Save the Australian Technologies Competition

Published: 26-Oct-2015

As past national winner in 2012, we've written to both Industry Minister Pyne & Innovation Assistant Minister Roy to argue for the continuation of the Australian Technologies competition and encourage all other entrants, semi-finalists, finalists & winner to do the same.

The competition delivers valuable recognition as well as offering a vital business mentoring, funding pitching & business planning capacity development. It's well supported by industry, as evidenced in the 300+ entrants and quality of mentors & judges, all who donate their time. So WHY close it down?

After five successful years, we are alarmed to hear of the impending closure of the Australian Technologies Competition, a valuable national recognition, business development & mentoring program for Australian innovation companies.

The program’s focus has principally been on technology innovations that solve real problems for industry, improve efficiencies, reduce natural resource consumption or pollution (energy, water, waste) and have export potential.

When launched in 2011, the competition was a welcome initiative of the Department of Industry Science, Research & Tertiary Education. Professional Advocates led industry clusters or capability teams for the following sectors:

  • Property, Built Environment & Infrastructure,
  • Advanced Manufacturing,
  • Food & Agriculture
  • Mining & Resource

The Advocates have played important roles in facilitating introductions to industry & potential clients via industry events, trade shows, client presentations, funding introductions, international market roadshows & more.

Unfortunately the Department’s funding of the program dropped 75% in the 2015 to a level that was unsustainable and did not meet running costs of the contracted organiser, Australian CleanTech, led by John O’Brien. No future funding commitment has been announced for 2016 & beyond.

Why should the competition continue to be funded?

In short, because it is a success story. For a program spend of $750K over 5 years, over 500 companies have entered the competition. Valuation of the commercialisation results of entrants stands at $250 million. This included a $60 million JV agreement for 2014 Energy Award winner RayGen Resources to build 500MW of solar plants in China, which will generate 200 jobs in Victoria.

The competition is filling a market gap. Technology & innovation businesses in early and growth stages often lack in-house business and commercialisation strategy capability. The majority of working capital is committed for proof of concept, design patent registration, prototype development & customer trials.

The fact that all competition mentors and judges donate their time generously and willingly is further evidence of the broader business and professional services support for the competition. The 2014 in-kind support from industry is valued in the attached at $306k, which was 50% more than the Government contribution for that year.All of that free assistance will evaporate without ongoing support of the competition.

Benefits to over 120 shortlisted semi-finalists of entering Australian Technologies Competition

  • 2 months of FREE intensive business mentoring to develop business plan and growth strategies.
  • Commercialisation assistance via clarifying the business value proposition, customer fit, market potential, technology validation & protection, managing finance, operational risk & strategic partners
  • Industry recognition & constructive feedback from judging panel re gaps in business plan.

Benefits to enLighten Australia of winning 2012 competition

Fr left James O'Loughlin MC, Laurence Dummett - Biofiba (runner up), Steve Cahill - enLIghten Australia (winner), Michael Vainer - VR TEK Global (runner up), Dr Marc Newson - Cleantech Advocate & judge

As a past national winner in 2012, the award win gave us welcome recognition of our technology innovation & business plan. At the time we were operating at a small profit after 3 years of R&D spending by the company’s co-founders and private equity investors.

The opportunity to represent Australia at the Global Cleantech Open in California in late 2012 and participate in the trade mission provided us with valuable insights into overseas market entry and understand relative global trends in the energy efficient LED lighting market.

As a specialty high efficiency Australian LED lighting & smart controls design, manufacture & supply company, we operate in a highly competitive market.Following our first to market technology advantage in 2011 light that delivered up to 93% energy savings, the market has followed with an explosion of low cost Chinese imports.

The recognition from the award in 2012 and focus on Australian design for Australian conditions has assisted us in defending our value proposition. Since the 2012 win our sales have grown 400% and now extend to over 1,000 installations nationally, saving an annual $5m in energy savings for our clients. Our largest project to date has been the 4 year social housing portfolio LED lighting upgrade across 255 properties for the NSW Land & Housing Corporation.

Role of Australian Government to foster innovation

Given the new Turnbull Government’s policy commitment to foster innovation to meet the 21st Century challenges, we would call on the Commonwealth to practice what it preaches.

At the 2015 Awards function held in Sydney last week, the Commonwealth Government’s presence was minimal. The MLC Centre Sydney venue was provided by the NSW Department of Trade & Investment and the welcome provided by competition sponsor - international design software company, Autodesk.

There were no Department of Industry speakers, which was in stark contrast with the UK Office of Trade & Investment, who sponsored the networking drinks. Their Trade & Investment Advisor pitched the UK Government’s attractive business introduction services into the European market at a highly competitive company tax rate of 20%, which will further drop to 18%.

What can others do to help?

  • Write letters! To the Industry, Innovation & Science Minister, The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation the Hon Wyatt Roy MP or your local member.
  • Get social – spread the word to technology & startup media circles.

I would stress that enLighten Australia has no vested financial interest in the competition. Our motivation for its continuation is one of securing ongoing capability development and assistance for the Australian technology & innovation sector.

Let's work together to produce a result for Australian Technology Innovation.

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