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University of Queensland Researchers’ Power Network Monitoring Tech Acquired

Image Credits: UQ, Press Release

A Brisbane start-up company founded on University of Queensland technology to monitor the health of electricity network transformers has been acquired by a French multinational company in a multi-million-dollar deal.

The start-up develops remote industrial sensors to monitor ageing transformers, using patented technology designed at UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering by Professor Tapan Saha, Dr Hui Ma, Dr Chandima Ekanayake and Dr Dan Martin.

Professor Saha, who has been working for more than 25 years on transformer monitoring tools said he was thrilled by the news of the acquisition. He said that as an innovator of some of the original ideas that were licensed to the start-up, he feels honoured to lead the team involved with the infant stages of the research that forms the pillars of the company. The sensor technology was licensed to the start-up in 2017 by a UQ commercialisation company.

The CEO and Co-Founder of the start-up said the company quickly expanded into 16 countries, with products developed, supported, and shipped from Brisbane. She said that the key was the combination of available capital and software architecture that facilitated ease of product roll-out and support and a unique product that delivered a strong return to the customer. It was during this expansion that the start-up came to the attention of the multinational firm.

The CEO of the aforementioned UQ commercialisation company stated that the start-up’s acquisition, just five years after the company was founded, was significant. It was noted that the remote sensing market is highly valued by asset managers as a way of undertaking preventative maintenance or controlled shutdowns. The start-up’s technology provides automated online reports to electricity distributors of a transformer’s condition, highlighting insulation problems, damage, and any probability of failure ahead of time.

Initially, the company collaborated with major electricity distribution companies in Australia to develop an economical way of monitoring the health of a large and ageing network. This transaction just would not have occurred without grant funding from both state and federal governments, including vital seed money from the founders and a Brisbane-based family business, Brice Family Office.

In 2019, the start-up raised investment capital from various start-up investors the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane Angels and a team of high-net-worth investors. The start-up was one of many IT-based start-ups founded on licensed IP developed by UQ researchers and commercialised by the aforementioned UQ commercialisation company. Various UQ associated start-ups are already emerging players in this space.

According to recent research, the global remote sensing technology market size was valued at US$12.40 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.6% over the forecast period. Remote sensing technology is used for acquiring information on the earth’s surface and analysing its physical characteristics.

It uses reflected and emitted light from aircraft and satellites without the need for physical contact with the surface area under study. The market is mainly driven by the increasing number of earth observation projects by numerous space agencies.

For example, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has thirteen earth observation satellites to date and plans to launch ten earth observation satellites during 2020-2021. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic led numerous countries to impose strict lockdown measures. This led to an increase in the adoption of remote sensing technology to monitor and prevent the spread of viruses and document environmental changes.


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