what the project looked like from the Monash University perspective and I was impressed by how practical and pragmatic he and his team were. This is an excellent example of how industry and Tertiary Institutes can collaborate to great effect.

 

My take away is that you need a team to do a project like this, and there are a lot of elements to that team. This is hard core biomedical and so their are people who will get operated on and have electrodes put inside their skull by surgeons. So it isn’t just electronics and software. Sure there is a lot of that, but it is also all the other things you need to for a project like this.

 

Erol Harvey

Erol Harvey

Erol Harvey of MiniFab then shared in their role in creating new ways to package the electrodes and electronics that get implanted. This is brand new technology. And the research on this project is being done by each of the 3 partners. This is not a classic University IP sold to an industry partner to commercialise. Everyone is creating new IP.

 

My take away from Erol’s presentation is that we need to keep advanced manufacturing alive and well in Australia if we want it to remain the country it is today.

 

Jefferson Harcourt

Jefferson Harcourt

The final presenter was going to be Jefferson Harcourt of Grey Innovation who are doing the PCB, ceramic hybrid and core software design for the product. Unfortunately for us, Jefferson had to leave early as his wife had gone into labour. But it is clear that this is a project in which everyone is pulling their weight big time. I was looking forward to Jefferson’s presentation as we have previously done some business supplying Grey Innovation with specialist R&D services and they handle a very interesting mix of projects.

 

Government Support For Manufacture

We concluded with a speech from Mark Dreyfus MP in his role as minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

 

Mark Dreyfus MP

Mark Dreyfus MP

The government wants forums like SEMIP to succeed and recognise the value of local manufacture. Clean Technology funding will allow local manufacturers to improve their energy efficiency, and that is a good thing. But there isn’t much being allowed for creating the new technologies that will allow that process to continue, or that will result in new products, new companies and new jobs in the region.

 

My take away from this is that you have to find a way to do it yourserf. The government is not going to fund it for you.

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2012 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Casey Business Magazine features Successful Endeavours

The most recent edition of Casey inBusiness Magazine featured Successful Endeavours on the front cover.

Casey inBusiness Magazine 44

Casey inBusiness Magazine #44

It is not often you make it onto the front cover of a magazine so that is pretty exciting for us.

 

We are also very appreciative of the support we have had from the City of Casey. They are very proactive in supporting local businesses and we see a large number of businesses within Casey that benefit from that support. This is a great place to be running a business from.

 

Below is a list of the industry sectors they are supporting in order of turnover based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008 figures collated by AEC Group:

 

  • Manufacturing
  • Retail Trade
  • Construction
  • Property and Business Services
  • Wholesale Trade
  • Education
  • Health and Community Services
  • Transport and Storage
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Personal and other Services
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  • Cultural and Recreational Services
  • Communication Services
  • Government Administration and Defence
  • Accommodation, Cafes & Restaurants
  • Mining
  • Electricity, Gas and Water Supply

That is a very diverse range of enterprises to be supporting and reflects Casey’s position on the boundary between rural Gippsland and intensive manufacturing zones in South East Melbourne Innovation Precinct also known as SEMIP. There is a very strong Manufacturing base in South East Melbourne where many of our clients are based. Australian Manufacturing is larger in turnover than mining and Melbourne is the biggest Manufacturing city in Australia.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics and embedded software products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.