Celebrating Australian Success – Translating Knowledge & Research into Business

Release date: Thursday, 25 August 2016

From cancer detection to mining maintenance algorithms and supporting student entrepreneurship – commercialising research finalists announced

Commercialising research and supporting student entrepreneurship – from improved cancer detection to mathematical algorithms to manage mine maintenance – will be honoured next week at Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) Annual Conference in Brisbane (1-2 September) with finalists now revealed for the KCA Awards.

The KCA Awards recognise research organisations’ successes in expertly facilitating the transfer of knowledge to the broader community and research into products or services where companies grow new industries in Australia.  This year they have also expanded to recognise the great work that research organisations are doing teaching high-impact entrepreneurship and immersing stakeholders in a diverse range of hands on business training.

This year’s Awards include Best Commercial Deal, Best Creative Engagement Strategy and Best Entrepreneurial Initiative. The winners will be announced at the conference Awards Dinner on Thursday, 1 September.

The finalists are as follows:

Best Commercial Deal

Mine Maintenance Scheduling via Mathematical Optimisation – Curtin University, Western Australia
This unique innovation involves a series of cutting-edge mathematical algorithms that underpin a novel software package for optimising mine shutdown maintenance. The algorithms produce optimal shutdown schedules that minimise duration and therefore cost of lost production, plus rapidly reorganise the schedule in response to unexpected changes. This is the result of research collaboration between Curtin University and Linkforce Engineering, the leading engineering services group in Western Australia. The resulting software package is currently undergoing further development and refinement prior to deployment into Australia’s multi-billion dollar mine shutdown maintenance market.

Zhejian Hangdian Graphene Tech Co (ZHGT) – University of New South Wales (UNSW)
This is an initiative to fund and conduct research on cutting-edge higher efficiency voltage power cables, known as graphene, and on super-capacitors. With $20M capital investment by the Chinese corporation Hangzhou Cable Co., Ltd (HCCL), and UNSW contributing intellectual property as a 20% partner, the objectives are to execute the deal through research and development; manufacturing of research outcomes in Hangzhou; and finally commercialisation.

Launch of Ferronova Pty Ltd – University of South Australia (UniSA)
Researchers at the UniSA’s Future Industries Institute have joined forces with New Zealand based nanoparticle specialist, Boutiq Science, and major IP investor, Powerhouse Ventures, to develop an improved system for cancer detection that relies on magnetic rather than radioactive tracers. Research to develop the new technology – an ultrasensitive magnetometer probe designed to be about the size of a ball-point pen – evolved from the doctoral work of young UniSA researcher, Dr Aidan Cousins, who is now overseeing the technology’s development in collaboration with Associate Prof Benjamin Thierry. This work is part this new company – Ferranova Pty Ltd – established to take this innovation into the clinic.                                               

Best Creative Engagement Strategy

Lab 22 – CSIRO
CSIRO established the Lab22 Innovation Centre to demystify metallic additive manufacturing (‘3D printing’), making this science and engineering breakthrough accessible to Australian industry. Lab 22 is a multi-faceted engagement strategy, underpinned by ongoing research that enables industrial partners to test, experience, up-skill, and build business cases that take advantage of these cutting-edge technologies. Industry partners have co-developed commercial applications, licensed technologies and co-located with Lab22. Thousands of individuals have engaged in site visits. The engagement strategy continues to generate collaborations and innovation, build industrial capability, inform the public and push the boundaries of accessible metallic additive manufacturing.

Swinburne Bioreactor – Swinburne University of Technology
The Swinburne Bioreactor represents a new model for creative collaboration that is suited to SME’s, and includes nine industry partners and 10 PhD candidates. Together they identify and pursue the most promising opportunities for translational research to produce industry-ready PhD graduates with the confidence to look for opportunities in the private sector. Multidisciplinary groups of students and are spending time in hospitals, clinics, aged-care facilities and on the factory floor, talking to end-users and industry partners and looking for gaps in the market. Supported by mentors from industry and academia, the students are seeking to identify key insights into problems that open up potential for innovative solutions.

Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre – Curtin University
The Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, co-founded by Cisco, Curtin University and Woodside Energy Ltd, is a new industry and research collaboration centre designed to foster co-innovation. With a foundation in radioastronomy, supercomputing and software expertise, it is growing a state-of-the-art connected community focused on leveraging data analytics, cybersecurity and digital transformation network platforms to solve industry problems. The Centre combines start-ups, small–medium enterprises, industry experts, developers and researchers in a collaborative open environment to encourage experimentation, innovation and development through brainstorming, workshops, proof-of-concept and rapid prototyping. By accelerating innovation in next-generation technologies, it aims to help Australian businesses thrive in this age of digital disruption.

Best Entrepreneurial Initiative

Venture Catalyst Program – UniSA
Venture Catalyst supports student led start-ups by providing up to $50k to the new enterprise as a grant. The scheme targets current and recent graduates who have a high tolerance for risk and an idea for a new business venture that is both novel and scalable. The scheme takes an ‘IP and equity free’ approach and encourages students to collaborate with different disciplines and externals to encourage a diverse skill set for the benefit of the new venture. Venture Catalyst is a collaboration between the UniSA and the South Australian Government, and is supported through UniSA Ventures as well as representatives from industry and experienced entrepreneurs.

Curtin Accelerate – Curtin University
Curtin Accelerate enables motivated individuals and teams to kick-start or accelerate their business ideas. Over a ten-week period experienced mentors work with selected teams to improve and grow their business into an investible proposition. The program is open to students, staff and alumni of Curtin, with any innovation or new business idea. This provides access to global industry and investment contacts, one-on-one and group mentoring sessions, non- diluting seed funding ($5,000), local and national promotional opportunities and assists teams to bring ideas and businesses closer to commercial success.

The Swinburne Innovation Precinct – Swinburne University of Technology
Swinburne University of Technology has created an Innovation Precinct at its Hawthorn Campus which will position Swinburne as a centre of entrepreneurial activity, integrating research, new business development and commercialisation. Focusing broadly on tech innovation, including novel technologies, services and businesses, the Precinct will drive design thinking across the University and lead research and development that results in new products such as digital health technologies, smart homes and virtual reality training. The precinct will also utilise design and digital technologies to address manufacturing challenges and pilot production and fabrication processes in collaboration with industry.

This year’s awards are judged by commercial leaders of innovation:  Erol Harvey, CEO, MiniFab, Dan Grant, PVC Industry Engagement, LaTrobe University and Anna Rooke, CEO, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia.

Media Contact: Sharon Kelly (gemaker), E: s.kelly@gemaker.com.au M: +61 414 780 077


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”

One of the great things about living in Australia is the level of volunteering across all aspects of society. According to Volunteering Australia around 35% of the adult population is involved in some sort of volunteering activity. In 2010 the value of formal volunteering across Australia was over $25B with a further $60B in more informal volunteering! That is a lot of people putting in a lot of time to help make society a better place. A similar survey had over 95% of them satisfied or very satisfied with their volunteering!

We are just about to fill out the latest census survey, and in it you will find questions about volunteering. When I filled out the last census I had to think carefully about whether I volunteered, but didn’t take long to realise that I did in both my home and professional life.

Like many parents all across the country I helped out with a local sports team; in my case coaching one of my sons’ cricket team for a number of years. This brought me great satisfaction from seeing a group of boys improve their skills year on year and have a lot of fun along the way. The boys are now too good for me, so I have passed that role onto someone with greater experience to continue that role. However, I am still actively involved with the club, playing in one of the low grade senior teams, help our juniors adapt to playing senior cricket, having fun and occasionally even scoring a few runs myself!

In my professional life I was volunteering for KCA, at that point as Vice Chair, responsible for professional development. KCA has put a lot of effort into improving the professional development opportunities for members, from developing and running courses, being a founder member of the Association of Technology Transfer Professionals to the recent skills framework that we have developed for the profession that is getting plenty of attention worldwide. None of this would have been possible without the help of a whole range of volunteers. From those who developed the courses, and those in KCA and outside who helped deliver them; the people who have been involved with ATTP committees and review panels; and everyone who helped out in the work that led to the delivery of the framework. A big thank you to all of you.

However, we still need more help. KCA is a small organisation run by a small team of volunteers brought together by our one full time staff member and general all round superwoman, Mel Geue. The more volunteers that we have though, and the more they can contribute, the more we can deliver for you, our members. Whatever your level of experience, there is a role that you can play in helping to shape our community and build capacity here in Australia.  In helping your profession and your peers, you will also be helping yourself by helping to develop your career. It is no surprise that those who volunteer in professional bodies such as KCA are often those who advance their careers the fastest and furthest. You learn and develop by getting involved, so don’t just see it as time spent on something outside of your role, but it is something that is essential to develop you in your role. You will meet and work with other thought leaders in the commercialisation arena and play a role in developing the profession.

To find out more about how you could help KCA and help yourself develop professionally then contact either myself or Mel. We can help you work out how you can volunteer and provide the support to make it a success, whatever your level of experience. The right attitude is all you need, we can help with the rest.

Areas that might be of interest:

  • Course development
  • Course delivery
  • Annual Conference planning and organisation
  • KCA Exec (not just for CEOs/Directors)
  • Local events
  • Policy and advocacy

Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Brisbane (and the start of the cricket season….)


Dr Alastair Hick
Director, Monash Innovation, Monash University
KCA Chair and Volunteer

Academics do want to engage with business, but need more support

The Conversation
Drew Evans, University of South Australia and Carolin Plewa, University of Adelaide

Universities today are under more pressure than ever to collaborate with industry.

In the words of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

Increasing collaboration between businesses, universities and the research sector is absolutely critical for our businesses to remain competitive.

Australia has a poor report card when it comes to university-business collaboration. It ranks last among the OECD countries when comparing the proportion of businesses working with universities.

But this is not all. Australia ranks only 72nd in the world on the Innovation Efficiency Ratio, a measure comparing innovation inputs to outputs. And we have one of the lowest number of scientific publications co-authored by industry in the OECD.

There is a clear impetus for change. A change towards more academic collaboration with industry.

Why are there such low levels of collaboration?

A popular belief is that researchers are focused on publishing their work in academic journals, and not interested in collaboration with industry.

At a press conference on science and innovation, Turnbull said:

… the primary motivator has been to publish and make sure your publications are cited in lots of other publications, hence the term “publish or perish”.

Publications are, and will continue to be, critical for the advancement of knowledge and for the reputation of academics and universities alike. But does that mean academics aren’t interested in working with business?

Recently the South Australian Science Council undertook a benchmarking survey to test this assumption.

The academic engagement with end users survey was designed to capture the perceptions and attitudes of academics when it comes to engaging with business, government or non-profit organisations.

The survey (which has not been published publicly due to confidentiality reasons) sampled 20% of the total academic employees across three universities in South Australia. The sample size of 852 academics is large enough to tell us something about the Australian, not just South Australian, academic.

The findings found that the most academics (nine out of ten) were motivated to engage with business to help translate their research into practice. And 86% were motivated to engage in order to have an impact on society.

Academics not motivated by money

It is not money that makes a difference. Only 25% indicated that the opportunity to increase their personal income motivated them to engage.

We often think that there are just too many barriers to engagement. These barriers range from difficulty in agreeing on Intellectual Property (IP), to mismatches in culture, to a lack of personal contacts with industry, and so on.

But are these barriers really inhibiting engagement?

Few academics in the survey agreed. Only 15% of respondents agreed that their research was too far removed from the end users. 16% agreed that end user engagement doesn’t help achieve their career goals.

Just under one third of respondents agreed that engaging with end users is difficult, that they don’t have relevant skills, or personal contacts or that it would detract them from undertaking other research.

Building stronger relationship between academics and industry

A simple focus on financial incentives alone won’t make a difference.

In the eyes of the academics responding to the survey, they need: Time, support and an environment encouraging of engagement.

Time to dedicate to the networking and relationship building that will lead to successful collaboration. It is relationships, not just single transactions, that breed success. These relationships are integral to research and teaching; integral to the university’s role in society. Yet building relationships takes time.

Support mechanisms are significant enablers. While important for all, they are crucial for newcomers. 80% of the respondents who had not previously engaged with business desire it.

The support comprises staff dedicated to assist in finding end-users, help define applications, facilitate networking and conduct project management. By supporting academics behind the scenes, they enable them to focus on what they are good at – working with their business partners on achieving the desired outcomes.

An environment perceived as encouraging engagement stimulates further engagement. The survey shows that only 29% of respondents who have not worked with business view their local research group as encouraging engagement, compared to 77% of those who have engaged extensively. An encouraging team atmosphere, support from peers and support networks can all help facilitate an engagement friendly culture.

The research suggests that we need to shift our thinking on this topic, away from extrinsic motivators such as money, and towards a focus on what intrinsically motivates academics to engage, such as impact.

The conversation must move away from “overcoming barriers”, which in the eyes of most academics don’t actually exist. We are wasting time dreaming up solutions to problems that don’t exist.

‘It takes three to tango’

Not every academic will engage closely with industry, nor do we want every academic to engage. We need to establish the ecosystem in which engagement is easy and rewarding.

As former Chief Scientist Ian Chubb recently put it: “It takes three to tango”.

Not all academics will want to tango with business; tango is close, intense and full of twists and turns. Yet many want to line dance, foxtrot, or quickstep. They want to engage in different ways.

The Australian government needs to consider the policy framework that enables academics to engage in a way that is best for them and their partners through the provision of time, support, encouragement and recognition.

Drew Evans, Associate Professor of Energy & Advanced Manufacturing, University of South Australia and Carolin Plewa, Associate Professor in Marketing, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

An effective way for research organisations to get great ideas to market?

cubes_coming_out_of_handsIf innovation is the growth driver for Australian and New Zealand economies, what role can our research institutions play in developing and maintaining a healthy innovation system? Our research outputs are world class, but statistics would suggest that we are failing to turn these outputs into Australasian commercial successes. Technology is created here, but is often commercialised elsewhere due to a number of market factors. If innovation is the answer to our growth needs though, what can our research institutions do to ensure Australasian research is turned into Australasian commercial success?

We have a multitude of co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators to support entrepreneurs. Some are part of universities; others are run by industry and investors. It seems each day brings announcement of yet another startup accelerator/incubator. Are pitching, lean business models, digital marketing and experienced advisors the secret to success?

The answer seems to be yes for software based digital businesses. While medical research has a well established path from research organisation to industry – specialist funds such as the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund support medical startups in Australia and New Zealand through the “valley of death” – it is much more difficult to commercialise other research in engineering, material science and the social sciences.

As such, what can universities and other research institutes do to better support entrepreneurs and the innovation ecosystem in getting great ideas to market? If it can be taught, what should out universities teach?

Join us at #KCA2016 for The Entrepreneurial University session where we have an exciting panel of presenters that will present key lessons learned, strategies for success, explore how research institutions can better prepare staff and students, and what can be done to better convert Australasian research into world class Australasian commercial success.

Register now!

Klaus Krauter
Senior Manager Commercialisation & Commercial Research, University of Wollongong
KCA Volunteer


Are you adapting your marketing pitch for each business that you engage with?

With the FY16 year-end now behind us, it is time to take stock of our achievements, collect metrics and prepare reports for our stakeholders on our performance over the previous 12 months. My employer, being a government owned entity is no exception and has to ensure it meets the expectation of the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Supporting actions arising from the “Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research” agenda, these expectations have considerable focus on the utilisation of science to increase the competitiveness of Australian industry.

This forced reflection has made me analyse how I engage with industry and how I alter my approach based upon industry vertical, company size and my understanding of that company’s culture.  This may seem completely obvious, but we often fail to consciously make these differentiations and recognise that not all companies are created equal. For example the interaction and value proposition I present to a biotech startup is completely different to an engagement I will make with big pharma. Conversely, the business challenges of a startup are completely different to those of large pharma.

With this exact thought in mind, I am really looking forward to attending the KCA Annual Conference, and more specifically the session aptly titled “Not all Companies are Created Equal.” At this session we will hear from companies of different sizes and industries about how they innovate to overcome their business and technical challenges. It is shaping up to be really insightful.

This year the KCA Annual Conference will be held in sunny Brisbane at the Victoria Park Golf Club on 1-2nd September 2016. The conference theme is “Innovation is a state of mind,” and will focus on shaping thinking around commercialisation, entrepreneurship and industry engagement. Registration closes on the 17th August. I hope to see you there.

Dr Tim Boyle, RTTP
Leader, Business Development, ANSTO
KCA Volunteer

We’re walking in sunshine!  #KCA2016 is your ticket to get the ins and outs as to what the NISA means for TT practitioners here in Australia


There has never been a more exciting time to be in technology transfer.  There is no doubt that the Turnbull Government’s championing of innovation through the Ideas Boom has thrust technology transfer into the sunlight; where previously it soldiered on unseen in the shadows.  The Ideas Boom is templated as the National Science and Innovation Agenda (NISA) and what a policy it is.  The NISA encompassing a range of innovations that stimulate our sector to encourage engagement between academia and industry.  It galls us to travel the well-worn wheel rut that we as a Nation we occupy the bottom rung of the OECD ladder for industry-research engagement.  The NISA aims to move us up that ladder with a range of initiatives which includes incentives for researchers and publicly-funded research institutions to work more actively with industry; provide access to capital for start-ups and incentives entrepreneurs to create start-ups.  The talk of the town is start-ups.

For our researchers, the NISA provides a fundamental intervention aimed to changing the culture of academia such that universities will receive competitive funding based on their actual engagement with industry as measured by impact and levels of industry funding as opposed to the traditional metric of peer-reviewed publications and grant income.

This matters to publicly-funded research institutions including our universities, our researchers and our technology transfer professionals.  We will all have to stretch and cover the industry engagement drive and balance our existing roles.  Positive change is good.

It cannot be stressed enough just how significant this holistic intervention is.  Superimpose the Medical Research Future Fund across the top of the biomedical landscape in Australia and we have a sector on the boil for access to capital.   Do all these measures mean that the translation of research outcomes to productivity gain for our industry sector can be realised now?

The opening session of the KCA Annual Conference puts the NISA on to the dissection bench as we tease out the pros and cons of this policy that will result in a dramatic change in the technology transfer landscape.  Come along and join your peers on September 1 to discuss how the changes affect you.  Revel in the sunshine and Register now.

Dr Dean Moss
Vice-Chair, KCA
CEO, UniQuest

Great science & great marketing make the perfect match

If you ask the question ‘What is marketing?’ you’ll receive a variety of answers and invariably one will be ‘getting someone to buy something that they don’t want or need’.

There are lots of definitions, but basically, ‘marketing’ is understanding your customer so well that you can satisfy their needs profitably. The words ‘marketing’ and ‘promotion’ are often incorrectly used interchangeably as promotion (i.e. advertising, selling, PR, advertising, social media) is only a small subset of marketing, much like chemistry is a small subset of science.
Good marketing relies heavily on solid ‘marketing intelligence’ to get the elements of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) right.  To be successful getting your product out there, you need it to have the relevant features and
benefits a customer requires, at a price point they are willing to pay, promoted to them in the most efficient way (based on customer preferences), and available in a place (whether online or instore) convenient to buy and/or acquire.

Principles which are all highly relevant to tech transfer practitioners.

selling techGetting great science out into the community requires careful marketplace analysis and applied marketing thought.  Among the many challenges faced by tech transfer practitioners is the fact that most of the time, the amazing research outcomes they are trying to sell are developed without early commercial consideration.

The “Know your market” session at the 2016 KCA Annual Conference will provide attendees with an overview of marketing fundamentals to help TT practitioner’s better market their office to their internal clients and marketing their technologies and services to external clients.  Natalie Chapman from gemaker will help you to better understand some of the key principles of marketing in tech transfer and Robin Knight from IN-PART will share what other offices are doing globally to raise the profile of what they are doing and market their technologies.  Head over to the KCA website for more details and to register now.