The clean tech sector
There are more than 1300 clean technology companies in Australia. The sector also directly employs more people than the automotive industry, if the Australian Cleantech Review, published in March, is accurate.
The review also identifies “very significant” investment opportunities from north Asian countries and an increasing demand for clean technology solutions in industry, provided there are “immediate bottom line benefits” from the technology.
On the other hand, clean technology is still getting its act together, and while the $29 billion in revenue its 1340 companies gained last year was “equal in value to a quarter of the manufacturing sector”, says the review, the area could do with a little help developing and commercialising some of the efficiency solutions it could bring to big business and the household user.
“Not all of them are generating revenue,” Marc Newsom, the federal government’s clean technologies supplier advocate, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“Not all of them have a commercial product. They’re at different stages of commercialisation, and some are funded by family and friends and are working in their garage and off the lab bench.
“About 70 per cent of the companies are in demonstration mode and a lot of them are at pilot scale demonstration, which is where they’re trying to get access to funding that will support the next stage of their scale development.”
Pushing green manufacturers forward
In response to the need from clean technology entrepreneurs for a bit of a kick along, the federal government launched the Australian Clean Tech Comp in 2011.
The 30 best high tech, high skill companies with a service or product will get “intensive mentoring” on how to get their ideas to market. The overall winner will compete against the world’s best in a global competition.
“By putting them on a pedestal you actually create gravitas for overseas investors and buyers to come to Australia,” said Newsom.
“And by an example, SMAC Technologies [an air-conditioning technology manufacturer], the winner just over a year ago, won 90 contracts in Asia. So we know it works."
This year, the third round of the competition was partnered by Dairy Australia, ARENA and American 3D design giant Autodesk, who simultaneously expanded their Clean Tech Partner program into Australia and New Zealand in conjunction with the Clean Tech comp.
As is the government, Autodesk is calling for Aussie innovators to put their best green ideas forward. The fifth expansion of its partner program, which also runs in North America, Japan, Europe, Israel and Singapore, was launched in Australia in March.
“With the size of the clean tech market, certainly the appetite for Australian companies and entrepreneurs to get involved in it, we thought it was a really quite sensible that we also got a Clean Tech Partner program in concert with the clean tech comp,” explained Karsten Hojberg, the manufacturing sales development manager for APAC for Autodesk.
Hojberg’s company’s technology, which includes software covering product lifecycle management and its Autodesk Inventor 3D CAD design program for digital prototypes, is offering its software to successful Australian applicants for the partner program. While useful, Autodesk’s premium products are seldom described as cheap, and it is offering $150,000 worth of its software for $50 to clean tech innovators seeking affordable simulation.
Successfully 3D simulating was “one of the most critical aspects of the manufacturing process,” Hojberg told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“When you talk about any aspects of design, any reduction in failure or reduction in risk or even, when we’re talking about sustainability, any issues around how sustainable a product will be in terms of its material or usage is all done at the design phase.
"So if you’re able to use a methodology like digital prototyping to be able to do your design process you have to be able to simulate that digital process as it would turn out in the real world.”
Making grey water solutions
Enter Nexus eWater, Autodesk’s first Australian Clean Tech Partner. Nexus is a maker of on-site water and energy recycling technology, and claims that its reCycler product, which recycles grey water for reuse and extracts waste heat in the water to be stored in a hot water tank, uses 75 per cent less energy and 45 per cent less water than regular methods.
Nexus’s product is in the process of being commercialised and CEO Craig Richmond describes his company, which began in 2009, as being a “classic start-up early stage venture".
“We’ve only just taken our first equity investment in the last few weeks from an investor in the United States,” noted Richmond.
“And the United States at this point is a key market opportunity and we are very active over there hoping to bring our products to that market from later this year onwards.”
Nexus used Autodesk Inventor for prototyping purposes, designing and simulation testing a tank for capturing grey water that would have cost $10,000 to build a prototype of to test the pressures t would be exposed to in the ground.
“With this modelling software that we’re using through Autodesk we’re actually able to model its performance and strength and ensure it will cope with the environment that they will be installed in, without the actual physical prototypes,” he said.
“For a cash-strapped business such as ours, this process has proven to be invaluable.”
Click on the below links for more information on either this year’s Australian Clean Technologies Competition (entries close on June 3) or the Autodesk Clean Tech Partner program.