Recent Events - Three events were conducted by EIDA in August and September:
EIDA Site Visit to APC Technology - 23 August 2017
Adelaide electronics design and manufacturing company APC Technology hosted a visit by EIDA members on Wednesday 23 August to their new facilities in the Adelaide suburb of Cheltenham.
APC Technology is an innovative, Adelaide-based firm specialising in the design, manufacture and support of rugged systems for defence and industrial customers nationally and globally. Applications include defence, oil & gas, mining, medical, transport, rail, pharmaceutical, industrial, health, manufacturing and process control. The company supplies systems that perform in the most severe environments. Every product is engineered and built to survive a range of factors unique to the client, including shock, vibration, temperature, dust, dirt and water.
APC Technology offers a comprehensive range of rugged solutions including touchscreen displays and panel PCs, rugged laptop/PDA mobile solutions, UPS, NVIS, generators, keyboards and pointing devices and customised solutions to meet the needs of customers.
Guest Speaker at this event was Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC, CSC, RANR, former Governor of South Australia (2007-2014) and Chairman of APC Technology who spoke about the challenges overcome by their research and development and the range of technologies employed by APC in the development of their extensive range of products.
EIDA Breakfast Series: Leaders of the Adelaide Electronics Industry - 5 September 2017
Guest Speaker at the EIDA Breakfast on 5 September was Richard Kelly, who began his career as a cadet engineer at BHP Whyalla. He then joined AMDEL in Adelaide where he worked with Dr Jim Howarth. Later, together, they started Mineral Control Instrumentation (MCI) to develop continuous measurement of ash and moisture in coal. In 1987 MCI became a public company and later changed its name to Scantech Ltd. In 1995 Richard founded Vomax Instrumentation to concentrate on the agricultural sector and is its current CEO.
Vomax is a proudly South Australian company specialising in the design and production of industrial instrumentation for measurement and process control in the agricultural sector. He explained that the benefits of decades of experience in sensing and applications in the coal, mining and agricultural sectors drives continuous development of new technologies and products which are produced through close collaboration with specialist local firms. Continuous engagement with Australian and global customers ensures that Vomax products and systems meet their evolving requirements.
Specialist fields include:
• Specialised microwave moisture meters for real time online measurements on:
* Big square hay balers
* Hay processing plants
* Cotton baling machines
* Cotton gins
• Electronic applicators for applying preservatives to fodder.
• In field weather measurements linked to smart phones via the cellular network.
• Development of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instruments for Ag sector in field measurements.
• Sampling regimes including error analysis and calibration methods
This presentation was one of a continuing series of EIDA events to showcase the wide range of technology developments and products produced by Adelaide electronics firms.
TechInSA – EIDA Joint Networking Event - 13 September 2017
The Networking event on Wednesday 13 September at the Precinct Conference Centre, Thebarton featured three speakers from the three hundred firms in the Adelaide electronics industry. Guests were welcomed by Joe Thorp, Chief Executive of TechInSA.
The first speaker was Dr Andrew Skinner, SA Engineer of the Year and founder and Engineering Director of Measurement Engineering Australia Pty Ltd (MEA) who outlined the development of the company from its foundation in 1984 to conduct a comprehensive wind survey of the State on behalf of the Department of Mines and Energy. This experience led to the design and manufacture of a comprehensive range of environmental monitoring systems to turn data into information that can inform decisions for all sectors of agriculture.
In 1999, in response to the newly developing wind energy market, MEA designed systems for major wind farm developers to record the essential measurements for determining the suitability of a site for a wind farm. Since that time MEA has become a major supplier to the wind energy sector for high quality measurement systems. Today, MEA can use satellite modems to deliver data directly to the internet where it may be accessed by consultants anywhere in the world.
A new ‘Internet of Things’ system called Plexus delivers on-farm sensor data to farmers via wireless networks and the Internet. Dr Skinner described the use of MEA’s cloud-based platform ‘Green Brain’ to access on-farm climate, soil moisture, crop water stress, irrigation and rainfall data from anywhere at any time.
The second speaker was Dr David Haley who was Technical Director of the Global Sensor Network program at the Institute for Telecommunications Research and has run an engineering consulting business across industries including transport, logistics, defence and health. He is co-founder of Myriota and is the principal inventor of Myriota’s intellectual property. He discussed the opportunities and challenges involved in connecting remote devices and how Myriota is enabling new remote Internet of Things (IoT) applications across multiple industries. Myriota addresses a gap in the market for scalable, low cost global connectivity. He explained that terrestrial networks will never provide 100% global coverage and existing satellite networks are cost prohibitive and power hungry.
Myriota has sold systems with proven product in funded pilot projects and has satellites already in orbit supporting service. Myriota’s patented technology enables its direct-to-orbit nanosatellite IoT platform with global coverage, disruptively low cost base and long battery life. With Australia engaging in the IoT revolution, Myriota’s new technology will lead the way for farmers, resource companies, defence and environmental agencies.
The final speaker was Donald Kay, Chairman of EIDA and also founder and CEO of Don Alan Pty Ltd. He created the company in 1992 to pursue his passion for the design and manufacture of electronic products and systems. He explained the Don Alan philosophy of good electronics design with a focus on customer applications. The company has for 25 years provided design, prototype and production quantities of sophisticated electronic products and systems for a diverse range of applications including 5.8Ghz tollway tags, 2KW motor drives, air conditioning controls and military applications.
He discussed a recent development for the latest Australian warships. He explained that warship designers focus on hull, propulsion and weapons requirements and sometimes leave little space for electronics. This provided a real challenge with the design of uninterruptable power supplies to support critical navigation, surveillance and weapon systems.
He also outlined the development of the flashing cricket bails used in the Big Bash Cricket Series. The promoters of the Twenty20 cricket series wanted to add more excitement to the game and Don Alan provided the electronics for this product.
“Getting all that electronics and a power source in the size and weight of a cricket bail and having to make enough light to be clearly seen across a stadium in full sun was never going to be easy.”
Australian Business Gives Up On the Innovation Nation
By Peter Roberts, Business networking specialist
Australian business expenditure on research and development (BERD) is in freefall with this crucial measure of innovation in the economy falling to $16,659 million, a pathetic 1.01% of GDP in 2015-16.
Little-reported Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal a 12% fall in one year in business R&D continuing a recent disturbing trend by both mining and manufacturing, which dominate BERD, the most easily measured element of innovation.
With mining and manufacturing investing $2 billion less in 2015-16 compared to the previous year Australia now spends less in $ terms than it did in 2009-10.
The proportion of the economy devoted to business innovation in Australia is now about a third of the leading nations of Israel, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Japan, and is around 60 % lower than the average for the OECD group of nations.
BERD is concentrated in NSW and Victoria, with the other states investing at about half the level of the leaders. Queensland is the least innovative state, with business spending only the equivalent of 0.62 % of gross state product (GSP) on R&D, followed by other laggards in Tasmania at 0.70 % and South Australia at 0.77.
Innovation in NSW accounts for 1.19 % of GSP followed by 1,14% in Victoria.
These figures show Australia slipping out of the mainstream group of advanced nations spending on R&D at a medium level, and joining the low spenders.
It was Australia's spending at a similar rate to Iceland in the 1980s that caused the Hawke government to allow a 150% tax deduction for R&D, which increased BERD and contributed to Australia's recent economic success.
But we have so cut support for R&D, other than the empty rhetoric and spin of such things as the innovation revolution of the last election, that our future is at threat.
How can we prosper if business thinks it can get away without investing in the future?
Adelaide Electronics Industry and Startups
Development of the electronics industry and its existing firms is a major focus of EIDA. Development of the industry also includes the support of new electronics businesses. Assisting startups requires that they can be located. If you are a startup business with any association with electronics contact EIDA to discuss how we may help you. Or as an EIDA member or subscriber to our website or newsletter you may know of emerging firms that could benefit from networking with established firms or from skills development or promotion, please put the startup in contact with EIDA or better still give us their details at firstname.lastname@example.org and EIDA will offer assistance.
CLUSTERING: The Key to a Sustainable Electronics Industry
Industry clusters have long been known to facilitate economic growth. New research shows the benefits to the electronics industry in Adelaide and in Christchurch from their cluster structures.
Aggregation of industry-related businesses in geographic proximity is not new. The phenomenon was reported during the Industrial Revolution in places then described as ‘industrial districts’. In 1990 Harvard Professor Michael Porter used the term ‘cluster’ to describe the 20th century iteration of this natural process. Porter defined clusters as: “ . . . . geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field” .
How have electronics firms evolved unaided over decades into dense and highly productive ‘industry clusters’? People in electronics firms communicate on common interests with others in local firms and can lead to collaboration and a cluster can begin to form. Over time inter-firm collaboration and connections between firms and local education, research and support organisations adds structure and channels for the interchange of information, goods and services. Repeat localised business reduces transaction costs and increases productivity. Developing of a specialisation within a firm can lead to contracting out of non-core tasks to trusted local firms. In clusters these relationships can mature to high levels of firm-to-firm interdependence. A developed cluster provides significant advantages to its participants, advantages that are not available to isolated firms. Startups thrive in this cluster environment and the establishment of specialist firms can further extend cluster capability. However, the emergence and development of clusters to a sustainable level requires decades and successful electronics clusters have developed in only a limited number of the many places that have the firms and other factors that could spawn and sustain clusters.
Recent research provides additional understanding of the widely studied electronics clusters in Austin, Texas; Cambridge, UK; and Silicon Valley, California. These and electronics clusters in Ireland, Scotland and Singapore were studied to understand their origin and development. This study in 18 global cities also included the relatively unknown electronics clusters in Adelaide, South Australia and Christchurch, New Zealand. Since only limited research has focused on these Australasian clusters their origin, the structure and value to their regional communities and governments has not been well understood.
The research found that the most successful and highest density electronics clusters developed unplanned, by self-organisation in small, ‘second tier’ regions that, importantly, were also remote from major national populations. Adelaide, Austin, Cambridge and Christchurch are small cities and relatively distant from major cities and while Silicon Valley’s population has now reached 1.8 million, it was a small and isolated horticultural community of 290,000 in 1950 when its electronics cluster began to grow.
Small city size and isolation from major populations encourages electronics industry people to collaborate with local people they know from their personal networks typically including school, university and community organisations. These prior relationships establish initial trust and a ‘known and trusted’ local colleague is often preferred to a lesser-known alternative collaborator in a distant city. Cluster firms typically operate within unwritten, tacitly-agreed behavioural norms and these positive factors encourage collaboration. A negative feedback loop also operates, particularly in small cities where cluster participants must ‘play by the rules’ since it is known that unfavourable reports circulate rapidly in small communities.
Electronics clusters have developed in very few of the many small and relatively isolated global regions, indicating that small city size and remoteness alone are not sufficient to initiate electronics clusters. A unique factor was also required to spark the formation of the clusters in Adelaide, Austin, Cambridge, Christchurch and Silicon Valley. Austin’s electronics cluster developed around a company started by academics using surveillance technology they had developed at the University of Texas at Austin. The Cambridge electronics cluster started with an instrument firm formed by graduates employing measurement technologies developed at the University of Cambridge. The origin of the Silicon Valley cluster is reported to be the startup of Hewlett Packard to manufacture a new type of audio oscillator developed by the company’s founders at Stanford University. In all three of these locations, the nearby research intensive university was involved in the startup of the firms that were the origin of the cluster.
While Adelaide and Christchurch have good research universities, their electronics clusters did not emerge from these institutions. The origin of the Christchurch cluster was the startup of firms around the two-way radio manufacturer, Tait Electronics. This firm was started in 1954 by Angus (later Sir Angus) Tait on his return from military service in the UK where he worked on the development of defence electronic systems while on secondment from the New Zealand Army.
The origin of the Adelaide electronics cluster is partly based on the technologies and crucially on the tacit knowledge and staff network relationships developed at the defence research laboratories, now known as Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO). This is Australia’s principal defence research centre with 1,000 scientists, engineers and technologists. DSTO is Adelaide’s enduring dividend from the 1947 joint UK and Australian Government’s establishment of the Woomera Rocket Range. Importantly, these Adelaide-based laboratories designed and custom built the measurement and guidance systems required or rocket weapon testing at Woomera.
DSTO specialisation now includes electronics, communications, computing and surveillance systems and the technical skills and network relationships of former staff of DSTO - and staff of the adjacent defence contractor companies - are widely employed in many Adelaide electronics cluster firms and have spawned many Adelaide startups in the defence and non-defence electronics sectors.
The Christchurch and Adelaide electronics clusters are highly successful; Adelaide with less than 6% of Australia’s population has approximately 40% of its national electronics industry employment. Christchurch with less than 8% of New Zealand’s population also has over 35% of its electronics industry employment.
A common theme in electronics clusters and particularly in the Adelaide and Christchurch clusters is the design and production of small volumes of high-complexity, intellectual property-based, high value-added, customisable products for commercial, industrial and professional applications. High complexity and low production volumes combine to promote industry sustainability, since copying is both difficult and unrewarding.
Adelaide electronics cluster firms address a wide range of niche applications in an ‘open innovation’ environment with minimal local firm-to-firm competition which further encourages collaboration.
Decades of global research shows the valuable characteristics of industry clusters. Cluster firms benefit from skilled labour pools and their employees and employers have wider alternative employment options. Skilled labour mobility within clusters also speeds collective learning and new concepts disperse quickly in small, ‘close-knit’ and isolated cluster communities.
Cluster firms typically share a ‘commons’ of technical and business services and suppliers of components and equipment. Education and industry bodies reinforce knowledge-sharing and positively influence collaboration. Flexible specialisation flourishes and transaction costs are found to be lower in regional clusters. Inter-firm contracting requires trust and over time this develops a high level of firm-to-firm interdependence. Research shows that firms in electronics clusters in small regions subcontract a higher proportion of specialist skills allowing further development of their own specialist capability. Significantly higher levels of firm-to-firm interdependence have been measured in Adelaide electronics cluster firms when compared with firms in larger Australian cities where factors including distance, travel time, traffic congestion and topography limit face-to-face contact which restricts the development of trust, collaboration and firm-to-firm interdependence.
Small population and isolation from major populations have combined in the development of dense electronics industry clusters in a limited number of global regions. These self-organised and highly productive clusters are widely researched and understood in the EU and USA, but are still relatively unrecognised in Australasia. The Adelaide and Christchurch electronics clusters will be major contributors to the transition of their regional economies from their past dependence on commodity trading and ‘industrial-age’ manufacturing to their logical future in the world of education, research, innovation and ‘knowledge-age’ industry.
How universities and industry can collaborate to leverage government R&D funding
Format: Presentations on current projects by staff with discussion and networking
Time: 5.00pm for 5.30pm start, conclude at 7.30pm
Date: Wednesday, 25 October
Location: Room 5.57, level 5 of the Ingkarni Wardli Building, University of Adelaide, North Terrace Campus
Cost: FREE, but reservation is required
Reviving Waste in Green Manufacturing: Creating New Solutions Through Innovation and Partnerships
PROFESSOR VEENA SAHAJWALLA FTSE, HonFIEAust ARC Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT)
Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Professor Veena Sahajwalla is revolutionising recycling science to unlock the wealth of resources embedded in the many complex wastes currently destined for landfill. As a materials scientist and engineer and founding Director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at the University of New South Wales, Sydney and the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for green manufacturing, she is producing a new generation of green materials, products and resources made entirely, or primarily, from waste. Her internationally commercialised EAF ‘green’ steelmaking process, for example, is transforming millions of waste tyres as a partial replacement for coke. She has also pioneered a cost-effective microfactory concept to transform waste locally, such as e-waste, glass and plastics. By collaborating actively with industry, Professor Sahajwalla ensures research success is translated into real world environmental and economic benefits.
The 2017 Distinguish Lecture and Dinner which will take place on Tuesday 17 October 2017 at the Adelaide Pavilion, Veale Gardens, cnr South Terrace & Peacock Road, Adelaide, with pre-dinner drinks starting at 6pm.
Please see the attached flyer (IEEE SA Section 2017 DLD Flyer) for more information.
You can register online at: https://goo.gl/forms/Eig5GnitM3vcpvJf1
We look forward to seeing you at the DLD.
Wants and Offers
Looking for a new workshop: The Student Robotics Club of South Australia Inc. is currently reaching out to the community for a space for their robot building activities. Ideally centrally located with clean and dirty work areas, storage and a socializing area. Their bare minimum ask is for a dirty workshop area of around 200 sqm with after-hours access from the second week of January 2018 for 6 weeks. However, they would like to have a space where they can meet every Tuesday night and one Sunday a month throughout most of the year and would be happy to negotiate any possible space. Contact Geoff Mansfield 0432 905 453 or email@example.com
Check out their website www.roboroos.org.au to get a feel for what their club does for inspiring youth in South Australia. They are a not for profit incorporated club run entirely by volunteers.