the START-UP start-up THE ENTREPRENEURS entrepreneurs TAKING taking SILICON silicon VALLEY valley BY by STORM. storm.
cleverly CLEVERLY CRAFTED craFted DESIGNS designs MAKING making THEIR their MARK mark ON on THE the WORLD world STAGE. stage.
Four CHEFS cheFs FOUR WHIPPING whipping UP up SUCCESS success IN in KITCHENS kitchens WORLDWIDE. worldwide.
TOP top RESEARCHERS researchers BRINGING bringing MEDICAL medical BREAKTHROUGHS breakthroughs TO to MARKET. market.
CONTENTS JANUARY 2012
WELCOME Welcome to Australia Unlimited, the magazine that showcases the creativity, intellect and energy of Australia’s entrepreneurs, researchers, business leaders and creatives. From innovative social enterprises to groundbreaking health solutions, and high-tech designs to daring ventures, Australian products and services are making waves around the world. In this issue of the magazine we introduce you to the savvy young start-up entrepreneurs who are turning their ideas into well-funded businesses in the high-tech heartland of Silicon Valley. Building on a reputation for revolutionary research breakthroughs, Australians are also responsible for medical advances in vaccine delivery and wound healing, as well as scientific progress developing a new fuel source. Without losing sight of functionality, Australian designers and architects are delivering aesthetically beautiful objects and buildings. Whether it’s reinventing conventional objects, like paperweights, or re-envisaging suburbs through the lens of sustainability, their stories will provide an insight into what inspires their projects. If you’re hungry to read, see and hear more about Australian innovators, creative leaders and entrepreneurs, then sign up to receive a free monthly iPad app. Visit www.australiaunlimited.com/ipad Happy reading!
Melbourne designer, Kate Stokes, whose Coco Pendant received high praise at the London Design Festival.
T hink Global: Act Global The Australian tertiary sector’s expertise in cross-cultural training is in high demand in Japan.
ew Frontiers N Mongolia is resource-rich and keen to open its economy to trade with companies like Sedgman Limited.
izards from Oz W T he visual effects of Rising Sun Pictures create magic on screen.
Australian Chefs on the Menu Four Australian chefs are exporting their flair for flavour and love of fine produce far and wide.
Contextual Healing Health Projects International is meeting the global need for hightech healthcare facilities.
Cover credit: Bardia Housman, Patrick Llewellyn, Elias Bizzanes, Ryan Junee and Geoff McQueen. Photographer: Ben Sullivan is a Sydney-based photographer. He has worked extensively in Australia and the USA, shooting campaigns for brands such as Audi, Levis, Vodafone, Bonds, Havaianas, Lee, Wrangler, Ray Ban, Olay, Carlton Dry and Nokia. His editorial work has appeared in Nylon, Oyster, Dazed & Confused and Yen.
CONTENTS | 1
40 DESIGN 2
Designing Ways Meet design stars Kate Stokes, Fukutoshi Ueno, Henry Wilson, Daniel To and Emma Aiston.
48 Inspired Cure-Alls
Innovation is revolutionising how we deliver vaccines and heal wounds.
The Shape of Things to Come Australian architects are creating futuristic designs that combine form and function.
The Good Return One company is harnessing the internet to raise loans for people in developing nations.
20 Medicos To Go
SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY 12 The Young Ones
Young Australians are setting
Silicon Valley abuzz with their start-ups.
ENVIRONMENT uel for Thought F New research is unlocking the agave plantâ€™s potential as an ethanol source.
Security Check Three companies shed light on doing business in the closely guarded world of defence and security.
s a healthcare trouble-shooter, A Aspen Medical rolls out services in some challenging settings.
2 | DESIGN
From everyday objects to top-end collector pieces, Australians are approaching design with a fresh eye that is producing unique and quirky pieces. Meet five designers who displayed their wares and attracted attention at the aptly named Matilda exhibition at the recent London Design Festival.
WRITER Heather Jacobs
KATE STOKES her name in lights
01 T he Coco Pendant. 02 Kate Stokes. 03 M r Cooper, a copper pendant light.
Kate Stokes’ curvaceous pendant light had barely been created and it was winning acclaim. The beauty of her Victorian Ash timber and spun aluminum Coco Pendant was enthused about by international design blogs and local and international design magazines, including Vogue Living and Monocle. The pendant was named Home Beautiful Product of the Year in the lighting category. It was a case of first time lucky for the 29-year-old Melbourne designer. “You never know what’s going to happen when you go out there,” says Stokes, “but I’ve found the Australian design industry to be encouraging and supportive.” Stokes’ creation was one of the most popular designs at the London Design Festival’s Matilda exhibition. It was also exhibited at Melbourne’s 2010 Fringe Furniture Festival, where it picked up awards including best lighting design, best market-ready design and best design for commercial application. Inspired by a Japanese spinning top, the handmade light is now stocked by retailers, and commands $1,500. More than 300 lights have sold since their release a year ago. Stokes handcrafts each light, producing about 20 each month.
Manufacturing her creations can eat into her design time. Consequently, she is hoping that, within five years, she can grow the collection and license the products to larger international companies. For now, production is about to ramp up via Matilda’s founder Jenni Carbins, who will make the pendants in the UK to sell across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Stokes opened her design studio, Coco Flip, in Melbourne’s Collingwood a year ago, with the help of an Australia Council for the Arts ArtStart grant, which provided designers with $10,000 to put towards setting up a practice. She also received the Australia Council’s New Work Grant, to fund new designs. A recent six-week internship in New York at design studio Rich Brilliant Willing gave Stokes a shot of confidence. “The more I expose myself to people like that who are doing fabulous things, the more I realise that the design community internationally isn’t as big and as scary as it may seem,” says Stokes. “It’s really important to travel and see what’s happening in other parts of the world.” Stokes already has her eyes wide open to the rest of the world. At 17, she moved to Italy to work as a nanny. She was meant to be away for a year, but shifted to Ireland instead and travelled extensively throughout Europe. On her return to Australia, Stokes enrolled in an architecture degree, but
DESIGN | 3
after a year relocated to Canada. Back home again in Perth, she switched to industrial design and found her groove. “I was originally drawn to architecture because I have a real love of art and the creative path is something I wanted to pursue,” she says. “I really loved physics and mathematics in school and wanted to find a way to combine the rational side of the brain with the creative. One thing led to another and that’s the path I have followed.” Stokes has released her second product, Mr Cooper, a copper pendant light that was inspired by the old tin can telephones she used to play with as a kid. “It’s quite a masculine light, the lines are quite hard and I envisioned it would be in a gentlemanly bar with whiskey and cigars,” she says. Although she finds a lot of freedom in lighting design, there are plenty of forms Stokes would still like to explore. Her philosophy is based on the Swedish word ‘lagom’, which roughly translates as ‘not too much, and not too little’. “A few people have referred to me as a lighting designer and I don’t think of myself as only lighting,” says Stokes. “I’m looking into designing an Ottoman range, I’d like to work with rug manufacturers and bring in the graphic design element and move onto lounges, coffee tables and other designs.” Before she knows it, Stokes will have a full house.
4 | DESIGN
FUKUTOSHI UENO playing dress-ups with Akira Isogawa
When Fukutoshi Ueno arrived in Brisbane from Japan in 1993, his aim was to study English. He had dreams but they didn’t include creating unconventional wooden furniture that would win a place among the National Gallery of Australia’s permanent collection. Once his English lessons were out of the way, Ueno followed his passion for creating beautiful things and studied interior design at the Queensland College of Art and the Queensland University of Technology. Ueno’s breakthrough moment as one of Australia’s top designers came through a collaboration with another Australian of Japanese background – acclaimed fashion designer Akira Isogawa. Together they produced the Dress-Code Collection, which features Ueno’s wooden furniture, Code, clad in Isogawa’s kimono-inspired designs. Ueno’s Code can be used as a stool, table or shelf. The collection debuted in Tokyo in 2008 and has since been exhibited in Australia and the UK. Developed with grant funding from Arts Queensland, the premier collection was released as a limited edition of 50, retailing for $4,600 apiece. The range has been extended to non-limited pieces, an acrylic version and a flat-pack model. Upon meeting 10 years ago, Ueno and Isogawa were able to bond over their common cultural background as Japanese artists based in Australia. “Akira is passionate about virtually everything and is constantly looking for
04 The Dress-Code Collection. 05 Fukutoshi Ueno.
new challenges, as am I,” says Ueno. “He is one of the most stimulating creative people I have ever worked with. ” The duo wanted to explore collections that reflected “not only our individual artistic practices but also our shared traditional culture in modern ways”, says Ueno, whose own work combines many dualities including the old Japan of his origins and the vibrancy of Australia. “I try to create organic forms derived from nature with a contemporary feel, embedded in a sense of timelessness,” Ueno says. “Many of these qualities are bound up in my native culture. Coming from a Japanese background, I feel myself moving between the austere beauty of ancient Japanese tradition for example, the ceremonies associated with Shinto and Buddhist temples as well as the dazzling sight and sounds of the contemporary world for example, the Shibuya district of Tokyo.” Code was inspired by the symbols given to the mistresses of the 11th century Japanese nobleman Hikaru Genji.
A career highlight came for Ueno when the National Gallery of Australia added Dress-Code to its permanent collection, something he considers a great honour. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself to ask if it is all real,” he says. The 2011 London Design Festival’s Matilda exhibition was Ueno’s third London show; for the past two years he has presented his art at the contemporary design show, 100% Design London. Ueno’s final show of 2011 will be at home in Queensland. After that, he’ll retreat to his studio, planning new creations and designing for private clients. He will also journey back to the seaside town of his birth – Fukuoka – where he will seek out local craftspeople whose skills he wants to promote internationally as a way to help preserve their fine quality handcrafts. Ueno’s next collaboration will be with Brisbane fashion label Easton Pearson. He remains tight-lipped on the details, but it will be available in early 2012 and he promises it will be fun.
DESIGN | 5
HENRY WILSON a master recycler
06 P ortrait of Henry Wilson. Photo credit: Sam McAdam/ NEWSLIFEMEDIA. 07 T he A-Joint.
It was a case of fourth time lucky for Sydney designer Henry Wilson, who won the coveted 2011 Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award after four years of being in the final four. The 28-year-old received Australia’s richest design award for the ‘A-Joint’, a multi-use joinery system that can morph from a table to a bench, market stall or shop fit-out. “It is comforting to think I won with a piece I am truly proud of,” says Wilson. The design was used as bench seats in the pop-up café at the 2011 London Design Festival’s Matilda exhibition. The beauty of the creation is that it’s easy to assemble from pre-cut timber and is recyclable. “It’s my comment on the value of democratic design, in that it’s opening up design to being a platform or a system that we can all use,” says Wilson.
“It’s fairly cheap to buy. It’s made in Australia, at this stage, and has a really diverse use ... It’s very easy to build, it doesn’t use any nails so you can take the wood out and reuse it in some other way, and you can make several sets of legs and put different ones in.” Wilson recently returned to Australia following two years of study at the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He went to the design school after winning a Huygens Scholarship from the Dutch government. At first, he had wanted to create “fancy furniture” but came away believing designers can play an important role in society via sustainable design. “The idea is that by applying new thought, time and material to an object firmly perceived to be a classic, we are forced to consider it in a new way,” says Wilson. “Maybe we don’t need to make more and more things for the design world, but we can rethink some of the things that already exist.” Wilson’s postgraduate project, Things Revisited, gave six design classics a twist. An enamel coffee pot was adapted to make an electric kettle, a Kikkoman soy sauce lid was tailored to other products, and a stand was added to the classic Le Creuset pot so it could be served directly on the table. His signature piece was his LED Anglepoise lamp. He remade the lamp by hand, outsourcing the shade and then fitting it with a low-energy LED bulb to replace the original incandescent bulb. In a similar vein was Wilson’s Tolix chair cover, which he fitted over an ‘A’ chair originally made for factories in France at the turn of the last century. Wilson’s vegetable-tan leather covers wear in over time and he is in discussions to have them stocked in a major UK and US store. They are already on sale at the pop-up gallery and workshop Trent & Henry, which Wilson opened in Sydney’s The Rocks with fellow Australian designer Trent Jansen. It’s opportunities like this that drew Wilson back to Australia, along with the realisation that there’s more chance of making an impact on the design world from Australia. “There are not that many people in Australia doing what I do,” he says. “That gives you a great chance to leap to the international scale because you’ve kind of got the voice of a country behind you.”
6 | DESIGN
DANIEL EMMA from little things big things grow
Even in everyday objects, there can be beauty. And uncovering it is winning young husband-and-wife team Daniel To and Emma Aiston plenty of attention. The young couple’s label Daniel Emma is best known for taking ordinary desktop objects, such as stationery containers and paperweights, and reinventing them into hip geometric forms. The duo have emerged as two of Australia’s most awarded young designers, with exhibitions in London, Milan, Tokyo, Melbourne and Sydney. Their handmade designs, which are made in Australia, sell for between $A65 and $A240. Daniel Emma’s ‘Basics Collection’, which includes a paperweight, pendant light, paperclip holder and mirror, won Australia’s richest design award – the 2010 Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award. The prize included $A30,000 in cash and a trip to Italy to attend the Milan Furniture Fair. Guest judge Neale Whitaker, editorin-chief of design and fashionable living magazine belle, describes Daniel Emma as “the complete package”. “They display a proactive independence of spirit, brand awareness, great interaction with their end-user and a reliance on local production,” Whitaker says. “One of the judges commented on the simple ‘heart and emotion’ of Daniel Emma’s well-edited range, which is both international and uniquely Australian in its appeal.” The young couple – To is 27 and Aiston is 26 – met at the University of South Australia. He had dreams of becoming an artist and she was heading towards architecture, but they both ended up studying industrial design. The pair moved to London in 2007 after Aiston won a SOYA Qantas Spirit of Youth Award. Part of her prize was an internship with Marc Newson, Australia’s most renowned industrial designer, who now works in the British capital. Aiston went on to work for another high-profile design studio, Thorsten van Elten, while To headed to studio Committee. Their UK experience gave the Adelaide couple the confidence to start their own studio. It also helped clarify their direction – they realised they
DESIGN | 7
08 D aniel To and Emma Aiston. Photo credit: Sharyn Cairns/ NEWSLIFEMEDIA. 09 Brass paperweights. 10 Stationery containers. 11 Pen holder.
wanted to design products in Australia, particularly in South Australia, making things in small batches using local manufacturers. To and Aiston caught the attention of Wallpaper* magazine and their first exhibition at 100% Design London earned them a spot in the magazine’s 2009 Graduate Directory. “That was a nice little encouragement,” says Aiston. “We felt confident … that people liked our aesthetic and liked what we were doing.” Returning to Adelaide for their wedding in 2009, they decided to stay. After two years away, they missed their families. Another drawcard was the mortgage on their house on the outskirts of the city; it was cheaper than renting
a London bedsit and the home was big enough to create a studio. “We realised that if we could set up shop anywhere in the world, it would be lovely if it was Adelaide,” says To. “We travel twice a year to various exhibitions and shows overseas, we are definitely connected to the rest of the design world, but we like to come home and relax.” In 2010, Aiston and To won the 100% Design London’s Blueprint Most Promising Talent award for their ‘Basics’ collection. This year the duo also exhibited at the London Design Festival’s Matilda exhibition. “It’s really important that as Australian designers we all work together towards creating interest in Australian design internationally,” says To.
“IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT THAT AS AUSTRALIAN DESIGNERS WE ALL WORK TOGETHER TOWARDS CREATING INTEREST IN AUSTRALIAN DESIGN INTERNATIONALLY.” While they both love stationery, there were also practical reasons to specialise in its design. “Because we were travelling and showing the products overseas we couldn’t design big bulky furniture pieces,” says To. Daniel Emma are set to have a busy year in 2012. They will exhibit at the Direktorenhaus (the Director’s House), the central venue for Berlin’s design and art scene. They also have a show at Sydney’s Object Gallery, which was part of their prize for winning the 2011 Annual Manual: A Guide to Australian Design Now competition. One thing’s for sure – any new small design creations by Daniel To and Emma Aiston are sure to garner a big response.
8 | SOCIETY
The Good Return A new internet-powered funding model is not only helping microfinancing initiatives in developing countries to stretch further, but also to upskill hundreds of small business operators. WRITER Jacqueline Blondell
At an age when many people are wondering whether to wind down their businesses, 62-year-old Kalesita Tu’i is contemplating expansion – and with good reason. Tu’i lives in Tonga with her husband, a farmer whose cropping income is not enough to sustain their family for the whole year. Although their five eldest children are grown up, they have a much younger adopted daughter to support. In the long term Tu’i hopes business expansion will allow her to save for her daughter’s education. Tu’i is a weaver and in order to increase production and capacity she needs A$650 for weaving tools such as the local pandanus leaf fibre, cotton thread and yarns. Normally a bank loan would be out of the question for someone who leads a subsistence existence, but to date Australians have contributed A$225 towards her goal, through the microfinancing program Good Return. Good Return has been running for 18 months and is an initiative of the NGO World Education Australia. WEA is similar to other development agencies in that it provides technical skills to help change the lives of poor people in developing countries. The difference is in the funding model, which, rather than relying outright on donations, focuses on building a relationship between borrowers in six countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Australian lenders. The scheme has positive outcomes for both sides. Borrowers receive funds to help grow their businesses and the lenders get their money back at the end
of the loan period. Whether lenders choose to reinvest in another loan candidate, retain their initial investment, or donate to WEA education programs is entirely up to them. The program was conceived because of the nature of the work the NGO carries out, explains Good Return and WEA CEO Guy Winship. “Ultimately if we expect the people that we are working with to take control of their lives, be independent and not to need us anymore, they need both the abilities and the skills to be empowered to make decisions about their own lives.” That sustainable philosophy gave the Good Return project managers pause for thought. If the NGO’s activities centred on encouraging independence and enterprise in others – helping them to help themselves – perhaps it should set the example with a similar approach. “It was then that we looked for a social enterprise model,” says Winship. There’s a strong link between WEA’s education programs and Sydney-based Good Return’s financing activities. “Every business needs skills and that’s true if you are running a business in Australia or are a rice farmer in rural Bangladesh,” says Winship. “The more skills you have the more productive you are, so education is critical. Lending money to people who don’t have the skills is irresponsible,” says Winship, who illustrates the concept through the example of a woman wishing to become independent through starting a business sewing school
SOCIETY | 9
01 A small business in Indonesia that has benefitted from Good Return.
10 | SOCIETY
“WOMEN GENERALLY LOOK AFTER CHILDREN AND ARE MORE LIKELY TO PROVIDE EDUCATION, SHELTER AND HEALTHCARE ... A DOLLAR GOES FURTHER WHEN WE INVEST IN WOMEN.” uniforms. “We can provide her with education on sewing, sourcing materials, costing, margins and so on. But if she doesn’t have the capital to buy a sewing machine, within a year she’s lost those skills. That is essentially what our program is about – education with credit – both sides of the coin.” Instead of making a loan, people can choose to donate, which is tax deductable, In fact, those who choose this route (30 per cent) tend to donate 30 to 40 per cent higher sums than those who lend. And those who lend higher amounts are also more inclined to relend their initial sum, or then make a donation. “With donations there’s no fee and the money still goes as a loan to an individual, but when it’s repaid we invest it in education for that woman and her village,” explains Winship. Microfinancing, specifically microcredit, is not new and its origins can be traced back to the European credit union movement of the 19th century. But internet technology and the attendant secure payment portals have allowed this movement to progress exponentially. The program uses a local network of microfinance institutions, some banks, some charities, depending on the bank licensing requirements in each country, because, as Winship says, “local agencies know local needs best”. Due diligence is carried out on these potential partners in order to make sure they are able to source borrowers who are able to pay back the loans. Women are the main recipients because they are generally poorer than men and are responsible for childrearing and education. “Women generally look after children and are more likely to provide education, shelter and healthcare to their children. A dollar goes further when we invest in women – so it’s a better use of that dollar,” explains Winship, a former development banker who has worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector.
Unlike commercial loan agreements, borrowers are not charged interest; it’s the lenders who pay an administration fee that translates roughly to 10 per cent of their loan. The reason for this, says Winship, is simple transparency. “You know how much is going to the person – all A$25 – and you know how much is coming to us to manage it – A$5.” The maximum admin fee charged is A$25, even if a A$1000 loan is made. Each local partner sources borrowers and their biographies and lending needs are loaded on to the Good Return site. “We then go out to the Australian public with these stories and anyone can provide the capital to these people. We have all the local Australian Financial Services licensing necessary in order to do this,” says Winship. “Someone might need A$300 and that sum might be made up from a series of A$25 loans. We put all of that money together and send it to the person. That’s the great benefit of internet technology.” Winship and his team have taken advantage of the best software available for the job. The backend of the Good Return website is powered by core banking software Abacus, and the front-end, which includes 02
connectivity with administrative and payment portals, was custom-built by Sydney company Harvest the Net. Lenders receive an email every month to let them know how the borrower is progressing with payments. At the end of the loan period they are sent the full story on how the money has been used. Loan periods vary, depending on the type of business the lender has. Agriculture and animal husbandry businesses tend to work on six-monthly or yearly cycles because borrowers only receive income when crops or animals are sold. Despite the loan periods ranging from six months to a year, repayments are often made weekly, monthly or fortnightly. “We used to send lenders an email each time a payment was made but we found we inundated them,” says Winship. Now emails are sent monthly to lenders detailing progress on the various loans they’ve made. To date Good Return and its up to 3000 lenders have experienced 100 per cent successful repayment on loans, due to not only rigorous due diligence of lending partners but because poor people are, in general, better repayers than wealthy people. “I’ve
Guy Winship, CEO of Good Return. Photograph by John Rintoul.
03 Women in Nepal taking part in Good Return’s literacy program.
SOCIETY | 11
spent a long time in this business and I don’t have a real answer to this, but I know from experience that this is the case,” Winship says. He doesn’t expect repayments to continue at this rate. “I expect a village will have a fire, earthquake or flood or drought and a whole group of loans will go bad. In such a village we might have 10 or 20 loans and we would then have to write them all off.” However, the great art of microfinancing, and indeed banking generally, is knowing when someone chooses not to repay, rather than can’t repay. “When that happens, you have to go after them hard, but when someone cannot repay because of a disaster, then
you need to forgive the loan and let them move on with their lives,” says Winship. Good Return is also spreading the risk across countries. It aims to push out its microfinancing activities to 12 countries by the end of next year. “The technical term is co-variant risk,” explains Winship. “Basically you don’t hold all your eggs in one basket. If we had all our loans in Aceh and there’s a tsunami we lose everything, but if the loans are in different sectors and geographic regions there’s less risk. In part, this is trying to take account of volatility, but there’s not a lot we can do about the global financial crisis.” It’s also a plus that Good Return is
in Australia, which is suffering much less from economic hardship than other developed nations. Australia is also rated as one of the most generous nations, topping, with New Zealand, the 2011 World Giving Index. However, the market for giving has remained competitive over the past two to three years, notes Winship. “People feel that charity should start at home. Local charities such as domestic cancer agencies generally get more dollars than charities focused on international concerns; but also what’s true is that making a A$25 donation to Good Return is not really significant for most people as a proportion of their disposable income.”
12 | SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY
01 From left to right:
Patrick Llewellyn, Geoff McQueen, Bardia Housman, Elias Bizzanes and Ryan Junee.
SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY | 13
The Young Ones The networks, the expertise and serious dollars … There’s no argument about Silicon Valley’s allure among this growing band of successful young Australian start-up entrepreneurs. WRITER Brad Howarth PHOTOGRAPHER Ben Sullivan
Ben Keighran was just 22 when he packed up and moved to Silicon Valley. He’d already founded his own mobile messaging business, bluepulse, back in Australia at the age of 19. But it was in Silicon Valley that he thrived. In 2007 Keighran raised US$6.5 million from US investors, and was named by BusinessWeek magazine as one of America’s top entrepreneur’s under the age of 25. He then left bluepulse in 2008 and spent two years making angel investments and performing advisory roles in San Francisco. While his home town of Sydney looms large in his long term plans, when it came round to getting serious about building a new technology business – this time based on search technology – he had no hesitation about where he would do it from.
“The advertising dollars are here, the search engineers are here, and the experience is here,” Keighran says. His new company, Chomp, is focused on making it easier for smartphone and tablet users to find useful applications amongst the plethora available. The company recently announced a deal with the US mobile carrier company Verizon Wireless, which will make Chomp the default application search engine on all phones on its network running the Android operating system. His backers include Silicon Valley A-list investors such as Ron Conway, who was one of the first to see the potential of Google, and Kevin Rose, co-founder of the popular online information-sharing service Digg. That investors of this calibre are willing to put serious money into a business run by a 29-year-old from Sydney says a lot about the high
14 | SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY
A FEW YEARS AGO THE IDEA OF AUSTRALIAN START-UPS ATTRACTING A-LIST SILICON VALLEY ENTREPRENEURS WAS ALMOST UNHEARD OF, BUT KEIGHRAN HELPED START A TREND THAT OTHER AUSTRALIAN ENTREPRENEURS HAVE BEEN QUICK TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF. 02 Patrick Llewellyn, CEO of 99designs.
regard with which Australian entrepreneurs are held. A few years ago the idea of Australian start-ups attracting A-list Silicon Valley entrepreneurs was almost unheard of, but Keighran helped start a trend that other Australian entrepreneurs have been quick to take advantage of. Recent years have seen a flurry of high-profile investments from American venture capital firms and angel investors in Australian fast-growth businesses. One of the most active has been the tier-one venture capital investor Accel Partners, which in May this year joined in a US$35 million investment round in the Australian design contest company 99designs. This was Accel’s third investment in an Australian company, following an investment of US$60 million in Atlassian Software in July 2010 and US$70 million in OzForex in November 2010. For 99designs’ CEO Patrick Llewellyn that investment represented a rapid payback on his decision to relocate himself and his family to Silicon Valley. Llewellyn was only appointed as CEO in January this year with the responsibility for growing 99designs’ US operation, but soon found himself negotiating the funding round with Accel Partners. Llewellyn says that Accel has bought more than just money to 99designs. “Being in Silicon Valley has created a whole new network, and we are tapping into that network on a daily basis now,” Llewellyn says. “When we start to think about our growth plans, we can feed off some of the really fast growing companies that are based here. “The other day I had lunch with Rob Solomon who was the ex-COO of Groupon. And talking to Rob opened up my mind to what fast paced growth is. He started with 150 employees and when he left they were 13,000. So the network has been super important.” While established companies are
doing well, Australian start-ups have also featured prominently in many of the US-based pitching contests and incubation programs, including the prestigious DEMO and TechCrunch events. Ryan Junee, for example, was the first Australian to participate in the highly-regarded Y Combinator intensive incubator program. “In almost every cycle there has been an Aussie company, and there have been at least two that are going to get in this year,” Junee says. Junee moved across in 2003 to study at Stanford University, before founding Omnisio, a video search technology maker which participated in Y Combinator and was subsequently acquired by the YouTube division of Google in 2008. The latest Australian to be accepted into Y Combinator is 20-year-old Nikki Durkin, whose business 99dresses began by providing a means for women to easily swap fashion pieces using a virtual currency. Her business is evolving rapidly – a process that will be assisted by the Y Combinator experience. “(Y Combinator) is a three-month program ... and at the end it culminates in a demo day where you show what you have done to a whole bunch of investors,” Durkin says. “The aim, if you need to, is to raise money off that.” Durkin says she will use the experience to size up whether the company needs investment, and where it would be best located. She has big plans to develop 99dresses into a competitor to eBay. But doing so requires breaking into the US market, as the Australian market simply isn’t big enough. “I’d love to build 99dresses up to something really big and valuable, because I think it has heaps of potential, especially with the new direction we are moving in,” Durkin says. “We’ve learned a lot in Australia, but what we are doing
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“BEING IN SILICON VALLEY HAS CREATED A WHOLE NEW NETWORK, AND WE ARE TAPPING INTO THAT NETWORK ON A DAILY BASIS NOW.” now is quite different, so we have a lot of assumptions to test out.” On her first trip to Silicon Valley in late 2011 Durkin says she was impressed by the focused nature of the people she met, and she is keen to make more connections. On her trip she took a tour of Facebook’s facilities and was able to get direct information from the company about how to solve problems. “We met awesome people, who live and breathe this start-up life,” Durkin says. “That kind of stuff you only get by talking to people working in the companies, and you can get a sneak peak of what is coming up.” That these opportunities are open to Durkin and other Australian entrepreneurs is in part due to the work of Junee and those who came before him. Junee is now developing Inporia, which is applying search technology to fashion retailing to help shoppers find the latest fashions and bargain items that match their tastes. Like Keighran, he has raised money from A-list Silicon Valley investors. Junee says there is much more to Silicon Valley than just the money. “There is so much support here from other entrepreneurs who are successful and willing to give you advice,” Junee says. “There is a culture where it is almost expected that doing a start-up is a natural thing, and that when you do a start-up it’s risky and you are probably going to fail. The culture around risk taking and doing start-ups is strong.” It is that combination of investment dollars and business opportunity that is seeing Australian companies flock in increasing numbers to Silicon Valley, with an estimated 65 Australian companies resident in Silicon Valley and many more on their way. One Australian who arrived in Silicon Valley well before the current generation is Larry Marshall. He first arrived in 1987 with the goal of com-
mercialising communications hardware developed at Macquarie University. There were far fewer Australian companies on the ground back then. “There were definitely less than five of us,” Marshall says. “When I used to present to conferences 10 years ago it was a novelty to have an Australian accent and be at a venture capital CEO summit. “We are not an anomaly anymore.” Marshall says many of the Australians who have been successful in Silicon Valley have since moved back to raise families, or for other reasons, and have taken their experience – and money – back with them. This has provided the basis for incubators and angel investment groups that are backing the latest batch of US-bound Australian start-ups. “The new generation are more accepting of risk, I think because they tended to make money faster and easier through the evolution of the web,” Marshall says. “This is a really good thing for the country because they are willing to re-invest both in themselves and in each other.” And they are also providing the expertise and contacts that are essential for breaking into Silicon Valley. Junee says he has noticed a marked increase in Silicon Valley-style thinking back in Australia. “When I go back to Sydney I notice there are a lot more people talking about start-ups and it is a lot more in the minds of people graduating from university,” Junee says. A network of Australian entrepreneurs now stretches across the Pacific, and has been instrumental in assisting many start-ups into the market. The notfor-profit ANZA Technology Network and Advance expatriate network have been responsible for giving hundreds of Australian and New Zealand start-ups a taste of Silicon Valley through their
03 Ryan Junee, founder of Omnisio.
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RECENT YEARS HAVE SEEN THE FORMATION OF AUSTRALIAN-BASED INCUBATORS AND ANGEL INVESTMENT GROUPS DEDICATED TO HELPING START-UPS RAISE MONEY AND BREAK INTO GLOBAL MARKETS. 04 Bardia Housman, founder of Business Catalyst and a new incubator in Silicon Valley.
programs, run in conjunction with the Australian Trade Commission. Many more entrepreneurs have visited courtesy of government programs. Recent years have seen the formation of Australian-based incubators and angel investment groups dedicated to helping start-ups raise money and break into global markets. Pollenizer, which is best described as a start-up factory, recently raised $1.1million from successful Australian entrepreneurs, doubling the amount it raised 12 months earlier. That money is being used to fund startups such as Wooboard, a team incentive tool which is now being readied to take across to Silicon Valley. Similarly the Startmate group brings together Australian start-up executives to offer mentoring and seed finance to founders of Australian internet and software businesses. It runs a three-month program which includes an introduction round in Silicon Valley. One of its portfolio companies, the shopping application Grabble, was acquired in November by US retail giant Walmart. Australian entrepreneur Bardia Housman is hoping to extend that assistance further. Together with partners he has bought a warehouse in San Francisco’s start-up epicentre, the South of Market (SoMa) district, and is turning it into an incubator. Housman sold his Australianfounded software company Business Catalyst to the Silicon Valley software maker Adobe in 2009, and subsequently left that company in May this year. “The idea is to get this space ready for a couple of hundred people,” Housman says. “When I came out here I thought it was pretty difficult – there were a lot of questions that I had, that I didn’t have the network to answer. And now I get hit up by entrepreneurs at least once a week asking questions.”
Like many other Australian entrepreneurs, Housman has been infected by the buzz that permeates Silicon Valley. “It is just such a massive amount of energy,” Housman says. “You go to any number of coffee shops and there are people just punching code on their laptops. You get a feel for how big the Valley is and how many people are involved in wanting to build great products, which is why it is so important that Australian companies come across for a couple of weeks to get a feel for it.” Elias Bizannes first moved to San Francisco to develop a project that aimed to make it easier to move data between social networks. But it was through the real-world Silicon Valley contacts that he formed that he wound up being offered a job with Charles River Ventures. In his spare time Bizannes has been developing programs to support entrepreneurs and start-ups from Australia and around the world. He is the driving force behind StartupBus, which began in 2010 as a light-hearted idea of taking 25 entrepreneurs on a business-building road trip to the emerging technology conference South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin, Texas. StartupBus grew six-fold in 2011, and 1,200 people are expected to participate in 2012. He is now developing StartupHouse, which will be an incubator to fund the people he finds through StartupBus. “When they are ready I can get them into the incubator for three months and give them access to the network that I have in the investor community and the media,” Bizannes says. There is no shortage of fresh Australian companies wanting to test their wares on the other side of the Pacific. Geoff McQueen of Internetrix arrived in the US this year and has launched his company’s key software product Affinity. McQueen is now working on building his team and raising funds.
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05 Elias Bizzanes, the man behind StartupBus and StartupHouse.
In the past, residency restrictions made setting up in the US difficult, but McQueen says it’s now easy thanks to the E-3 temporary business visa, which is available only to Australians. The hard part definitely comes after touching down. “You are competing against the best in the world,” McQueen says. “And as a consequence it is a lot harder to succeed when you get here than it looks from a distance. But having said that, it is not an impossible mountain to climb.” Rebekah Campbell is still deciding which US city she will use to launch her social sales tool Posse into North America. Posse enables music fans to earn rewards from promoting concerts and merchandise, with more than $700,000 in sales made through the site to date. Campbell says her push into the US will also focus on extending the concept to promote retail brands.
THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF FRESH AUSTRALIAN COMPANIES WANTING TO TEST THEIR WARES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PACIFIC.
0 6 Rebekah Campbell, CEO of Posse.
She has already raised capital from A-list Silicon Valley angel investors, including a member of the founding team at eBay, thanks to a series of introductions from the Australian investment company MLC. “People really responded to the idea, even though we were at an early stage,” Campbell says. In particular she impressed Bill Tai from venture capital firm Charles River Ventures, who was instrumental in putting together Posse’s $1.1million angel investment round. “Because we eventually want to end up as a Silicon Valley company we thought it would be great to have someone like Bill on board now, to help us get to the next stage,” Campbell says. “Australia has been a great test market, but now it is working well, it is time to start growing. If we get it right, the US is the big prize.”
Image supplied by Rebekah Campbell.
“I CAN GET THEM INTO THE INCUBATOR FOR THREE MONTHS AND GIVE THEM ACCESS TO THE NETWORK THAT I HAVE.”
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FUEL FOR THOUGHT Agave fuel looks set to deliver a cure for the world’s peak oil hangover. WRITER Jonathon Moore ILLUSTRATOR Wesley Valenzuela
With concerns about peak oil and the need for increased energy security, not to mention the pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, sourcing a reliable, sustainable alternative fuel is a key challenge in our energy-hungry world. However, in the research labs of the University of Sydney and the sandy arid fields of rural North Queensland, an unusual suspect is bringing something very exciting to the table. In a novel approach, Dr Daniel Tan, a senior lecturer in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, in collaboration with Oxford University in the United Kingdom, has analysed the potential to produce bioethanol from the agave plant, a high sugar succulent widely grown in Mexico to make the alcoholic drink tequila. Bioethanol, or simply ‘ethanol’, is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar and starch components of plant materials on a commercial production scale. It can be a fuel source in its own right or, more commonly, is used as a petrol blend – a proven method for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, ethanol itself is not an entirely new concept. While still only a small portion of the market, worldwide ethanol production grows each year and it’s estimated that it will have displaced more than five per cent of the world’s standard petrol by 2013.
Currently, the United States and Brazil lead the way, accounting for 88 per cent of the world’s ethanol production. Through a 30-year-old industry, Brazil has developed a fully sustainable biofuel market, where all light passenger vehicles operate with petrol blended with no less than 20-25 per cent ethanol. In the United States, where more ethanol is used than anywhere else in the world, most vehicles use blends of at least 10 per cent ethanol, while a large share use blends of up to 15 per cent. Australia has a small ethanol industry in comparison. It is currently producing the fuel at three facilities on the country’s east coast from sugarcane, wheat waste products and sorghum, a species of grass. It is blended with petrol and sold as ‘Unleaded E10’ at major fuel stations across the country. While sugarcane and corn are established sources for the production of ethanol across the world, their contribution to the industry is increasingly the subject of criticism. Both these crops are a major source of food, they require a large amount of maintenance and water to grow well and they also tend to occupy higher quality agricultural land. Dr Tan, whose main research interest is in heat tolerance in crop plants such as cotton, chickpea and wheat, turned his attention to agave after discovering its tolerance for extreme
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THIS RESEARCH INTO AGAVE USE MAY BRING GREAT BENEFITS TO COUNTRIES WHERE THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT ISSUES RELATED TO FOOD, WATER AND FUEL SECURITY. heat of up to 60˚C. “This makes it one of the most adaptable plants, capable of tolerating global warming and climate change,” Dr Tan says. Primarily Mexican, agaves also grow abundantly throughout southern and western United States and central and tropical South America. The heart of a fully matured plant is stripped of its leaves and then heated to remove the sap which is, in turn, fermented and distilled. Dr Tan and his research collaborators analysed the production of ethanol from the agave plant in a hypothetical farm and production facility. As commercial production of ethanol from agave is not yet an established process, the study was based on knowledge of both facilities cultivating agave for production of tequila in Mexico and the established Brazilian sugarcane industry. Dr Tan says agave has not been widely cultivated as a fuel source, but it promises some significant advantages over existing sources of ethanol such as
sugarcane and corn. “The agave plant is probably one of the most promising crops we can grow to produce ethanolbased fuels,” Dr Tan says. “It can grow in arid areas without irrigation; it doesn’t compete with food crops or put demands on limited water supplies.” In Australia, where water supplies are scarce but arid and sandy land is not abundant, the potential of agave as an alternative source for the production of ethanol is clear. Dr Tan and his research colleagues believe that, if successful, agave plantations like the trial farm in North Queensland could be set up in countries with environments similar to Australia, such as Africa. This research into agave use may bring great benefits to countries where there are significant issues related to food, water and fuel security. This is particularly the case in Africa, which has large amounts of arid land but little food-producing capacity. Agave plantations may open the door to a brand new industry.
In response to this desktop study by Dr Tan and his colleagues, a test plantation of agave has now been sown at the Kalamia Estate in North Queensland. While the plantation is still growing, initial progress of the crop has been positive. The plants survived their first two wet seasons, including Cyclone Yasi, and have been developing at an acceptable rate. The next step will be to harvest the matured plants and undertake an experimental program of processing them into ethanol. A key finding from the study was that ethanol produced from the agave plant has a ‘positive energy balance’, meaning that the energy created is greater than the energy expended in producing it. The energy balance was found to be five units to one. “This compares favourably to the highly efficient sugarcane, and to the less efficient corn as a source of biofuel. It also compares favourably to sugarcane-derived ethanol for its ability to offset greenhouse gas emissions.” Dr Tan believes an agave production facility would be self-fuelling, with the plant’s woody by-products matching the production facility’s energy requirements. “One day in the future, perhaps, large-scale farms of the agave plant could be established in Australia’s arid inland,” Dr Tan says. It would certainly provide a novel and greenhouse-friendly solution to transport fuel problems.
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Medicos to go By operating in some of the world’s most challenging environments, a specialist medical services provider has become one of Australia’s healthiest businesses. WRITER Toni Jordan 02
Timor-Leste, 640km north-west of Darwin, is one of the world’s newest countries, blessed with cultural and natural riches. Independence from Indonesia in 2002 has, however, resulted in a range of challenges for the young nation, including damaged infrastructure and substantial public health issues. There are currently around 500 Australians and New Zealanders living in Timor-Leste to help with reconstruction and stability: soldiers, civilians and federal police. Part of the support structure for these workers is a hospital provided by Aspen Medical, a world leader in medical problem solving. “When we were awarded the contract for Timor-Leste, we needed to provide all the people and equipment to run a level 3 hospital,” says Aspen’s managing director, Glenn Keys. “And it had to be fast. We worked to a six-week deadline to be up and running.” When Keys says “all the people and equipment”, he’s not exaggerating. Aspen, through prime contractor Toll, supply the Australian Defence Force in Timor-Leste with all clinical and associated medical staff, including surgeons, anaesthetists, paramedics, critical care nurses and radiologists. Aspen’s twobed trauma hospital, equipped and ready for almost any emergency, needs pharmaceuticals, consumables and blood. “It was an unbelievable task,” says Keys.
“It was Herculean.” And that impossible six-week deadline? “We were ready in four and a half,” he says. The Aspen Medical story seems a classic tale of a smart, entrepreneurial company making good on the world stage: projects like the successful Timor-Leste operation have seen the company that began in 2003 reach a turnover of over AU$85 million in 2011. But it’s also a story of two best friends combining their strengths and shared ambitions. “Andrew and I have been best mates since high school,” says Keys of co-founder Dr Andrew Walker. Both Keys and Walker have military backgrounds, so Aspen’s association with the ADF seems logical – but that’s not where the company began. “I’d been visiting England when Tony Blair was completely restructuring the way health services were being delivered,” says Keys. “I could see that health management needed an entirely new outlook.” Keys, a former Australian Army flight test engineer, had the project management and logistical skills to manage the delivery and Walker, a former army doctor who owned 16 medical clinics around Australia, had the clinical experience and expertise. Together they proved a formidable combination. While Aspen has earned a reputation for excellence of care in challenging environments, some of their earliest projects weren’t in developing nations.
01 An Aspen Medical healthcare worker treating a boy from the Solomon Islands. 02 Aspen Medical’s emergency care facilities are on the Solomon Islands.
“One of our first contracts was in the UK,” Keys says. Aspen was contracted to completely review orthopaedic surgery in England, for the UK National Health Service. Following that, the company worked on a problem that persists in hospitals everywhere: queues for elective surgery that have grown out of control. “We were hired to clear surgical waiting lists in England,” Keys says. “We performed 5,000 hip and knee replacements, 7,000 minor orthopaedic procedures and 5,000 outpatient appointments in 12 months.” In a separate project, Aspen Medical cleared a two-year waiting list for cataract surgery in Northern Ireland in two weeks. “That meant that 200 people who’d been waiting for a 20-minute procedure could see for Christmas,” Keys says. Aspen’s base in Canberra has proved no disincentive for overseas clients. “For that project, the client first contacted me on the weekend and asked if I could meet them in Northern Ireland on
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Monday. So I was in Northern Ireland on Monday.” From 100 staff running the National Ambulance Company in the United Arab Emirates, to providing one nurse to service a mine site in outback Queensland, every contract has its own challenges. Keys believes a key element of success is the project team: “We have terrific project managers on the ground in the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.” Some of those project staff have grown into other roles within the company. Director of operations Matt Hughes, a registered nurse, began with Aspen in 2004 as part of the aeromedical evacuation team. In Hughes’s view, one of Aspen’s most interesting contracts has been its work in the Solomon Islands providing health services to the Australian Federal Police, Australian Defence Force members and Australian government employees. “We’ve been there since 2004 with around 40 staff,” Hughes says. “We provide primary health care, emergency care, pathology, radiology, dentistry, surgery, ambulances, environmental health and aeromedical evacuation.” The scale of the Solomons’ operation was apparent from the beginning. “When we were tendering for the business, we made a day-long presentation outlining our solution,” Keys says. The question was then asked: had Aspen Medical managed a project of a similar scale before? A reasonable query, and Keys’ honest answer was no. “But no one had,” he says. “Nobody had pulled together all the different components to deliver a complete healthcare solution in such a remote location to Australian healthcare standards.” The Solomon Islands project is also an example of the way the company works with local communities. “We employ quite a few locals in the Solomons,” says Hughes. “Administrators, drivers and general duties staff. In some areas, we’ve also trained our locally employed staff to provide elements of the environmental health service.” These services include
mosquito control for malaria and food and water testing. “We work hard at community engagement and have very good local connections.” While Hughes stresses that “no nurse’s job is average”, he’s aware that Aspen’s worldwide focus makes his work different from most. “[It’s] an incredibly exciting company to be a part of,” he says. “It doesn’t come without its challenges, but the excitement factor, from a personal perspective – it’s been an amazing ride.” These challenges include finding unique solutions for individual problems. In a world of mass-produced services, there is no room for a cookie-cutter approach. “We are providing very high quality services in all kinds of different locations,” Hughes says. “There’s not much we wouldn’t tackle. We always think: how are we going to do this?” Keys agrees: there’s only one criterion that leads to Aspen turning down contracts. “We do independent security assessments to make sure each and every project is safe for our staff,” he says. “That’s the overriding factor.” It’s this attitude that ensures a bright future. The company’s most recent expansions have been to Canada and Papua New Guinea, in 2011. “The United Arab Emirates and the rest of the Middle East will continue to be growth areas for us,” Keys says. “We’ve just signed our first major contract with
03 The highly skilled staff at Aspen Medical includes aeromedical evacuation teams. 04 Community engagement in action in the Solomon Islands.
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“WE HAVE 500 STAFF WORLDWIDE. WE DON’T JUST MAKE SURE THEY’RE CLINICALLY CREDENTIALLED – WE ALSO CHECK THEY’RE SOCIALLY CREDENTIALLED.” the Defence Department in the UK, and another with one of the major US state hospitals. I also think the resource sector will continue to be a key market for Aspen in the future.” While Keys is proud of every project undertaken, the hospital in TimorLeste holds a special place in the company’s history. On the 11 February, 2008, while returning to his official residence outside Dili from his early-morning jog, President José Ramos-Horta was critically wounded in an assassination attempt. The Nobel Laureate was shot several times in the chest and back. “He was ‘medevaced’ into our facility and our trauma team provided the
immediate life-saving surgical intervention. We stabilised him to a point where it was possible to move him to Darwin,’ Keys says. ‘We had the president in our care for around six hours. Back here at the office in Canberra, it felt like we held our breath the entire time.” After further surgery and some weeks of physiotherapy in Darwin, Ramos-Horta recovered well from the attack. The Aspen medical staff were not forgotten. The president awarded the staff who saved his life the prestigious Timor-Leste Solidarity Medal, the first time it has been presented to nonservice personnel. “Aspen has a job because quality
medical staff are hard to find,” Glenn Keys says. “We have 500 staff worldwide. We don’t just make sure they’re clinically credentialled – we also check they’re socially credentialled. They’re the right people with the right skills and the right personalities.” Keys’ ‘right people’ are part of the reason for Aspen Medical’s astonishing success. “I remember our first Christmas party. It was around my dining room table,” Keys says. “For Christmas 2011 it was a challenge to find a venue big enough for all of us. There are times when I wander around the office and I can’t believe all of this is here.
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Wizards from Oz From Harry Potter’s Hogwarts to Superman’s Metropolis City, Rising Sun Pictures creates whole new worlds with its pioneering technology and helps stretch the imaginations of many of the globe’s leading directors beyond their wildest dreams.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is out on Blu-ray and DVD
WRITER Melinda Ham
01 Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine © 2009 20th Century Fox.
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Three talented computer graphics geeks, at the cutting edge of their industry banded together during the early dawn of the era of visual special effects to go it alone. Trailblazing movies, such as Jurassic Park, had just been released and the friends knew they were onto a winning idea. Tony Clark, Wayne Lewis and Gail Fuller formed Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) in Adelaide in South Australia in 1995 and have never looked back. “Initially we were just doing Australian stuff, mostly commercials, and then our first international break was Red Planet (a science fiction movie directed by Antony Hoffman) in 1999. The visual effects supervisor on the movie gave us the challenge. He was very supportive and we did a really good job that just led to more work,” says Tony Clark, chairman of RSP. To date, RSP has created special visual effects for 73 films, including international features, co-productions and domestic films, and employs more than 150 people. It is one of the leading companies of its kind in the world and the only Australian company solely devoted to creating feature film effects. Warner Brothers is its largest – and most regular – client. Australian visual effects powerhouses such as RSP, along with Animal Logic, Fuel, Illoura and others, are a significant drawcard for making films in Australia. (More than 60 foreign feature films have been shot in Australia since 2000, spending more than A$1.3 billion.) RSP’s credits include five Harry Potters: The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2; The Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King; Pirates of the Caribbean – On
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Stranger Tides; Batman Begins; Superman Returns; X-Men Origins – Wolverine; Australia, and Terminator Salvation. “Initially it took a lot of footwork; a lot of getting on and off planes from Adelaide to LA, three to four times a year, to keep track of which films were coming up,” Clark says. “In the beginning, the location rebate helped get films like Matrix and also the soft Australian dollar, which was worth about fifty cents in US dollars at the time.” Rather than being a disadvantage, Clark says that Australia’s geographic distance from Hollywood has worked in their favour. “With technology, the distance has been significantly eroded and is now not an obstacle with our competitors in other countries,” Clark says. “Since we are in a different time zone, we actually work out of sync with them. They can give us feedback on our progress and then we can make the changes while they are sleeping and give them what they need by the time they wake up in the morning.” The biggest strength of RSP lies in the wealth of talent available, Clark says. “We have people who come to Australia from all over the world to work on our picture-specific projects. That labour market is global,” he says. “But then we have a core group of people who have made Adelaide their home and are our backbone. Australian talent is well-known, with graduates from places like AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School), and with a healthy job market locally, we can cherry-pick and find great people. We have a disproportionate amount of talent in this country.” Having great staff means that Rising Sun’s state-of-the art facility has the
AUSTRALIAN TALENT IS WELL-KNOWN ... AND WITH A HEALTHY JOB MARKET LOCALLY, WE CAN CHERRY-PICK AND FIND GREAT PEOPLE. capability to produce virtually whatever special effect a client can possibly imagine. Typically discussion starts out in two dimensions as the characters, locations, vehicles and events are mapped out using storyboards, photos and 2D conceptual art. “I liken our approach to throwing a bunch of darts from a distance,” Clark says. “You get a scattering of dots widespread across the wall, many will not hit the target but you can find out what works and what doesn’t.”
Finance is also discussed as RSP bids against other special effects companies to win the project with the most cost-effective and creative idea. “The point about visual effects is that they need us because most of what we do can’t be photographed, it doesn’t exist, it’s uneconomic to make or it’s a safety risk,” Clark says. He emphasises that the more creative involvement the company gets to actually engage in the project, the more creative satisfaction they all get.
Their past credits for creating locations include the complex exterior of Hogwarts for the Harry Potter movies. They’ve envisioned futuristic cars, and imagined how robotic hands work, and created visual-effect events with multilayered action that are beyond most people’s wildest nightmares or dreams. One of Clark’s favourite experiences was during work on the Harry Potter movies, when RSP was tasked to develop the Weasley brothers’ wizardry shop; a riotous, magical shop encompassing several floors where anything seems possible. RSP was given quite openended instructions. “We created so many things, like this little dragon that roasts his own chestnuts,” Clark says. “That wasn’t scripted at all; it came right out of one of our guy’s heads. In Batman Begins, they developed the moving background as the bat
02 A finished visual effects-enhanced image from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This image is comprised of multiple computer generated passes (see right).
All images on this page are from X-Men Origins: Wolverine © 2009 20th Century Fox.
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CLARK AND THREE OF HIS COLLEAGUES AT RISING SUN WON AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT THANKS TO CINESYNC.
mobile travels through the backdrop of the many streets of Gotham city, while in Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann, the RSP crew created 5,000 individual digital cows to add to the droving scene. By stark contrast, in Charlotte’s Web, RSP developed the entire animated, photo-realistic character of Charlotte, the very wise and kind “spider-star” of this well-loved children’s story. The difficult brief was for Charlotte to interact with Wilbur, a real-life pig and the other animated characters as well as creating empathy and endearing herself to the hearts of the audience. Advances in technology have also been the saving grace of the Australian special effects industry and RSP has been at the forefront of new ideas. “Ten years ago with Red Planet, we were sending video tapes back and forth,” Clark says. “Then we got hi-resolution Quicktime movies you could send on high-speed internet, but you still couldn’t have as good a discussion about one frame, as if you were all in the same room. It was too abstract.” So Rising Sun Research (the company’s research and development arm) developed cineSync, a special tool that enables different parties in remote locations to simultaneously view the
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Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment
same frame during work in progress. “It allows you to point on the frame and draw a circle around some red dot on a girl’s nose or change something and everyone can see it. It’s actually very simple.” The cineSync tool is now used internationally by the world’s leading directors, such as Steven Spielberg. In February 2011, Clark and three of his colleagues at Rising Sun won an Academy Award for scientific and technical achievement thanks to cineSync. The Academy noted the cineSync team and the nine other recipients had demonstrated “a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures”. Will Clark be able to keep Rising Sun in Australia for the foreseeable future? “We have just opened an LA office but that’s not for production. Personal contact is important. You can’t just be a voice on a telephone. If you have someone on the ground you can gather better intelligence,” he says. “But the rest of us will stay in Adelaide. It’s home.” RSP’s next exciting project, still very much cloaked in secrecy, is to try their hand at making their very own movie. Stay tuned …
03 A scene from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 04 T he Weasley brothers’ wizardry shop, from Harry Potter. 05 A scene from Australia. Photo credit: James Fisher. 06 Happy Feet II. Picture courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Blockbusters head to Australia Touting the many attributes of Australia and why it’s a great place to shoot a film, is what Debra Richards, CEO of AusFilm does best. AusFilm, an arm of the Australian Government, has just had a major victory. Adding to their arsenal of rebates that they can offer overseas’ film companies that produce here, the Australian government recently increased the post-production, digital and visual effects rebate to 30 per cent. “This will really attract more high-end TV series and feature films to come to Australia,” Richards says. “We already have other incentives, great crews and camera operators and talent to put in front of the camera and this is just more exciting news.” Co-productions between Australia and other countries already can get a 40 per cent producers’ offset – one of the most generous offsets in the world – on all their Australian production expenditure if they meet particular criteria. Examples of co-productions so far include Happy Feet II, directed by Australian George Miller that’s soon to be released and Bright Star directed by Jane Campion. Feature films can also get a 16.5 per cent reduction on their Australian location expenditure. Recent movies such as Nim’s Island and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, have taken advantage of this. Its seems that this will be the way of the future; 27 foreign films were made in Australia in the 1990s which grew astronomically to 61 films in the last decade with total budgets of over A$2.5 billion.
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From setting up high-frequency radio networks for counter-narcotics operations to leadingedge aviation weather equipment and the risky business of helicopter-to-ship transfers â€Ś Three Australian companies are in the frontline of the global defence and security sectors. WRITER Cameron Cooper ILLUSTRATOR Paolo Lim
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CODAN LIMITED the case for reinvention
With half a century in business and a stellar list of clients among humanitarian and non-government organisations, electronics manufacturer Codan Limited justifiably felt it had a secure foot in its market. It soon became apparent, however, that the growing availability of the humble mobile phone in developing countries, in particular, would test its business model like never before. The improvement in telecommunications infrastructure meant that clients no longer relied on Codan’s range of highfrequency (HF) radio systems, instead turning to mobiles. CEO and managing director Donald McGurk explains the dilemma in an African market such as Nairobi, for instance. “A few years ago HF radio was basically the communication [tool] that needed to be installed in every vehicle that was to be taken outside the city. Today, it’s a form of communication that’s a last resort for the aid and humanitarian groups. They’re using cell phones and they’re using satellite phones where they can.” Codan faced two options: it could concede defeat, or it could create new markets and improved products. Drawing on the entrepreneurial spirit that led to university friends Alastair Wood, Ian Wall and Jim Bettison creating the forerunner to Codan in 1959, it chose the latter. McGurk says Codan, now a listed business that first started exporting to Papua New Guinea and the United States in 1973, has elected to expand into military, police and security markets which still depend on infrastructure-free HF radio systems that are less vulnerable to enemies disabling repeater towers or debilitating satellite signals. The
evolution has proven highly successful for the Adelaide-based company, which employs about 500 staff at sites in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and India and provides HF radios, satellite equipment and metal and mine detectors. Over the past year alone, it has delivered a sophisticated HF radio network to Kabul for the Afghan National Police; networks for counternarcotics operations in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan; and it is the sole contractor to the US Africa Command for HF radio networks that are used for peacekeeping efforts. The contracts helped Codan amass revenue of almost A$170 million in the 2010-11 financial year, and an underlying net profit after tax of A$23.4 million. This is the second highest revenue and underlying profit in the company’s history. The results featured impressive export earnings growth of more than 40 per cent. Exports represent about 90 per cent of revenue, with products being sold into more than 150 countries. “We’ve had to reinvent ourselves in the last three or four years, and this is where the real kick in our growth has come,” McGurk says.
PRISM DEFENCE securing air and sea
A growing band of innovative Australian exporters is succeeding in the highly competitive defence and security sectors. Among them is Prism Defence, which established itself as an international leader in ship-tohelicopter integration. The speciality entails training pilots to safely land choppers on ships in extreme environmental conditions during the day or night. The company’s niche is in rotary wing flight tests, with Prism staff conducting such trials for the navies of Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Sweden. Notably, trials with the Danes and Swedes have taken the company’s pilots and engineers to the Faroe Islands in the north Atlantic Ocean and off the coast of Somalia, where a European armed force is preventing piracy. CEO Greg Ward explains that ship-to-helicopter integration can be a life-threatening task. “In simple terms, you’re landing helicopters on the back of a moving platform and that platform pitches and rolls as it moves through the water,” he says. “There’s a whole range of problems
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WARD BELIEVES THAT THE INNOVATIVE IDEAS HIS STAFF GENERATE HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL TO PRISM DEFENCE’S EXPORT GAINS.
takes a proactive approach to marketing and procurement. “A large part of our marketing effort is to let ship builders and aircraft manufacturers and even other navies, for example, understand that it’s really important that they consider this sort of analysis and training.” The company monitors naval procurement programs so it knows when new aircraft or ships are being brought into service, which may require platform landings. “If they’re building ships with flight decks or buying new helicopters, that’s largely where our opportunities come from,” Ward says.
MTECH SYSTEMS watching the weather
you encounter trying to land in that environment, like clearly if you [the ship] roll too far, the aircraft could topple or slide off the deck.” Founded in 2004, Prism Defence employs flight test specialists, aerospace engineers, operational specialists and computer scientists who provide consulting services to the defence forces on helicopter flight testing and pilot and ship staff training. This year, its main export activity has been with the Brunei Armed Forces through a contract that has contributed to export earnings growth of 36 per cent in 2010-11. The company also exports its services to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Scotland and New Zealand. Ward says the Adelaide-based company has deliberately targeted a niche area. “There’s limited competition in this space,” he says. “In fact, there are very few organisations around the world that do this, and most of those organisations are government or military organisations.” Service excellence has led to strong organic export growth for the business, according to Ward. “Our first customer was in Denmark and then we did some work for the Swedish Navy
not long after that, and progressively we’ve added other navies like Norway and New Zealand and elsewhere to our customer list.” He believes there are significant ongoing prospects to service a range of naval and private entities that operate helicopters and need to land them on moving platforms. “They could be coast guards or rich people with a big yacht who don’t realise they run the risk of killing themselves every time they fly to it. So there’s a range of opportunities out there for us.” Ward believes that the innovative ideas his staff generate has been instrumental to Prism Defence’s export gains. “We invest a lot of time and effort in getting really smart people on board who are experts in their respective fields, from around the world. We’ve got a number of PhDs here, for example, that we’ve recruited from either the United Kingdom or from various parts of Australia to try and bring them together to help us advance both the process and the technology and the systems.” The advantage of being innovative and clever, he says, is that “it allows us to do things quicker, more efficiently and therefore cheaper”. Ward adds that the company also
Safe landings come from understanding the prevailing weather conditions and associated risks. MTECH Systems, a Victorian-based company, is forging a reputation as a smart exporter of aviation meteorology technology courtesy of its meteorological sensors and advanced weather systems, including a cloud height sensor (providing accurate cloud data), a transmissometer (measuring visibility) and the lightning strike sensor (detecting storm and lightning activity). These sensors form the main components of systems used at airports around the world to assess weather conditions and manage associated flying risks. MTECH has secured two major export deals in the past year. In India, it is supplying 30 runway visual range systems, which assess the visibility available to aircrafts on runways. These systems will be supplied to air bases as part of an air force program to modernise infrastructure. If the project goes to plan, there is an option to roll out the technology at 30 more airfields around the country. In Taiwan, it is providing 14 aviation weather observation systems to the air force.
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GROWTH IN CIVIL AVIATION AS NEW TOURISM HOT SPOTS EMERGE REPRESENT ANOTHER GROWTH CHANNEL FOR MTECH.
With its origins dating back to 1923, the early product range for MTECH’s forerunner included conventional meteorological equipment such as barometers and temperature gauges. Today, the privately owned company delivers a sophisticated range of meteorological information and automated control systems to air traffic controllers and meteorological professionals. Its staff cover the gamut of experience from the engineering, computing, telecommunications and electronics industries as well as civil, military and meteorological organisations. Exports are crucial to the operation, with 98 per cent of sales coming from overseas markets such as Europe, Asia and Africa. CEO Jeremy King says international airports represent the company’s major market. “Aviation weather systems for military applications and airports are our core business, but increasingly we are supplying products like lightning detection systems for mines, railways and military ammunition depots.” Over its long history, MTECH has been conscious of continually evolving to meet market needs. About five years ago, it engaged in a research and development program to upgrade all its key products. “So we went from … a portfolio of ageing core products to having innovative, class-leading technologies. Investment in the latest designs and some attractive product features took us from being the last in the pack to one of the first in the pack,” King says. He is confident the investment in MTECH’s technology will continue to pay off, while price advantages over rivals also give it a competitive edge. “Australia is less expensive to manufacture in than some of our competitors ... In places such as Finland, Germany and France, the cost of manufacturing inputs can be very high.” While King concedes that of the top five or so players in aviation
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meteorology, MTECH is “the smallest of the big boys” in terms of size and scale, he believes a global economic shake-up will play into his company’s strengths. In particular, he expects the rise of Asian powerhouses such as China and India to aid the cause. “In Australia we have emerging markets which are positioned right on our doorstep, when compared with Europe and the US, so China and some of these exploding Asian countries, such as India, are much easier for us to service being close to their time zone. We expect this proximity to the emerging markets to give us a competitive edge over our European counterparts into the future.” Climate change is also creating demand for weather-related technologies. “Global warming seems to be having an increasing impact on our lives, businesses and organisations, so there’s a renewed focus on the need for accurate weather data. This is especially true in civil aviation where we now have bigger planes with more people on them, flying closer together and in increasingly difficult weather conditions,” says King. Growth in civil aviation as airports add new runways, and new tourism hot spots such as Vietnam emerge, represents another growth channel for MTECH. However, it is China that potentially holds the key revenue opportunity. “You don’t really need to say much about China. It speaks for itself,” King says. “There are some incredible statistics about plans to open 45 new airports in the next five years. It’s just a phenomenal amount of growth there ... It’s a market we are looking to for significant growth.” Indeed, MTECH’s export activities stretch far and wide and include smaller nations such as Nigeria, Paraguay and Vietnam. While the company is eager to explore such markets, King says it remains vigilant about contractual and funding
agreements in countries such as Nigeria, which has a chequered international business reputation. “Dealing reliably with foreign banks and making sure that all your commercial arrangements are absolutely watertight is obviously critical everywhere, even more so in some developing markets. Being assured of your business partners and the legality of their operations is always vitally important as well.”
THE FUTURE evolution is the key
At Codan Limited, group commercial manager Phil Marley agrees that exporters must proceed with caution when entering new territories. The company takes a very calculated approach when assessing possible markets and customers. “So, before we even engage in a discussion about selling a product, we spend a lot of time investigating who is making the enquiry,” Marley says. Codan operates from 11 offices around the world, adding to the complexity of its export agenda. “We work through those offices to gather intelligence information and we’re quite geopolitically aware,” Marley says. He adds that Codan remains committed to having a diversified sales base to enable it to cope with market cycles, hence its engagement with additional products such as satellite communications and metal and minedetection technologies. “The mine-detection product is largely humanitarian,” Marley says. “It is sold to military organisations which are looking to find anti-personnel devices, but it’s a product that saves lives and it’s one that we’re proud of.” As it continues its sales evolution from the aid and NGO markets to the defence and security sectors, Codan is aware that it also has to adapt its human resources capability. It has quickly moved from having
salespeople who specialise in highfrequency radio only, supplementing the team with former special services military personnel who understand the business’s new target audience. “They have empathy with the people on the ground because they have lived and worked in their shoes,” McGurk says. The result is that Codan is taking on established market players and offering a credible alternative, for example, to a US$30,000 radio system supplied by Harris Corporation, a renowned Florida-based international communications equipment company. As McGurk explains: “We’re selling the same capability at a fraction of that cost … For non-tactical operations, like border protection, police forces, wildlife, we’re able to get radio equipment into the hands of many hundreds of people.” Clearly, there are challenges as new players such as Codan engage in changing export markets. For example, the fact that Codan is not a North American company is perceived as a setback in some markets, despite the presence of free-trade agreements between Australia and the US. Breaking down such barriers takes time, effort and money. Codan spends about eight per cent of its sales revenue on new product developments in what it describes as “an innovate-or-die model”. “What we’ve had to do is demonstrate that we’re competent and capable and that our value proposition is so compelling that you need to take us seriously.” As it competes in increasingly global markets, Codan is determined to evolve according to market requirements. “Our products are customer driven as opposed to a fieldof-dreams approach,” McGurk says. “We used to [work] on the notion that if we build it they will come. We can’t afford to take that chance in a market that’s so competitive.”
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Think Global: Act Global As the global economic emphasis shifts, corporations are extending into new territories and fast-moving professionals are expected to be citizens of the world. As a result, formal training in cross-cultural communication is booming. WRITER Melinda Ham
01 Japan’s business hub and capital, Tokyo.
The need to develop “globally literate” employees grows as the world economy effectively becomes borderless. Competitive pressures of globalisation are driving companies to venture into new territories. Not only is the universal reach of technology directly affecting – and enhancing – business possibilities, it’s also raising employees’ expectations of career mobility as a means of garnering wider experience. As a result, crosscultural know-how and fluency in the English language are in high demand. These issues have been identified as particularly important by the Japanese government as Japan has become less competitive on the
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global stage. According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2010, Japan dropped dramatically from first place in global competitiveness in 1990 to 27th in 2010. Subsequently, the Japanese Government Cabinet Office’s Japan New Growth Strategy, urged the strengthening of “human resource power to global level” to revitalise the economy. Like many advanced economies Japan faces the demographic challenge of an ageing population which limits the size of its labour force, and crucially, its pipeline of globally literate business leaders. A recent survey by the Japan Business Federation revealed that 80 per cent of its
505 member companies believed the development of global human capital was the most urgent issue they had to overcome to grow their businesses. This dearth of global literacy skills has prompted several top Japanese multinationals to recently appoint non-Japanese executives to senior roles. Fujitsu, the world’s third largest IT services provider with close to 200,000 employees worldwide, highlighted the issue in 2011 when it appointed an Australian, Rod Vawdrey, as president of its global business group. Vawdrey became the 76-year-old company’s only nonJapanese senior executive. His new role is evidence of the evolution that
once traditional Japanese businesses are undergoing. Further evidence of the global literacy bar being pushed even higher comes from two of Japan’s most progressive retailers, Uniqlo and Rakuten, which have announced that they will use only English in all internal communications and meetings at all levels. Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten’s chief executive, says all board members who can’t converse in the language will be fired. Others corporations such as Sharp Corporation has said it will use only English in its Research and Development arm. Such dictates have sent Japanese human resources departments whirl-
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JAPANESE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR LEADERS ARE BECOMING ACUTELY AWARE THAT THEY MUST INCREASE THEIR PRESENCE OVERSEAS AND MAKE THEIR WORKFORCE GLOBALLY LITERATE.
ing into a flurry of activity, looking for training for their staff. Japanese public and private sector leaders are becoming acutely aware that they must increase their presence overseas and make their workforce globally literate. However, the problem is not unique to Japan. Dr Dan Caprar, a lecturer in crosscultural management at the Australian School of Business in Sydney, says that developing “a global mindset” has become vital for businesses worldwide. “Most countries now have a diverse multicultural workforce, even in local companies,” he says. In Japan, the need to “internationalise” has now been identified as a matter of survival, notes Chris Rees, Australia’s senior trade commissioner in Osaka. “It’s a very powerful idea and many Japanese companies are taking this idea seriously,” he says. Austrade recently published a research report that quantified this need. The challenge of building a globalised workforce: Developing Japan’s human capital is based on Japanese government statistics, media reports and interviews with the human resources departments of 27 companies committed to developing their global human capital, as well as in-depth discussions with recruitment and management consultants. In the research study, Japanese senior human resources executives admitted their staff needed adequate levels of spoken and written English applicable to real-life business situations and the relevant skills to operate in a global environment. Other competencies desired by HR managers included debating skills, brainstorming abilities, being able to actively participate in meetings, having the confidence to converse and deal with non-Japanese internal and external
clients, presentation skills and logically setting out arguments. As a result, the report found that some companies such as the electronics manufacturer Hitachi are planning to send a staggering 2,000 new recruits to study overseas in 2012 with assignments in Hitachi’s offices abroad, while pharmaceutical giant, Kyowa Hakko Kirin has created a Global Executive Program and needs external instructors to train 50 senior executives in business administration and global business skills over the next three years. In the quest for global literacy training, Japanese employers are looking to Australian tertiary education providers, in particular, because Australia and Japan already have a shared education past, Rees says. “The Australian ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) sector was founded 20 years ago on Japanese students,” he notes. “The sector has the longest history with Japan of any country in the world. The biggest reason, though, is the sheer quality of Australian education providers. We have enormous strength and experience in course development, and the ability to tailor-make courses is well established.” Australian universities, with solid experience behind them in English language and cross-cultural training, are now answering the call of Japanese companies to meet the urgent requirement for global literacy skills. Recent winner of the Education and Training Award at the 49th Australian Export Awards, the Institute of Continuing & TESOL Education (ICTE) at the University of Queensland, is at the forefront of meeting the needs of Japanese employers who want to tackle global literacy. In March 2012, it will roll out a
new Go Global program to assist in up-skilling Japanese employees for international roles. The new Go Global program “upskills existing Japanese employees for international employment,” says David Nelson, deputy director of the ICTE at the University of Queensland. The program is an intensive course lasting 20-25 weeks and will involve an eightweek Australia-based internship. The immersive nature of the course is a big part of its appeal. Diana Pilling is the managing director of Australian Internships, which places a total of 1,200 students a year from over 60 countries in internships across Australia. Her company will work with the Go Global program and she believes the global literacy training they provide will be invaluable for the career mobility of employees seeking to work across the world stage or in Japan working for increasingly globallyengaged organisations. Career mobility relies initially on the individual’s ability to “sell themselves” in a job interview, observes Pilling. “From an employers’ point of view, they may see the cultural gap and think, ‘This person is not going to be able to talk to our clients. Neither will we be able to joke around and have a normal work relationship with them.’” Training is also required for the differing expectations of current workplace environments. “We expose them to the little cultural differences. In Australia, for example, even senior executives often take their own notes, do their own filing and their own copying,” Pilling says, but such practices are not always found in other parts of the world. “First-hand experience (through internships) helps employees to respond to global demands and
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the changing face of both Japanese and international workplaces.” The initial University of Queensland Go Global program will focus on the pressing need for training Japanese employees. Australia’s proximity to Japan, the fact that it’s in a close time zone and only a few hours’ travel away, makes it an obvious and attractive education destination, according to Rees. Australia is a multicultural country – particularly compared to Japan – so as well as having an “Australian” experience, students can sample other cultures as well; in most universities at least one in five students are from overseas, Rees points out. However, Japan is likely to be only the first stop for Australian education providers in cross-cultural training as
the global market keeps growing, says Rees. “Now, Japan has identified its need, the question is who’s next? Korea is an obvious choice; they have already identified this issue and are committing a lot of resources to it. China is another market that is looming in the future.” The trend for cross-cultural training looks set to snowball, confirms Dr Caprar, who suggests the impact of having more cross-culturally adept employees is definitely for the better. “The important aspect is that people with good cross-cultural training expect diversity,” he says. “Cross-culturally trained people are more tolerant and curious when they look at different behaviour. They don’t use stereotypes, they are not judgmental and they seek to understand diversity better.”
02 Tokyo’s busy financial district.
40 | DESIGN
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
From a suburb-eating robot to one that creates building components all on its own, there certainly are some futuristic ideas coming from Australian architects.
WRITER Heather Jacobs
Looking further afield â€“ not just into the future, but overseas too â€“ is increasingly becoming a mark of the architects who call Australia home. Many are expanding their offices abroad and are garnering attention and awards as they go. Australian architects are being asked to create everything from hotels to hospitals, and even a winery along the Great Wall of China.
01 M aitland City
Bowls in regional NSW. Image by Brett Boardman.
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constructing a community
Curating one country’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Architecture is a great honour. Try curating two. Gerard Reinmuth will be involved in the Australian and Danish exhibitions at the 2012 biennale. He’ll be the co-creative director for the Australian Pavilion, and his architecture firm, Terroir ApS in Denmark, will help curate the Danish exhibition.
The 40-year-old director of Terroir – which he founded in 1999 with fellow architects Richard Blythe and Scott Balmforth – has offices in Hobart (where he grew up), Sydney (where he now lives), and Copenhagen (where his wife is from). Reinmuth estimates 80 per cent of Terroir’s work comes from offshore, split between Denmark and China. Co-director Scott Balmforth is driving the push into China with projects including a 5000-room hotel in Beijing, a visitor’s centre and winery at the Great Wall of China, and a
Super Yacht City – for owners of luxury boats. Reinmuth’s break in Denmark came while he was living there from 2009-2011 and held a launch for the book Terroir: Cosmopolitan Ground at the Danish Architecture Centre. From there, Reinmuth was invited to present a series of lectures and a professor from the Aarhus School of Architecture offered him a guest professorship. Reinmuth accepted, and started the university’s international studio. “We started getting invitations to get involved in projects, so the office
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started by accident,” says Reinmuth. “We didn’t say, ‘This is the thing we have to do, we definitely need an office in Denmark’, it was just something that evolved and we started realising there were great opportunities in having an office there.” Case in point is the $1 billion Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark, for which Terroir are the creative directors, developing the master plan brief as well as working on a social housing project on the Aarhus Harbour. They would not have been considered locally for a project this big without proven experience in building hospitals. “We’ve made a big jump because people can see we’ve built quite a lot, which is unusual for Denmark, where you do a lot of competitions and young architects don’t build a lot ... We know how to put something together, but we’ve also got this research capac-
ity and problem-solving capacity and that’s understood as a commodity in Denmark.” The projects Reinmuth is most proud of are in his childhood home-state of Tasmania. This includes Peppermint Bay, named as one of the top 100 Australian architecture projects in the past 25 years by Architecture Review Australia. It also received an honourable mention at the 2007 Kenneth F. Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architecture Design Award. Reinmuth also holds a place in his heart for the Makers’ Workshop, an initiative of the Burnie Council in Tasmania, which invested $4.5 million in a visitor’s centre in the town, which had fallen on tough times after its paper mill closed. The council wanted to charge for entry, but Reinmuth argued it should be free. “Rather than being a small-town regional tourist icon, it’s actually a
02 Interior of Peppermint Bay in Tasmania.
living room for the whole town,” he says. “And rather than having people pay $20 once a year to go in, they now have people going in every day to buy coffee, see exhibitions and hang out ... [It’s] community-making.” This has been his motivation from the outset. Reinmuth wanted to be an architect because he wanted to be involved in the creation of cities. “Humanity’s greatest achievement in a strange way is the city ... and it’s this fabulous thing that drives our socialisation and commerce and so on. So the idea that you can actually help make the city is something I’ve always found incredibly exciting.”
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transforming the everyday
While studying architecture at the London Metropolitan University, Australian Dirk Anderson and Englishman Eduardo de Oliveira Barata impressed their tutors so much that they were invited to join Urban Future Organization (UFO). UFO operates as a network of independent practices, each office responding to its own locale whilst drawing on the resources of a global collective dotted around the world, including Austria, China, Iceland, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Spain, the UK and the US. Members are involved in all areas of architecture. High-profile projects from the group include the Sarajevo Concert Hall, Castelmola Art Museum, the Mount Etna North Ski resort and the Valle Mullini Project in Italy. “The UFO mentality is directed towards working collaboratively and expanding a skillset that you are interested in,” says Barata. “So instead of simply being part of a design team, it was more along the lines of, ‘Let’s work on a project together where we share responsibility for the work.’ This in turn is an incentive to bring projects in yourself to work with other members of UFO, so effectively it is like having your own company.” Originally based in the London office, Anderson returned home five years ago to open a Sydney branch and Barata relocated to Australia in 2009. One of the duo’s preoccupations is innovative design and construction methods. Using digital fabrication methods of production can cut costs and errors in the design and construction phase and pave the way for greater innovation. Their interest can be seen in a Surry Hills house they worked on known as the “Veiled House”, which looks like it has been layered in lace, an effect achieved by covering the house in a laser-cut screen mounted to the framing. Both Anderson and Barata agree that they’ve had more building opportunities in Australia than if they’d stayed in Europe. Internationally the duo are working on a housing project in Suwon City on the outskirts of Seoul, South
03 Design concepts for a house in the Sydney beachside suburb of Maroubra. 04 The “Veiled House” in Surry Hills, Sydney.
USING DIGITAL FABRICATION METHODS OF PRODUCTION CAN ... PAVE THE WAY FOR GREATER INNOVATION.
Korea, to build 3000 flats within 30 towers. To make the development economically viable, an extreme density of 40 storeys was required. Along with their architectural designs, there are experimental pieces, including an entry to the 2010 Sculpture by the Sea (SxS), consisting of a lightscape installation on the bottom of the pool at the Bondi Icebergs. In a collaboration with interactive designers and a composer, SxS responds to the movement of people by shifting and distorting the landscape. “The movement and interaction of people on the terrace above is replicated through ... imagery projected onto the pool,” says Barata. “When people move on the terrace, their projected ‘fields’ engage with each other. We are interested in taking this project further beyond the confines of the man-made pool either in shallow waters along the coastline, in lakes or in rivers. Beyond changing the location we want to use the water and the topography as a means of changing or abstracting imagery.” The pair are collaborating with other SxS members to develop a number of short-term installations around Sydney’s suburbs. “There are so many visually amazing spaces in the city, especially due to the harbour and natural landscape of the area,” Barata says. Anderson agrees, saying it’s a good time to be in Sydney right now. “There’s currently a renaissance of contemporary architecture in Australia and it’s very exciting to be part of the movement.”
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the rise of the robot
In architecture, the age-old problem is translating the dream into reality: working out how to make this radical curve, or that complex shape. But now robotic fabrication innovative professionals like Dave Pigram, are realising those dreams. Until February 2011, the Australian-born Pigram was happily ensconced in New York, teaching architecture and exploring the impact of robotic fabrication on the future of construction through his architectural firm supermanoeuvre. Now, however, Pigram has been drawn back to Australia to direct the Master of Advanced Architecture in Design Technologies program at the University of Technology Sydney. Pigram took the opportunity to move back to Sydney as he believes Australian universities are rapidly making their mark on the architectural stage. “Schools such as Columbia and the Architectural Association in London were clearly the best schools in the world 10 years ago,” he says. “Now it is opening up, everything has become more even and it is not so clear who the leaders are. I saw UTS as a place with a very clear mandate, and moving very quickly. I basically get free rein to do what I want; it’s a very nice challenge and a good excuse to come back to Australia.” At 32, it’s another chapter in a life that has already seen him spend six years in the US, first as a masters student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture and then with his firm supermanoeuvre, which he founded with London architect Iain Maxwell. Returning home hasn’t meant Pigram has retreated from the rest of the world. He has already travelled to Europe, the Middle East, the US and Canada to participate in conferences, teach intensive workshops and give guest lectures. Then there’s his work with the Fabrication Robotics Network (FRN), a knowledge-sharing platform focused on advanced fabrication, which takes advantage of industrial robotic equipment and algorithmic design techniques.
05 Robot fabrication in action.
06 Supermanoeuvre’s Periscope Tower created in collaboration with Matter Design.
Founded by Pigram and Wes McGee in 2010, the network’s members include the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, UTS and the American University of Sharjah. Pigram has recently written code for open-source software for the University of Sharjah. Instead of creating a drawing between the design and the builder, instruction code can be written directly to the robot. “This is more accurate and efficient in terms of work flow, but it’s [also] much more profound that the actual fabrication constraints, whether it’s material properties, sheet size or the angle that you can cut, can feed back into the design,” says Pigram.
The real game changer will come when you can take a robot to a building site and put it to work. While it would reduce the number of workers, it would also get rid of fairly unpleasant and unsafe jobs. “It’s like the original industrial revolution really; it takes away the worst jobs and replaces them with fewer, very skilled, people programming the remote,” Pigram says. “With the industrial revolution, things got simpler; we lost craft and attention to detail because we can’t afford it. But with a robot we can go back to finely detailed pieces, marking a return to the craftsman’s super-precise attention to materiality. The robot can sense changes in densities in timber and ultimately respond to those ... That level of craft is exclusive at the moment, we can’t really afford high craftsmanship like that, especially for buildings; but with the robot it is possible.” Pigram wanted to be an architect when he was just five years old – long before he even knew what an architect was. Although his vision of what architecture is has changed dramatically, it has followed his interests. “Maybe that’s the beauty of architecture, that it’s incredibly definable; everybody can make their own version of what an architect is.”
DESIGN | 45 07 The proposed Bionic Tower in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
organic visions for the future
Mankind, nature and technology serve as inspirations for Chris Bosse. The 40-yearold was propelled onto the international stage as a key architect on the Watercube, the stunning, futuristic National Aquatics Centre built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “The building is wrapped in a lightweight film, which is also a metaphor for water bubbles. That film … comes from the space industry and is essentially inflated plastic pillows.” Bosse landed the job on the Watercube quite unexpectedly. He’d
arrived in Australia from his native Germany in October 2002, pursuing an interest he’d always had in the island country, possibly because it’s so far from Europe. Within six months of starting a job with PTW Architects, the firm won the international competition to design the aquatic centre. “It was such a good opportunity for me to have a significant impact on a major project internationally that I decided to stay on and help see the project through,” says Bosse. The boxy design won the Atmosphere Award at the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale, which proved another turning point for Bosse. While
in Italy to pick up the award, Bosse hit it off with two other young architects, Tobias Wallisser and Alexander Rieck, who, respectively, were working on the equally high-profile Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and the German research institute, Fraunhofer. The trio launched LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) in 2007, the same year Bosse was recognised as an emerging architect by The Royal Institute of British Architects. Bosse liked the Australian lifestyle, landscape and culture so much that he decided to stay and opened LAVA’s Sydney office. He is the director of LAVA Asia-Pacific, spearheading its expansion into Asia, while Wallisser and Rieck head up LAVA Europe from Germany. There’s also an office in Abu Dhabi and the beginnings of one in Shanghai. Bosse considers the Sydney office a refuge where he can work with his team of 10 staff, designing for the rest of the world. Many of the projects are in China, Germany and the Middle East. Bosse is learning Mandarin and lives in Sydney’s Chinatown. “I spent a lot of time in China, and by spending time in China, we meet people, and ultimately we get some of these projects,” he says. Bosse’s father was an architect and his mother a primary school teacher, so it’s no surprise that he combines architecture with teaching. In 2008, he became adjunct professor and innovation fellow at the University of Technology Sydney, and he’s lectured at Columbia University in New York, the University of California, Berkeley and the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. His burning ambition is to design an icon of the 21st century akin to Sydney’s Opera House, and his inspiration is likely to come from Australia’s natural wonderlands such as the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest or the desert. “Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef provides one of my greatest inspirations for architecture,” he says. “The coral is growing according to mathematical principles that are kind of mystical.”
46 | DESIGN
good things come in small packages
Melbourne architect Andrew Maynard has designed libraries in Tokyo, a luxurious gated community in Hyderabad, India, and more recently he’s been working in Malaysia on three 40-storey mixed-use towers at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre. Despite having worked on a variety of international projects, he considers his finest creation to be CV08, an imaginary robot who consumes the outer suburbs through his front legs. Vaguely resembling man’s best friend, the robot is Maynard’s answer to suburban sprawl, ready to spring into action when we run out of oil and are forced to abandon the outer suburbs because we can no longer afford to drive there. Vast stocks of native flora and fauna are stored within CV08 until they are required to colonise what was previously suburban wasteland. For Maynard, 36, the outspoken founder of Andrew Maynard Architects, the suburb-eating robot makes a controversial statement about the way the world functions. “I try to be deliberately provocative and challenging in the work that I do,” he says. “I am always encouraging people to go smaller; to do less because there are a lot of sustainable, economic but also cultural, reasons [to do so]. It’s much better for families and individuals to have small spaces that are connected to the outside.” A passion for drawing and wanting to impact on the built environment made architecture Maynard’s natural choice. He studied environmental design and architecture at the University of Tasmania, and in 1998, during his final year, he and a friend won a travelling scholarship to the US and Europe, where they saw the buildings they’d only ever studied from a distance.
In 2000, as the Olympics were rolling into Australia, Maynard picked up another accolade – the grand prize in the Asia-Pacific Design Awards – and a second free tour of Europe. Now living in Melbourne, Maynard found working as an employee and “drawing other people’s terrible ideas” frustrating. So in 2003 when he was just 27 – and still quite green – he started his own firm, at first operating out of his house. “I really just thought, ‘You are a long time dead, how many mistakes can I make?’ Quite a few, as it turned out, but they’ll be washed away in time.” Luckily, Maynard landed on his feet, something he attributes to good timing – graduating from university just as Australia’s economy was flourishing.
08 The Tattoo house. 09 CV08, the suburb- eating robot.
“Economically and culturally Melbourne has been incredibly supportive,” he says. In 2010, Maynard was named Best Young Architect by treehugger, a media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. The judges noted that their winner understood “that saving what we have is greener than starting from scratch, and that sustainable design cannot be bolted on”. “As his body of built work grows, it shows every sign of the humour, talent and environmental concern of his conceptual work,” they said. Sustainability comes naturally to Maynard after growing up in Tasmania during the debate around the Franklin Dam. He thinks this sensibility, along with a laidback approach, are qualities that put Australian architects in demand internationally. “I think you’d find most Australian architects are very easy to work with, which goes against the grain of a stereotypical architect,” he says. While the global financial crisis has halted some of these projects, Maynard says branching out abroad made him realise “international work is something we want to do. It’s been fantastic working in Australia but it’s also great to dive into other cultures”. As he does so, it may be wise to leave that suburb-eating robot at home.
DESIGN | 47 10 The Villas at Crown Towers, Melbourne 11 The Garland Side Chair, part of the Blainey North Collection.
the beauty is in the details
Blainey North launched her architectural firm while she was still at university. Now the 33-year-old Sydneysider is hoping to make her mark on the world stage, opening offices in London and Los Angeles. In just over a decade her company has grown to employ a mix of architects, interior designers, graphic artists and product designers – and was recently short-listed for the London-based Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year Award, dubbed the “Oscars of interior design”. Blainey North is one of the few Australian companies to make it into the award’s elite directory of top global designers. North’s bespoke designs range from luxury units overlooking Sydney Harbour to the homes of some of Australia’s top movers and shakers. And she has just launched the Blainey North Collection, a range of custom-designed furniture and lighting that furthers her firm’s desire to design every part of a project to suit its overall aesthetic. For commercial clients, Blainey’s attention to detail goes as far as “doing the toilet signage bespoke”. “It’s kind of going back to the times of Frank Lloyd
THIS UNIQUE ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND QUALITY IS EVIDENT IN OUR PROJECTS IN AUSTRALIA AND IS SOMETHING WE BELIEVE WILL BE APPRECIATED BY THE EUROPEAN MARKET.
Wright, where people designed every little part of the job,” she explains. North has carved out a niche in the upper end of the market and some of Australia’s leading businesspeople and celebrities have her on speed dial, calling to consult before they buy so much as a set of sheets or a new vase. North’s flair for design was evident when she was still at university. She formed her practice after gaining a job designing a house and from that landed more work and began hiring staff. A breakthrough project came when she was asked to refurbish the Hyde Park Club – an upmarket 2000 squaremetre gym and health spa in the heart of Sydney – to look like a six-star hotel. “I realised that I really wanted to design hotels and I feel much more comfortable working at a larger scale,” says North. Her firm has since designed offices, galleries, private clubs and bars. Hotel projects include the InterContinental in Perth and the Crown Towers Villas in Melbourne. With her London office established, North will spend more time in the UK. “I’m very interested in Europe, because its rich history allows a thorough understanding of detail and quality in design,” says North. “This unique attention to detail and quality is evident in our projects in Australia and is something we believe will be appreciated by the European market.” North says advances in technology have made it much easier for Australians to work in the global market – breaking down the barriers for overseas clients, and also making sourcing much simpler. “Prior to the internet, the thought of getting a room full of furniture shipped over from New York would have been crazy,” says North. “When you are in Australia, you’ve worked out logistics so well that you can get a project done on time and on budget and with pretty much the majority of the stuff coming from elsewhere. After that you can do projects anywhere.”
48 | RESEARCH
Inspired cure-alls Australian researchers have made outstanding breakthroughs in medical treatments that promise to speed the wound-healing process and potentially dispose of intravenous syringes forever. WRITER Jane-Anne Lee
A new, more powerful method of delivering vaccinations has the potential to dramatically improve treatment and prevention of life-threatening diseases. The game-changing Nanopatch brings the possibility of delivering vaccines more effectively and efficiently, generating a better immune response than the humble needle and syringe that’s been around since 1853. It’s also pain-free, cheaper and requires no refrigeration. For those in developing countries, the Nanopatch may one day prove a lifesaver. Each year, there are 17 million deaths from infectious diseases. Inadequate vaccination methods still exist to handle the big three diseases: tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, which result in seven million deaths a year. In the developing world, two million people also die annually after failing to gain access to vaccines. The current focus of the Nanopatch is on improving treatment for several types of influenza, malaria, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the tropical virus Chikungunya, Herpes Simplex Virus 2 and West Nile Virus. This creation is the brainchild of Mark Kendall, professor of Biomedical Engineering, University of Queensland, and chief technical officer of new biotech venture Vaxxas, which has received a A$15 million biotech investment from a consortium that includes OneVentures, Brandon
Capital, the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund and US-based HealthCare Ventures, one of the world’s largest venture capital firms specialising in healthcare. Trials have so far only been on animals, so the funding will help bring the Nanopatch to market. The traditional nicotine patch is a good starting point to explain the technology. This patch relies on a diffusion mechanism to drive tiny molecules into the skin. However, vaccine compounds are too large to be delivered via patch technology. It took a break from Kendall’s heavy
workload at his previous position at the University of Oxford to develop a novel approach. “I was actually at a conference and it was during a boring presentation that I had the space to see things differently,” he says. “My invention looks like a classic patch or square, but under a microscope you can see thousands of tiny projections that are invisible to the naked human eye. We dry-coat the vaccines to the tips of these tiny projections. When they are applied to the skin, they are pushed through the tough outer layer to the underlying layers with their abundant
RESEARCH | 49 0 1 Professor Kendall and a researcher in the laboratory at the University of Queensland.
immune cells,” he says. The neteffect is that the vaccine is delivered to thousands of immune cells. “With the traditional needle and syringe, vaccines are mostly delivered via muscle, which has few immune cells, so that is actually an inefficient method. In contrast, the skin has been identified as an immune sweetspot, so the Nanopatch exploits this to gain a better immune response, using one hundredth of the dose of a needle vaccine.” By dry-coating the vaccine, there is no need to refrigerate the Nanopatch, eliminating a serious hurdle in
developing countries, where the World Health Organisation estimates 50 per cent of vaccines don’t work –the “live” virus culture becomes ineffective if not stored at the appropriate temperature. Not only will transportation issues be eliminated due to the lack of refrigeration, there is an opportunity to use fewer doses. Trained practitioners will also not be required to administer the Nanopatch. “Potentially, with a vaccine such as Gardasil, a vaccine for use in the prevention of certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV),
there may be no need for three immunisations to gain protection,” Kendall adds. “It might just be done via one patch.” Gardasil – developed by another Queensland-based researcher, Professor Ian Frazer – is administered in three ‘doses’. “But with some young females failing to undergo all three instalments, the Nanopatch may be a more effective delivery option and we are working with Gardasil’s inventor, Ian Frazer, to develop its potential. Of course, all this needs to be confirmed in human trials.” There are other advantages, too. The Nanopatch will be less invasive for those 10-20 per cent of people who suffer needle phobia. It will also eliminate the problem of crosscontamination from needle-stick injuries, which affects about one-third of vaccinations in Africa. Kendall has plenty of reasons to be optimistic. “The components themselves are comparable in cost to the needle and syringe, but we have the potential opportunity to use a fraction of the dose, a lower-dosing regime and no need for trained practitioners to administer them. When you consider all that bundled together, we have great prospects for the device to undercut the needle and syringe collective costs.” As Kendall’s invention enters its next phase, another Australian invention is set to apply the healing touch to chronic wounds. These types of wounds can take years to heal and sometimes never heal at all, causing patients severe emotional and physical stress as well as creating a financial burden on the healthcare system. Many factors contribute to interrupted healing, including diabetes, venous or arterial disease and infection, while one of the most common causes is simply old age. In chronic wounds, the matrix scaffold, known as the extracellular matrix (ECM), is degraded. This scaffold is important in helping to
50 | RESEARCH
02 The vaccinedelivering Nanopatch. 03 Professor Zee Upton from the QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation.
coordinate the process of normal healing. Without an effective ECM, normal wound healing cannot proceed and a cycle of self-amplifying inflammation continues. However, there may now be a breakthrough solution. Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have developed a wound-healing treatment called VitroGro® ECM, set to arrive in commercial markets around the world in the next year. VitroGro® ECM is applied as a solution to the wound. It absorbs into the degraded ECM of the wound and enables normal wound healing. Professor Zee Upton, co-leader of the Tissue Repair and Regeneration Program within the QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, has been working on the project over the past decade. While undertaking her PhD and studying the evolution of molecules and cells, Upton laid the foundations of the project with analysis of a sticky protein found in blood and other cell tissue called Vitronectin. Initially, study of Vitronectin was based on work with chickens, but later expanded to humans. Vitronectin is involved in the early stages of normal wound healing, promoting cell adhesion and cell spreading into the wound space. Upton came to recognise its potential use as a replacement for the degraded matrix in chronic wounds. She thought that
by giving the cells a new matrix of Vitronectin on which to grow, healing could be kick-started. It was recognised early that providing a simple Vitronectin scaffold was not enough. To be effective the “replacement ECM” would have to mimic the normal ECM that is present in the early stages of wound healing. Normal early-stage wound healing involves sticky proteins, such as Vitronectin and Fibronectin. With this in mind, VitroGro® ECM was developed as a synthetic protein that includes components of native ECM to better mimic the scaffold that’s present in the early stages of normal wound healing. By replacing degraded ECM with functional ECM, early-stage healing is restored. The technology has been assessed in humans, with the latest successful clinical trials focused on venous ulcers. Venous ulcers are painful leg wounds that are a major cause of chronic wounds, occurring in 70 per cent to 90 per cent of chronic wound cases. The most common cause is poor blood circulation, particularly the inability of the veins to return deoxygenated blood from the legs back to the heart. Other causes or exacerbating factors include relentless pressure (often seen as bed sores), badly managed diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, dietary problems and poor arterial circulation. Led by the world-renowned Cardiff University Wound Healing Clinic
“VITROGRO® ECM CREATES A FAVOURABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR HEALING AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN MISSING FROM CONVENTIONAL WOUND CARE.”
in conjunction with QUT, the trial evaluated VitroGro® ECM in the treatment of venous leg ulcer patients who had not responded to compression therapy, the current standard of care. After 12 weeks, the trial found 92 per cent of the patients taking part in the trial were partially or completely healed. The average reduction in wound size was 65 per cent, with no adverse events related to VitroGro® reported. The clinical success was highlighted by the average treatment time that had elapsed – a mighty 37 months of expert care – before the
Photographer: Ali Nasseri
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patients with venous ulcers were given the VitroGro® treatment. “We’re very excited by these results, as it’s a new formulation which is going to be extremely cost effective to the consumer,” Upton says. “There’s nothing else like it in the market in terms of approach, outcome or cost effectiveness. For conditions like venous ulcers, where the biology of healing is aberrant, VitroGro® ECM provides critical adhesion for cells by forming a scaffold they can attach to and migrate upon. It creates a favourable environment for healing and this is
something that has been missing from conventional wound care.” Planned first sales in Australia and Europe for VitroGro® ECM are scheduled in the second quarter of 2012, with future trials also set to commence in the United States. Upton is now the chief scientific officer of Tissue Therapies Limited, the start-up company that was formed in 2003 to commercialise her work. The company was also a large beneficiary of Australian investors and the Queensland Government, which granted funding through its Smart State Program, a
A$120 million four-year program to invest in people, ideas and partnerships driving creativity and innovation. Upton would like to see the treatment used on both diabetic ulcers and burns moving forward. “I hope VitroGro® ECM will eventually be used as a tool to maintain skin integrity,” she says. “Perhaps one day you’ll get up in the morning and put on your moisturiser which contains VitroGro® ECM, while you’ll be able to find bio-active bandages, that actively assist in healing wounds, on the shelves in pharmacies.”
52 | BUSINESS
New Frontiers From Ulaanbaatar to the South Gobi desert, Mongolia is eager to develop its vast resource-rich possibilities. Australian company Sedgman Limited has made an early foray in to this new frontier. WRITER Cameron Cooper
Business opportunities were top of mind for both leaders when Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard met her Mongolian counterpart Sukhbaatar Batbold in early 2011, during the first Australian visit by a Mongolian leader since diplomatic relations were established between the two countries almost 40 years ago. Four bilateral agreements between Australia and Mongolia were signed in the areas of education, training, cabinet processes and scientific transfer, but at the forefront of discussions were Mongolia’s attempts to develop its vast mineral resources, a factor it shares in common with Australia and a field in which the expertise of Australians can be readily deployed, as the Australian prime minister noted. One Australian company making inroads in Mongolia is Sedgman Limited. The company’s international projects actually span the globe, from Asia to South America. “There are lots of stories, whether it’s working at minus-40 in Mongolia or the crocodiles in the Zambezi River
next to the site that we are building in Mozambique,” says CEO Nick Jukes. Such exotic conditions have not hampering Sedgman’s export growth as it draws on three decades of experience as a provider of integrated engineering, project delivery and operations services to the international mining sector. The Brisbane-based company reported a revenue increase of 65 per cent to $555.1 million for the financial year 2011. In Mongolia, Sedgman engineers and consultants are based about 540km from the capital of Ulaanbaatar and about 200km from the Chinese border. They live in traditional Mongolian desert tents, called gers, or in converted shipping containers. Once a Soviet satellite state, Mongolia moved towards democracy and a market economy when the USSR collapsed. With the development of its extensive reserves of uranium, gold, coal and copper, Mongolia has the potential to become one of the world’s biggest mining countries. As Australia’s trade marketing arm, Austrade recently established an office
in Ulaanbaatar to work with the growing number of companies, like Sedgman, which are interested in doing business in Mongolia. The capacity of Australian businesses in the geological, drilling, mining software, environmental management, financial, legal and training sectors to contribute to the development of Mongolia’s minerals and energy sector is being explored. For Sedgman, the opening of the Mongolian economy to foreign trade and investment has come at the right time. “It’s a nice scenario,” says Jukes, who acknowledges that the company’s focus in the Asian region, in particular, helps it benefit from the growth of resourcehungry nations such as China and India and leaves it less exposed than most exporters to the recent economic volatility in Europe. The company also has a strong pipeline of projects in the booming Australian mining market, securing more than A$310 million in contracts during the past financial year alone. “When you refer to the two-speed economy, we’re at least in the right lane,” Jukes says.
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MONGOLIA HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BECOME THE WORLD’S BIGGEST MINING COUNTRY.
01 The sweeping plains of
Mongolia are resource-rich.
Set up in 1979 and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange since 2006, Sedgman specialises in the design, construction and operation of preparation plants for coal and metals. Jukes believes the company is well placed to maintain its growth trajectory by tapping into projects in economic powerhouses in Asia. Although the Chinese economy is forecast to slow after recent peaks, he maintains that even growth in a lower band of six per cent to 10 per cent is comparatively strong, while India continues to thrive. “We’re still pretty bullish … We’re not seeing anything at the moment that suggests that the services sector that we are in is going to take a wobble.” Sedgman has about 1000 personnel who have helped the company forge a reputation for its innovative engineering and operations capabilities. Jukes has no doubt that a long-term commitment to the coal sector is one
of the prime reasons for the business’s strength today. Whereas other companies have come and gone over the years, Sedgman has built up a wealth of experience and specialist knowledge. “We’ve been there through thick and thin,” Jukes says. “And that gives us the position that we enjoy now. The other key is that the company offers a start-to-finish solution, from the engineering design stage through to involvement in the construction and operation of sophisticated infrastructure facilities. “That gives us a lot of knowledge about how plants perform, how we can upgrade facilities to get better throughput and operational characteristics of the plant. And we can feed that knowledge back into our design. Stringent planning of projects and cultural awareness is another Sedgman hallmark. Jukes believes establishing headquarters in the company’s target markets has been a smart strategic move. The company set up an office in Santiago, Chile, in 2005 to support its services across a vast geographic territory stretching from Columbia through to Tierra del Fuego in Chile. It has since opened offices in Beijing (to aid its work in Asia generally and Mongolia specifically) and Centurion in South Africa (to help service projects in areas such as Botswana and Mozambique). As the growth continues for Sedgman, further offices have been opened in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and Shanghai, China. The offices help overcome the significant business and operational challenges that exist in remote markets. “It’s difficult,” Jukes says. “The only way to really understand how those economies work or the problems that might exist is to actually go and do business there and get the best advice you can before you move into those regions.” Sedgman does its homework before entering any market, including engaging in discussions with government bodies such as Austrade and a range of legal and tax advisers. One of the many trials in such relatively undeveloped jurisdictions, Jukes says, is repatriating funds.
“That’s been a bit of a challenge in terms of understanding the regulations that sit behind the financial sectors in each of those countries. But the best way to learn is to be there.” Regardless of any operational or business issues, Sedgman’s service provision cannot falter. “We are working for international clients, [so we must] make sure that we still build to the standards they expect,” Jukes says. “They’re looking for international standards; they’re not looking for local standards.” Far from resting on its laurels as a global leader in coal technology, Sedgman has expanded into the metals sector in the past few years. As part of that strategy, the company is constructing a US$100 million copper concentrator in Boseto, Botswana, as its first engineering design, procurement and construction (EPC) contract in the noncoal sector. “It’s a flagship for us,” Jukes says. “What we’ve done there is really replicate what we’ve done in coal but with a copper concentrator. It gives us a real feather in our cap to say that we have now moved into the metals area and we are now providing similar levels of service to those that we provide in coal.” Irrespective of the sector or location, Sedgman adopts a consistent approach to strategy in domestic or foreign markets and does not tinker with its corporate values of trust, integrity, caring, service excellence, innovation and teamwork. With coal markets continuing to perform strongly and the metals sector seen as a significant growth channel, Sedgman is confident about the future of its business. Wherever it operates, Jukes is confident the company and its employees – from the heat of Dysart in Central Queensland to the frigid desert of Mongolia – will be prepared to tough it out in often difficult conditions, all the while capitalising on its proven experience over many years. “It’s not easy, but the business we’re in involves very exportable trades and exportable skills – and we are enjoying doing it.”
54 | BUSINESS
Contextual Healing Medical tourism and increasing longevity in the developed world are two big trends currently changing the shape of hospitals across the globe. Meet three designing women who understand where practical healthcare meets high-end healing spaces. WRITER Amanda Woodard
Consider all the intricacies of planning, commissioning and building a new home, or renovating an existing one. Then imagine how much more devilish is the detail when applied to a hospital, one of the most complex public buildings, where mistakes have the potential to cost lives. Health Projects International (HPI) is an Australian company that has applied its expertise in the planning, design and equipping of hospitals, medical centres, day procedure centres and other healthcare projects, not just at home but around the world. In the past year the company has opened branches in India, Hong Kong and Malaysia and recently walked away with a National Export Award in recognition of the demand for its services overseas, that now accounts for 50 per cent of its income. For a relatively small company (there are 53 professionals working out of its Sydney-based headquarters), women make up a significant proportion of staff, particularly at a senior level, within HPI. Dianne Barton is senior associate, health planner/nurse planner at HPI. Barton is a qualified nurse and midwife, originally from Yackandandah in Victoria, and, as the most senior healthcare professional, has a pivotal role in the organisation. “I’m the interpreter,” she says. “I transmit the hospital’s views to the architects and the architects views to the medical people – and you need to keep the language of both groups in your head. One group will call a basin a sink and the other will question why they want sinks everywhere!”
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It’s one of Barton’s jobs to keep up with the latest developments in technology and trends in nursing care. “Nursing needs are very similar everywhere and surgery and medicine are driven by technology. So I read a lot of magazines and attend seminars on health planning. All the company reps are good at keeping us up to date with new technology as well.” Barton’s senior nursing career segued into planning when she was taken on at the Royal Perth hospital, working on the development of the hospital’s new north block. After moving to Sydney to work on the commission for the St George Private Hospital at Kogarah, she left to join HPI in 1996. The company’s move into the international arena in recent years has meant Barton and her colleagues have had to adapt rapidly to the way clients work overseas. “We learn on the job, talking to the hospital nurses, doctors and other staff. In the Middle East, for example, things that are appropriate to us are not appropriate to them. One of the significant cultural differences is the separation of the male and female areas. We have to duplicate a lot of service areas, which just means some of the departments are a lot bigger over there.” Medical treatment is more familycentric in Asia and the Arab world, comments Barton. “When someone is sick they bring the whole family in to look after them, sit with them, just be there. So again, we need to provide enough facilities not just for the patient but also for the extended family, and that’s reflected in waiting areas, car parking and restaurants. Barton says she has found clients in the Middle East to be very open-minded and receptive to the ideas and expertise of HPI. “The medical staff have generally been internationally trained in Europe and the UK and they are all very respectful and very appreciative of the input that presents them with alternatives to what they’re doing.” A growing trend worldwide, says Barton, is the rise of “mediresorts”, providing services that blur the distinction between hotel and hospital. “It’s happening in the Middle East and Asia
where international patients come for fly-in surgery. A patient who comes for a procedure may not be quite ready to go home, so they can move to the mediresort. It’s a hotel that has access to hospital facilities. They cater not just for cosmetic surgery but other medical procedures, too.” Currently HPI is working on plans to extend the Al Wasl Women and Children’s Hospital in Dubai that include a mediresort with 250 rooms, staff accommodation and royal quarters. While in Oman, the first medical tourism centre is underway, with a private hospital and specialist medical suite to stand alongside extensive leisure, shopping and entertainment facilities, set amid lush gardens. Hai Sun Tan is senior healthcare architect at HPI, and joined the company in 2001, straight from university in NSW. Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, she looks after the company’s projects in Malaysia and has worked on the Sunway Medical Centre and, most recently, the University of Malaya Health Metropolis. Tan says designing a hospital is very different from the residential and commercial projects she worked on before joining HPI: “It’s almost like designing a small city.” Tan says HPI gets involved at a project’s inception, even before a site has been chosen in some cases, right through to the operational running of the hospital. “As consultant health planners we have specialists who can help a client assess whether the population in an area can support a private hospital, for example. We can help attract financial support, create a design and find builders.” With people living longer in the developed world, the demand for more and bigger hospitals is growing, says Tan. “Hospitals, like schools, are something we cannot live without and capacity is getting bigger.” Developments in technology, too, are driving design, she explains. “There is always a need to constantly upgrade the facility, so one of the key design considerations is to allow for future expansion with flexibility built into the design.” She gives an example of a radiology department where equipment currently requires quite a large space. “That may not be suitable in 10
“ONE OF THE KEY DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS IS TO ALLOW FOR FUTURE EXPANSION WITH FLEXIBILITY BUILT INTO THE DESIGN.” 01 Al Wasl Women and Children’s Hospital, Dubai. 02 Oman Health and Leisure Complex. 03 A high-tech Cardiac Catheter Theatre.
years’ time as the equipment may get smaller and smaller.” People no longer look at hospitals solely in terms of sickness says Tan. “Expectations are higher because people have more exposure to media, so they demand more from the service and the facilities. If you are going to a private hospital, you need your room to be top notch – it needs to be a healing space.” Outside spaces are an important part of the design, too, says Tan, particu-
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larly in Australia. “There’s demand for a lot of greenery and an outdoor garden: somewhere that patients and visitors can go to and walk around.” Tan travels to Malaysia, where her parents still live, on average every two months for work. Speaking the same language is an obvious asset. “A lot of the time it’s about sharing useful information; there are things that they are doing better than us and vice versa,” she says. “Most of the time in Australia the clients
know exactly what they want and the brief is very clear and makes the project happen. In Malaysia, because we are international consultants, they like us to improve their system more. It’s really the knowledge that they need from us.” Tan says nothing is more satisfying in her job than seeing something that started life on a blank piece of paper, built and completed. “You always feel proud when you walk into a building and see the clients happy. That’s the most exciting part.” Rachel Marshall is HPI’s senior interior designer, who came to the company after a career working on residential and leisure projects. Moving into healthcare, she says, “was a huge leap”. One of her first assignments, when she joined in January 2006, was for Norwest Private Hospital and Marshall learnt quickly that the client isn’t one person, but many. “There are the people who run health departments and the people who work in those departments. A lot of opinions are involved.” In private healthcare there is usually project management to bring together ideas, but in the public sector, says Marshall, it’s a lot more democratic and, consequently, it takes longer to reach decisions. To aid that process, Marshall and her colleagues create photo-realistic 3D renders of interiors for the client. “An oper-
ating theatre has to look just like the real thing from a doctor’s point of view, so equipment has to be spot on. It’s not an artist’s impression,” explains Marshall. Interior design was all Marshall ever wanted to do when she started thinking about careers. Growing up in Scotland, she studied at Glasgow’s College of Building and Printing, before moving to London. She came to Australia as a backpacker and fell in love with the country. She worked in interior design for Mirvac before joining HPI. The company has tripled in size since she joined in 2006, a testament, she says, to the vision of the boss, Aladin Niazmand, whose passion for excellence in healthcare and dedication to their work has inspired a loyal following among his staff. “If you want to work in healthcare, then this is the company to be in. Some of our jobs are amazing but also very challenging, throwing up things that you haven’t encountered previously.” Marshall’s current project is a public hospital in North Lantau, Hong Kong. “It’s a challenging project because they work really differently to Australia. For a start, they have more money to spend. So, initially, we spent a year working on mock-up suites of 12 rooms including an operating suite, that were exact down to the ironmongery and paint colours.” The advances in new technology in healthcare have a knock-on effect in interior design, she says. “We pay a lot of attention to infection control so have to be aware of any materials that are even slightly porous. We’re always trying to find new products that haven’t necessarily been used before. The materials that we use a lot of, floor vinyl for example, can be boring, so we push our suppliers to come up with new colours and styles.” Marshall says that more hospitals are moving away from an institutional look. “You often hear the buzz word ‘hotels’. Practicality is first and foremost but there are spaces within hospitals that can be very patient friendly. Aladin is always urging us to research specifications of luxury international resorts, to look at the finishing and detailing. It’s about the journey through the hospital, not just for the patient but for visitors and staff.”
Photographer: Ben McMillan 58 | CULTURE
CULTURE | 59
Australian Chefs on the Menu An adventurous spirit combined with hard work and access to exemplary local produce are helping four Australian chefs make their mark on the world stage. WRITER Heather Jacobs
In Australia, Matthew McCool is barely known. But in China, it’s a different matter altogether. The 27-year-old former Sydneysider is considered the secret ingredient behind the revival of a leading Beijing restaurant – Aria, housed in the luxurious China World Hotel, part of the upmarket Shangri-La chain. Dishes like smoked goose, green tea noodles and tuna belly, veal with autumn vegetables, truffle and foie gras, finished off with desserts such as melting chocolate terrine with salted caramel, have won the baby-faced head chef a swag of accolades. Time Out Beijing named McCool 2011 Chef of the Year, and awarded Aria the title of Best International Restaurant. McCool has only been in Beijing for 14 months but has quickly made a name for himself. Time Out Beijing commented that: “There is almost a child-like quality to his playful approach … It’s clear that this chef is having fun – something visible in the bright, positive streak that is conveyed in his food. There’s a curiosity that is balanced by a maturity, level-headedness and learned technique that just isn’t common among young chefs.” McCool’s solid training includes time spent under one of the world’s most recognisable names – the famously sharp-tongued, quick-tempered Gordon Ramsay. He worked at Ramsay’s fine dining restaurant Maze in London. It was “quite difficult but it was also inspiring”, he says. “The guys he has in place in his restaurants are all very good chefs and you learn a lot from them,” McCool says. “His restaurants are run a little bit differently to what you see on television; it’s not as showy.” McCool, whose smattering of freckles give a hint of his Scottish descent and his early years living on the sun-drenched Australian coast, served his apprentice01
01 Matthew McCool at work in the kitchen. 02 With his Beijing Aria team.
ship at one of Sydney’s top restaurants, Quay. He also worked at the wellregarded Wildfire and Prime restaurants before heading to London seven years ago, then onto France and Italy. He won the role of head chef at Beijing’s Aria in 2010 and is relishing the chance to be in the thick of a fast-changing market. “Everybody’s open-minded to changes,” McCool says of Beijing. “You have a lot of people that are very interested in trying different things and, for some of the people we cook for, some products we’re using are new and exciting. Food here is one of the biggest pastimes, making it a very good place to be.” Time Out Beijing credits the partnership between McCool and a fellow Australian, restaurant manager Matthew Lance, for putting the restaurant back on the culinary map. “Synergy has been created, based on the creativity of a young chef who fears nothing and embraces the newness that is China, and a sommelier and manager who understands that great service ultimately lies in ensuring that guests are happy. The exciting menu that McCool unleashed on the city shortly
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after he arrived has proved a hit.” Part of the winning combination is McCool’s focus on quality produce. “We’re sourcing exclusive products; we use a lot of high-end produce to take it to the next step,” he says. All of the fish and beef are shipped from Australia, driven by McCool’s familiarity with Australian suppliers: “We don’t play around too much with good produce. We emphasise what the product is.” Another Australian chef taking his home-country’s produce around the globe is Luke Mangan, who has extended his Salt restaurant brand into Tokyo and Singapore. He plans to open in Jakarta and Bali next year and has Shanghai in his sights, also. “I really like to promote Australian produce where we can; it is something I am very passionate about as I believe
we have some of the best produce in the world,” says Mangan. “Ten years ago Australia was looking at the rest of the world for chefs and ideas and I’d say the rest of the world is now looking at us.” Forty-one-year-old Mangan has a swathe of offshoots to his business, including cookbooks, a newspaper column and TV shows in the US and Australia. He also has Salt grills on three P&O Cruises ships and is a consulting chef for airline Virgin Australia. The secret to his success? “I am lucky,” he says. “I get up in the morning and I love what I do, so if you can do that, that’s a start. But it’s also about employing the right people to work with and manage those restaurants, and to share my philosophy.” It hasn’t all been an easy ride for Mangan. Six years ago, in what he describes as the “worst 12 months of my
“TEN YEARS AGO AUSTRALIA WAS LOOKING AT THE REST OF THE WORLD FOR CHEFS AND IDEAS, AND I’D SAY THE REST OF THE WORLD IS NOW LOOKING AT US.” life”, he was forced to shut down his first two restaurants – the original Salt in Sydney’s Darlinghurst and Bistro Lulu in nearby Paddington – and walk away from a third – Moorish at Bondi. Mangan has also sold out of several other ventures, including one he started with a partner in the United States. Mangan may have hit a rough patch but it didn’t hold him back for long. He was determined to move on, and luckily for him, enough influential people had walked through the doors of Salt to help him get back on track. That included Sir Richard Branson, now a friend of the chef, and a certain Mary Donaldson, who was a regular before she encountered her prince. The week before the royal wedding between Donaldson and Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark, the former Sydney real estate agent invited
CULTURE | 61 03 Mangan’s Saltgrill restaurant in Singapore. 04 L uke Mangan with some of the fresh produce that defines his dishes. 05 Michelle Garnaut.
Mangan to Denmark to cook a series of Australian-themed dinners. He’s since been made a Friend of Australia for his work promoting Australian food globally. Mangan grew up the youngest of seven boys in Melbourne. When he was expelled from school at 15 for disruptive behaviour, he walked into Two Faces, a top-class fine-dining restaurant where one of his older brothers was a chef, and asked the owner for a job. Told he would have to work long hours, Mangan promised he was up to the task. In truth, Mangan hated much of his four-year apprenticeship. It was lousy pay, even after a hard slog of up to 16 hours a day, and he was often landed with the menial jobs of washing dishes, peeling potatoes and shelling peas. “I nearly threw it in several times, but I got there somehow,” he says. Confidence and hard work – the two ingredients that helped Mangan get to where he is today – are common themes amongst the Australian chefs making their mark on the world stage. Take Michelle Garnaut. When she arrived in Hong Kong as a young traveller nearly 30 years ago, she was brimming with determination but had no money, job or visa. Garnaut did, however, possess a dream and the strength of will to fight a rather entrenched stereotype. “Noone was really used to the idea of women cooking,” she says. “I was told I would earn more money as a waitress, and it was more appropriate.” Garnaut soon won a job as a second chef at Restaurant 97 in Hong Kong and spent the next five years developing her craft. She was good in the kitchen but it was her ability to pull together many strings that helped her branch out as a
proprietor in 1989 and set the gold standard for what would become today’s M Restaurant Group. As the sun was setting on the 1980s, Garnaut opened M at the Fringe with Sandra de Pury as chef. She credits the success of her first restaurant to timing. “It was an entirely new thing for Hong Kong, rather than a new style of food,” she says. M at the Fringe set the pace in modern and international dining in Hong Kong for years. It wasn’t just the beautiful location on Lower Albert Road in the city’s historic Central district, or the nonfussy manner with which Garnaut ran the restaurant, it was the honest nature of the venue and its food. Garnaut had, in fact, introduced independent fine dining to Hong Kong. Ten years later, Garnaut made a brave early move to Shanghai, opening M on the Bund in 1999. She is credited with
rejuvenating the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai that now has a thriving scene with restaurants, bars, cafés and shops. It was a very different place when Garnaut set up shop. “It was a challenge and there was a lot of negativity; most people thought I was crazy,” she recalls. Again, Garnaut’s experience and perseverance through the challenges of establishing an independent business in China helped pull her through. Turning M on the Bund into a success carved a global name for Garnaut and attracted rich and famous diners from around the world. Capitalising on her success, she opened The Glamour Bar in 2001, before moving it to a bigger venue five years later. In the same building as M on the Bund, it is a sophisticated “bar for grown-ups” in a stylish atmosphere. “China has changed in the last 20 years – more than most places on
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the planet have changed in the last 200,” says Garnaut, who was named 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year in the International Women of Influence Awards and received the 1999 Business Entrepreneurial Award in the ANZ Australian Business Awards. “I think that makes it quite a tough place but it is also what makes it exciting.” Thanks to Garnaut’s belief that feeding the mind and soul is just as important as feeding the body, her restaurants have become a hub for cultural events and entertainment, including annual literary festivals in Beijing and Shanghai, a regular chamber music series in both cities and live music in The Glamour Bar. She is also working on the Village People Project, targeted at improving the lives and health of women in rural China, by funding bathhouses that can then operate as businesses.
Working across cultures can be challenging, and setting up her second restaurant in mainland China certainly tested Garnaut’s patience. She recalls finding the perfect location in 2006 by Tiananmen Square and being pushed by Chinese authorities to open before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Then the entire process stalled. However, all was not lost. Capital M finally opened in late 2009 offering diners spectacular views of Tiananmen Square, taking in the Qianmen Gate as well as Tiananmen Gate, right up to the entrance of the Forbidden City. Moving overseas requires a certain deftness. In Sydney, Bill Granger won success as a restaurateur with his neat group of “bills” eateries – attracting high praise for his brunch menu. Granger’s attempts to duplicate the success abroad, though, has raised some eyebrows.
“Everywhere I go in the world I say, ‘I want to do breakfast,’ and everyone says, ‘It’s not going to work,’” explains Granger. “I went to Japan and they said, ‘The Japanese won’t go out for breakfast’ but they are and they’ve even queued around the block for it, and we’re starting to see brunch take off in London as well.” The cause for this scepticism, argues Granger, who now lives in London, is that Australia’s reputation abroad for its food has been poor and is only now changing. In Japan, for example, “There was a feeling [about Australian food] that it’s mass-produced. But when I brought my Japanese business partner and chef to Sydney, they couldn’t believe it was so sophisticated and there were so many great restaurants; they were blown away. It’s really interesting; we simply don’t have these big chain restaurants and there are loads of great independents.”
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The terrace of M on the Bund, with Shanghai’s stunning cityscape in the background.
07 Bill Granger’s chicken curry. 08 Bill Granger.
Many Japanese locals clearly agree with Granger, sometimes waiting up to six hours for a table. With ever-increasing demand at his city restaurants, bills, Granger is enjoying a rich vein of success. “The Japanese market is incredibly sophisticated and we’ve been grateful to see such success,” he says. Granger’s ventures in Tokyo and London are his way of trying to dispel the misconceptions. He’s looking to get across the notion that Australian food is refined: “Especially in the UK, people don’t have a strong idea of Australian food; they think of it as being fusion and associate it with a lot of cheap wines.” Having originally studied art, Granger recognises the value of attention to aesthetics and ambience. “Being a restaurateur is about understanding the whole experience when someone walks in the door,” he says. “You’re not
just buying a meal, it’s like being in a theatre, you’re buying an experience, and studying art really helped me create those experiences.” With his newest effort in London, Granger has chosen Westbourne Grove near Notting Hill – a suburb known for its food culture, close to London’s famous Portobello Market. After two years in London getting settled and taking in the lay of the land, Granger is just about to open there. “I think you have to live in a place to really understand the market; we really wanted to understand the city and find the right property,” says Granger, who recognises that entering a competitive restaurant culture such as London will be no small challenge. But having opened his fourth restaurant in Japan – which has more Michelin three-starred restaurants than any other country –
Granger has grounds for optimism. After testing the Japanese market with pop-up restaurants and various press events over the course of a year, Granger reached the point where it “felt right” to launch a venture, establishing his ‘bills beach house’ with a local business partner. The key, he says, was building the reputation of Australian food by holding true to the authenticity of the Australian lifestyle. “I think that Australian attitude to eating and the sunny casualness is what I’m trying to capture in what I do … and that’s why it stands out; I think you’ve got to keep that. You keep your uniqueness but also understand the local market. It’s not an easy balance.” Get that balance right, though, as Granger and others are proving, and the diners might just line up for a seat at your table.
64 | EXPORT AWARD WINNERS
49th Australian Export Awards Honour Roll Now in its 49 th year, the Australian Export Awards honours exporters for their contribution to Australia’s economy and international business. Companies are measured against their peers, based on the strength of their exporting, marketing and financial strategies. Australia’s top exporter is selected from the 12 award winners and named the Prime Minister’s Australian Exporter of the Year.
PRIME MINISTER’S AUSTRALIAN EXPORTER OF THE YEAR Winner: Sedgman Limited
CSIRO Agribusiness Award Winner: Longwarry Food Park Fox Creek Wines, Harvey Fresh, Manbulloo Ltd, Nolan Meats Pty Ltd, Tassal Tasmanian Salmon, Westend Estate Wines
AUSTRALIA NETWORK Arts And Entertainment Award Winner: Laservision Australian Dance Theatre, Battlefield Sports, Benjamin Shine Studio, Polyglot Theatre, Warlukurlangu Artists
AUSTRALIAN TRADE COMMISSION (AUSTRADE) Education And Training Award Winner: Institute of Continuing and TESOL Education – University of Queensland IDP Education, International College of Advanced Education, International College of Management Sydney, The University of Adelaide
TRADESTART Emerging Exporter Award Winner: Health Projects International Biofouling Solutions Pty Ltd, Fluid Power NT Pty Ltd, Minecorp Vehicle Solutions, QuintessenceLabs Pty Ltd, Vaxine Pty Ltd, we-do-IT Pty Ltd, Western Areas NL
AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY (ACCI) Information And Communication Technology Award Winner: Codan Limited Atlassian, CPT Global Limited, eWAY, List Premier Education Pty Ltd, MICROMINE
AUSTRALIAN MADE CAMPAIGN LIMITED Large Advanced Manufacturer Award Winner: Finisar Australia ANCA, Ludowici, Matrix Composites & Engineering Ltd, Seeley International
AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS Large Services Award Winner: Aspen Medical Airnorth, Blackmores Limited, Invetech, Xstrata Technology Pty Ltd
MINERALS COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA Minerals And Energy Award Winner: Sedgman Limited Alcoa of Australia, Ceramic Fuel Cells, Flip Screen Australia Pty Ltd, OM (Manganese) Ltd, Sentinel Pty Ltd
QANTAS FREIGHT Regional Exporter Award Winner: Almondco Australia Limited Advanced Aquarium Technologies Pty Ltd, Porosus Pty Ltd, Premium Fresh Tasmania, QMASTOR Limited, Serana (WA) Pty Ltd, SPE (Management) Pty Ltd
DEPARTMENT OF INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH (DIISR) Small Business Award Winner: MTECH Systems Aussie Inc., Metocean Services International, Outback Imaging Pty Ltd, Recruitment Systems, SEIT Outback Australia, itti bitti nappy co. pty ltd, Wrays Lawyers
COMMONWEALTH BANK Small To Medium Manufacturer Award Winner: PWR Performance Products Divex Asia Pacific Pty Ltd, Hedweld Group of Companies, Roadside Products Pty Ltd, Ronstan International Pty Ltd
EXPORT FINANCE AND INSURANCE CORPORATION (EFIC) Small To Medium Services Award Winner: Prism Defence ansarada, Epichem Pty Ltd, Grande Exhibitions, Noetic Group, Populous, The Maria Island Walk
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Australia is well known for its friendly people, spectacular environment, resources and lifestyle. But this is only part of our story. Contemporary Australia is a confident and globally engaged nation, with strong economic foundations and an abundance of talented people. A powerful optimism lies at heart of Australians, driving our country forward and offering unlimited possibilities. We’ve defined it as Australia Unlimited – a simple, modern and beautiful brand identity inspired by our ancient landscapes, positivity and unique global outlook. Australia Unlimited was developed as part of the Australian Government’s Building Brand Australia Program, which is administered by the Australian Trade Commission. To find out more visit www.australiaunlimited.com or email us at email@example.com