As the New Year gets underway, the Australian summer provides an opportunity to take stock of the year that has just passed, what we’ve been observing and how the coming year might unfold. 2022 was arguably the most challenging year for some time. The forces that were at play on our team members, partners and clients, made for complex times, but in turn enabled the deepening of many of our relationships through the mutual support arising from working through these challenges and finding paths to embrace the associated opportunities.
We are seeing a number of trends start to play out in the tech transfer space, which we think offer some insights into where technologies and markets might be heading in the coming years, particularly with the economic and geopolitical forces at play. We have been watching the inexorable rise of performative innovation or innovation theatre, where style trumps substance and hope has been the more dominant force rather than technology and market realities. We have seen some of these waves crest and start to break in a few markets within agriculture, energy and chemical industries. While private investors are of course free to pursue their interests and objectives, the role of public money in some of these pursuits will likely be brought into question in the months and years ahead. We have said for some time that innovation generally runs on a combination of hopium and OPM – Other People’s Money. Just how long hope can triumph over thermodynamics and techno-economics, and OPM is available in the form of government money, is set to be a thing to watch. And ideally from Spiegare’s perspective, we can influence these phenomena so that better tech transfer outcomes arise for both private and public investors.
In addition to our efforts with our partners and clients, we’ve also had the opportunity to reflect on others’ thoughts. From our perspective, we’ve found Janette Barnard, Shane Thomas and Julian Melletin particularly insightful around Ag & Food trends. From a chemicals and energy perspective, Michael Liebreich and Paul Martin have led the line in their veracious coverage on the intersection of these industries in the transition towards renewable energy. Janette’s mid-November blog on quitting was particularly striking when seen through the lens of tech transfer. In the narrative of quit or grit, we saw as a notable variation on the eternal challenge of saying ‘no’ – i.e. the quit! Importantly, there was the additional dimension on the decision and then the implementation – the doing – of the decision made – in the case of quitting being to stop and desist! Equally in the case of grit, to reflect back and paraphrase on some of the Tech Transfer Talk discussion with Stephen Angus, the need to knuckle down in the business operations and day-to-day grind of the business.
We have continued to build our local partnerships, with our efforts being direct towards both the research and private sectors through the course of the year. We continue to find ourselves working in our ‘Babel Fish’ modality, translating across a range of technical and commercial disciplines with research, industry and more recently investment communities. It was particularly rewarding in Spiegare joining the Science Technology Australia and Cooperative Research Australia organisations and broadening our understanding of the needs and opportunities in research translation and technology transfer.
Our ongoing links to colleagues around the world has also underpinned several programs of work. We have worked with Oleg Werbitzky and his networks since Spiegare’s establishment and are delighted to be collaborating on a new opportunity connected to industrial technology transfer through his new advisory practice Alpha-Lyncis. Oleg has also been a long-standing collaborator with Bill Taylor in our work with Nufarm, where we have continued to provide strategic advice on innovation projects. We have also continued our partnership with Agritecknowledge and the team lead by Maurice Moloney, exploring opportunities in the alt-protein space – a subject that opened the Tech Transfer Talk podcast series in September 2021!
We have also worked closely with Kirk Moir, Shaun Richmond, Kirsten Schwarz from Crush Dynamics Incorporated in their efforts to establish an Australasian beachhead for their wine waste valorisation technology for the food industry. While our initial efforts have been focussed on alt-meat and alt-dairy manufacturers, we are finding broader markets and opportunities harnessing the nutritive effects of their high polyphenol product. We are looking forward to bringing their valorisation technology to Australia.
We are delighted that Agtechcentric is now building some momentum. The stewardship of Leecia Angus and deep technical expertise of Rohan Rainbow is now starting to bring new opportunities to this venture. It was also terrific to see Rohan acknowledged by CropLife Australia for his outstanding contributions to the ag industry this year.
Spiegare built on the growing engagement with CSIRO that we have enjoyed over the past couple of years. The foundation to this is the Biomass Oil Commercialisation project with the Agriculture & Food Business Unit (BU). The ongoing support from Mike Robertson, Andrew Chalmers, Katrina Spencer and the A&F team has been greatly appreciated as they worked through their partnering negotiations. Critical in bringing this project to fruition has been Allan Green from AGRENEW, as his years of scientific and industry expertise contributed enormously to this project and our team. We will be sharing more of the partnering outcomes that our efforts have catalysed in the near future.
We have also enjoyed reconnecting with others in CSIRO, notably Andy Sheppard (in the Health & Biosecurity BU) and Colin Scott (in the Environment BU – formerly known as Land & Water and recently merged with Oceans & Atmosphere) on a range of opportunities as well as building new connections with Andy Whiteley (also in the Environment BU) and the On Prime team where we have been working with Elena Kelareva from Gippstech. We are looking forward to the new opportunities that the recently merged Environment BU will create in tech transfer into public, industry and private good impacts.
We are thrilled to have had such a terrific team working in and around Spiegare. While we have many partners that we have engaged with in delivering to our clients, I want to close by acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of our team. Bill Taylor continues to be an integral part of our team and providing his extraordinary insights. It was also great to have Kiara Bechta-Metti supporting our efforts with Crush Dynamics Incorporated. Her ceaseless efforts to taste nearly every plant-based alt-protein product on market to guide our marketing efforts, coupled with her commitment to building manufacturing partnerships has CDI well placed for the years ahead.
Faisal Younus has been with us for over five years and his unrivalled work ethic and ability to track down information is now being complemented as he extends his efforts connecting with our clients and leading projects. Gina Drummond’s tireless efforts on the podcasts and the perpetual challenge of formatting and editing has allowed the focus we have on substance in our reporting to be supported by products that have syntactic precision and visual style.
Through the past year we have found ourselves frequently where technology and markets meet, seeking various combinations of resources and strategic advice. We are looking forward to what 2023 has in store for our team, partners and clients. We hope the broader (external) headwinds of the past few years are abating and the opportunities we anticipate coming to maturity in the coming years start taking root amongst current industry participants.