Australia – so little support for idea leaders

It started with one line: Without a culture that makes big, bold bets on new ideas, its difficult to see how Australia can move from being an idea cemetery to an idea launcher -Source Ben McNeil.

All this came from a story in the Australian 28 August 2013. The story called “Big Ideas Buried in Innovation Graveyard”. It touched a nerve because as is the case of so much excellent ideas we generate in Australia, there is so little support for the commercialisation of the ideas. But, wait there is more! – We do not care about the innovation.  What you say, don’t care.  It is true – think about this line: Commercialisation Australia doesn’t support the company but the Commercialisation of the technology. Where does this leave the innovator? Up the creek without a paddle – your ideas can be superb, you business case well founded: But the graveyard – the valley of death for your invention is that place you go to because you cannot find support in our country, the country an with excellence for invention and a fail for innovation efficiency. In short we force our good ideas offshore if we want success as a company. The idea leaders cannot be rewarded for helping our industry to be part of our country.

If you doubt this, then this is what Ian Chubb, Australian Chief Scientist, said in the 28 August article: “Australia ranks 107th out of 141 nations in innovation efficiency”

In a ‘real’ world example: You ask please help me protect my IP, I need help because I have a lot of interest in my product after considerable R&D. What I do not have is the confidence of my buyers to outlay the dollars to place an order. When I place an application for help to move on my trade secrets, I am then faced with a number of questions that directly relate to my IP. Then the ridiculous come to light – the question: Why don’t you fund your own IP Protection? The answer creates a circular argument along the lines of a song from Harry Bellefonte some years ago: There is a hole in my bucket and it goes on rhyme well fix it to the point where to fix it requires the bucket to carry water – but there is a hole in my bucket. Unfortunately that pretty well sums up the Australia attitude of support for our ideas.

If it were to change would the Small man with big ideas be treated better?   Actually, in another perverse twist it is a tendency of this country to promote institutions with generous awards of cash and incentives. We can only suspect that is because it is a highly visible way to make big numbers look ‘real’ big deals. The short-term photo opportunity is seen a tick in the outcome box, yet often proves a less than optimum result.

The risk of failure will still be a major problem for the small innovator, even if they have the big bold new ideas that could drive our nation into prosperity and diversity of our GDP collection points. Because your ideas could not be protected while you seek markets, you fail you cannot protect your secrets – your ideas are ‘stolen’ and you will not attract investment.

CO2Land org noted that recently the Prime Minister announced the think small concept – what did he really mean?

encouraged to submit an EOI – but!

We have spoken with our contact, and we are encouraged to submit an EOI for the CRE Grants program. Given that everybody else is submitting EOI’s for Wind and Solar systems, we may be in with a good chance.  This is a response sent in after it was posted Closing 21 Feb – excluded, on February 13, 2013 by co2land

In fact three relevant responses came in and each had a story that you might be interested in:

Renewed Carbon – Have a BioHub design. They have a set of engineering firms in Newcastle ready to: Design the plant, Build the plant, Run the plant for 12 months, Take all the start-up risks, Sell the operating plant to the eventual owner.

All they need is about $12m !!!

They are working towards a pre-feasibility study to establish whether they are just dreaming (They believe such a study will a green-light the project). But the study will cost several hundred grand!

It is matter of hurdles (one at a time) and a simple process of: let’s get the money for the Pre-Feasibility Study and work from there.

Part of the reason for their enthusiasm is they are aware of working Pyrolysis plants in several places in Europe, as such they are confident the ‘Commercially Available’ constraint in the EOI closing 21 Feb 2013 should not be a problem.

With that said, I wonder if many are aware of the more sophisticated Veolia WASP project at Woodlawn, via Tarago in NSW. This project has been held up in NSW Planning approvals for some time now and as we have spoken to the engineers at the plant – it is a source of great frustration.

Then a more detailed retort from Peter and Kerry Davies of Real Power Systems (who have built their gasifier and Pyrolysis retort machine in Australia and demonstrated its commercial application in Australia) lament the issues they have had since showcasing the capabilities on the grounds of Parliament House in 2009). In this response they are responding not only the Closing 21 Feb story they are also referring to happenings in the prickly exchange between www.newmatilda.com  and City of Sydney Tri-generation project, and the general stonewalling they have encountered with their offering in the quest for a commercial outcome.  In direct quote:

“Thanks for the link, we just read through the three associated articles:

The attacks are coming from the green’s associates and heavily rely on BZE, a Melbourne University academics club who want Oz to go solar thermal immediately and trust that in doing so costs will fall and engineering problems overcome. This involves putting several thousand square km’s of solar arrays down in adjoining rural areas…

The core arguments against the renewable component of the plan centre on biogas, which is produced using anaerobic digestion and therefor predominately methane (85% CH4). We would consider these arguments to be largely valid although they don’t go far enough, the cost of efficient closed cycle anaerobic digesters is millions of $ per MWe of capacity and are prone to significant operational problems. In the EU it has been found engines running on biogas have difficulty meeting emission guidelines as some fuel is not burnt (escaped methane) and running excess oxygen to correct this then results in NoX emissions rather than CH4, there is a lot of work being done to overcome this limitation.

These arguments though are not valid at all for gasification whose output is “producer gas”  which has <1% methane and the fuel gas component is CO & H2, much cleaner in combustion and not subject to “methane leaks”. Gasification also is far more flexible in its feed stocks which can readily include waste paper with plastics contamination, and is easily topped up with solid fuels produced from plantations, crop residues or RDF pellets.

NoX  is easily managed in a properly engineered system running on producer gas since its formation is temperature and free oxygen dependent. Modern “lean burn” engine technologies combined with rapid exhaust cooling (via cogen) readily address the emission concerns. Direct combustion systems are more difficult, the critics seem to be confusing the two.

Trigen should be eminently suitable for Sydney so long as it genuinely includes absorption chiller technology for the building climate control required in warmer months. We don’t believe waste heat and inversion layers should necessarily be an issue so long as the trigen plant is not using fossil fuels or high methane biogas. Indeed with some lateral thinking and applied engineering the waste heat from higher rise buildings could be used through thermal siphoning to alleviate air pollution at street level.

We are aware of some very clever “Urban food production” systems that can produce very high outputs from small areas using aquaponics (fish and hydroponics). The rooftops of many high rise buildings would be eminently suited with proper planning to include these which then turns the total system into a “Quad generation”, utilising CO2 from the engine exhausts in the greenhouse above and providing local restaurants with fresh fish and vegetables grown in their own inner city building or precinct! Such innovations are we believe relevant now and can only become increasingly important for the future of sustainable cities.

Heightened ambient noise is an engineering/$ issue. A couple of years ago we responded to a request for tender for a cogen plant at a public swimming pool. The EPA imposed a noise limit of 32 decibels (it turned out there were dwellings within 20m of the installation site…). To put this in perspective such a noise limit can be exceeded by the act of sitting down in a country library and opening a hardcover book… We found a solution with pre-cast acoustic chambers from a Sydney supplier which added about $80,000 to project cost (yes you can also cast in situ). You could rev a Harley at full throttle inside one and not exceed the 32DB limit outside. To give you some idea of what this means in practice the fan running on the RPS system demonstrated at Bungendore for REDay generates 55DB.

Finally Origin/Cogent might consider the following: The RPS plant being commissioned at Sutton at the moment just took delivery of 80m3 of sawdust for further client trials. This plant when operational in the next week or so will consist of:

Gasifier – clean fuel gas and high temperature treated biochar output.

This char output can be used for water filtering and odor control amongst other external applications before going off to be added to compost for final recycling & CO2 sequestration.

Integrated pyrolysis retort – operates off a portion of the gasifier output so as to be more consistent, controllable and able to handle high/variable feed stock moisture contents, capable of sustained temperatures >650oC. Outputs biochar or torrefied biomass depending on temperature/residence time profile selected so effectively could replicate any typical biochar specification required or alternately pre-condition solid fuels for the gasifier.

Also can provide process heat for a range of purposes.

Electricity generator (20kWe) – Dual fuel diesel & producer gas from the gasifier . Typical diesel displacement when the gasifier is running would be 85% (reduction in normal diesel use). Later we will trial recycling a portion of this final exhaust back through the gasifier to re-crack some carbon dioxide (CO2+heat= 2CO) further reducing nett emissions.

We are also currently refurbishing a 50kWe straight gas industrial genset to add later in order to achieve 100% organic power.

Briquette press – for hot briquetting product directly out of the pyrolysis retort. (This is part of RPS’s R&D looking at subsequent material handling/transport/application strategies).

This briquette press is a proprietary design that we own the rights to and is able to be locally fabricated by any competent engineering shop so is not a high cost imported item.

So it is really a combination proof of concept/commercial plant that goes beyond just a functional bioenergy/char retort design and looks more at a whole of system farm scale factory with core components equally at home in the basement of a building in order to give flexible outputs that maximise benefits. This plant is readily brought up to the scale some companies have received offers of multi-million dollar public grants to build…but still haven’t been able to do so.

All of which has been done not only in the absence of government grants or sucking in market venture capital but also in spite of direct obstruction and commercial bastardry by vested interests. What might be described as “Success against Uncommon Odds”.

If the City of Sydney/Origin/Cogent trifecta are genuine they need to stop playing around the edges and get serious with some sort of supportive funding delivered through a credible pilot plant trial to publicly validate what we already know, instead of waiting for people like ourselves with real solutions to solve their problems for them entirely at our own expense.

Best Regards,
Peter & Kerry”

Then from George Paulos, where is writes of his IMPLETERRA new Plasma Gasification System:

“Thanks for connecting with me.

And as you have already pointed out: YES I love my work !

Hopefully we can be of fruitful service to one another.

I would like to move some things in Down Under with you.

For example: Our new Plasma can extract precious metals from ore.

This is currently being tested in our lab in the US.

Thus all these hazardous chemical for extraction get needless AND

of course the overall calculation for the mining company gets CHEAPER In this sense its a win-win for all parties involved: We and our environment and the company and the economy ! And also: These Plasma devices cannot be sold, only leased based on Power Purchase Agreements. Thus no investment necessary ! “

On reflection of what George has said, and repeated by Real Power Systems: The way grants programs are administrated may be what is wrong with the industry, in this it is meant: Why do you need $XXk grant to write a pre-feasibility study and then go to a prospectus costing $XXXXXXK in order to persuade $XXm from investors given that the askers apparently already know the outcome of a larger feasibility study, or learnt from past mistakes…. Would it not be more sensible to do as the UK Government do – have a department and a fund set –up that is open to all, rather than a select few. The caveat is if you can prove the need, that sufficient testing is done and you can show it could work, and the ability to be an entrepreneur – be a doer not just a talker. You will be asked how much do you need and so on. No nonsense approach that makes the bankable process much more streamlined.

CO2Land org thank each for their encouragement. Clearly these are also worthy of encouragement because they each solve real problems to what we have now, WHAT TO DO to turn waste to energy and take the pressure off virgin materials being required every time!

 

 

the trends with small business and on the farm

Wishing to better understand the trends with small business and on the farm, Caring for our Country demonstrates it continues to actively solicit what is happening and is active in keeping our interest. The following is a part of the outreach activity known as BizQuotes and what follows is part of some of information from that unit:

Australian small businesses are among the least optimistic in the Asia-Pacific region – research by accounting firm, CPA Australia, found 60% of Australian companies expect to grow their business in 2013 – Indonesia was leading the way, with 94% of firms expecting their businesses to grow – 14% of the Australian businesses increased their staff numbers in 2012, compared with 61% in Indonesia – 47% of the Australian firms were forced to use a personal credit card to pay for business activities, compared with only 12% – Source: Indonesia Herald Sun 11 Dec 2012.

Recently a group of criminal hackers was successful in 93% of its attempts overseas to infect personal computers – they froze 18,941 PCs with a message demanding over $100 to unlock them – 15% of the victims paid – the group took about $400,000 in the day – even when payment was made, the hackers didn’t unlock the computers. Source: HBR 11 Nov 2012.

Australia is a nation of entrepreneurs, with 1 actively trading business for every 10 people – but small businesses are growing more than 3 times slower than the economy – almost 40% have collapsed in the last 4 years. Source: SmartCompany 13 Dec 2012.

This year’s Australian Innovation System Report suggests innovative firms of all sizes are almost twice as likely to report an increase in productivity compared to those that do not innovate – innovative firms are also 42% more likely to increase profitability, 3 times more likely to export, and 4 times more likely to increase the range of goods or services offered. But the percentage of Australian businesses seeking finance for innovation has declined by 40% since 2006-07 – venture capital and later-stage private equity investment has also declined substantially over the same period. Sourced: SmartCompany 12 Dec 2012.

The ageing agrifood workforce of 880,000 people involved in 180,000 small to medium-sized enterprises also has the potential to benefit from rapid innovations in remote access technology with 57% living in rural areas. Source: SmartCompany 12 Dec 2012.

The Australian wine industry exports around 65% of its production worth about $1.9 billion. Source: PSNews 11 Dec 2012.

Tourism contributed nearly $34 billion (nearly 10% of total export earnings) to Australia’s GDP – it directly employs over 500,000 people. Source: PSNews 11 Dec 2012.

There are 157,000 farmers in Australia – nearly 300 farmers have left the land each month over the past 30 years, partly because young people have been reluctant to take over the family farm – farmer numbers have shrunk by 40% (by 106,000). Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

But the smaller number of farmers who remain produce $32.5 billion in food exports today compared to $8.2 billion 30 years ago – the proportion that have a university education has increased by 600% since 1981. Source: The Australian 12 Dec 2012.

More than 25% of farmers are older than 65 compared with 3% in other occupations – the median age is 53, compared with 40 for other occupations – and the farmer age of 44 in 1981. Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

More than 50% of farmers work for more than 49 hours per week compared with only 17% of people in other occupations – but farmers only earn an average disposable income of $568 a week, nearly 40% less than the average of all other jobs. Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

55% of agricultural operations are estimated to turn over less than $100,000 a year – only 6% have operations turn over more than $1 million. Source: The Australian and AFR 12 Dec 2012.

Over the past 50 years improved farming techniques and technologies have helped to significantly increase crop yields along with a 12% expansion of farmed land use – however, with global food production already uses nearly half of the usable land surface, a further increase in land surface may severely impact on the world’s natural ecosystems. The challenge is that an increase in animal-based production will require much greater land – 1 hectare of land can produce enough rice or potatoes to feed 19-22 people per annum – the same area will only produce enough lamb or beef for 1 or 2 people. Source: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Jan 2013.

An average of 7-10 calories of energy input is required to produce 1 calorie of food – varying from 3 calories for plant crops to 35 calories for the production of beef. 78% of the world’s agricultural land is already used for animal production and meat consumption is rising per person in many developing nations – only about 3% of the energy consumed by livestock remains in edible animal tissue. Source: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Jan 2013.

For every cubic metre of water applied the potato produces 5.60kcal of dietary energy – maize 3.86kcal – wheat 2.3 kcal – rice only 2 kcal. For the same cubic metre of water, the potato yields 150g of protein (double that of wheat and maize) and 540 mg of calcium (double that of wheat and four times that of rice) – overall, 2 kcal is produced per cubic metres of water used on plant-based food and 0.25kcal is produced for meat-based food. About 40% of the world’s food is produced on irrigated land – taking up 17% of agricultural land. A study in the USA on the amount of water used in processing vegetables found that it ranged from 13 – 64 tonnes of water for each tonne of vegetables – in the case of fruits it ranged from 3.5 – 32 tonnes of water. Source: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers – Jan 2013.

Many thanks to Garry Reynolds of Caring for Our Country in Canberra for providing the sourced material

Contaminated Land – Research data

Reported is that research is ramping up into the number of areas responsible, or have responsibility for management of contaminated land. Worldwide, it appears the impediment to date has been the concern of uncovering unintended consequences by the actions that might be taken. This is understandable if you add that in order to take notice you need to understand the problem. It also follows that any data collection effort will serve as a proving ground for a methodology to deal with the problems that are uncovered. That in itself introduces another problem in that developing a Methodology requires funding or promises for funding.

Knowing that even governments have funding issues internal to themselves we could ask: So where should we start in Australia?  The immediate noticeable group addressing the quality of data issues of ‘real’ remediation challenges is the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation (DoFD) which has a Special Claims and Policy Branch that is leading a strategic data collection project examining the manner in which contamination issues are addressed. However, its purpose is to address Commonwealth Land Decisions-making and gather data only from entities covered under the FMA Act (Government Agencies) and CMA Act (Authorities). The Department has set out the project is to be collecting information in the earlier part of 2013. Whilst a let down to some, it is a start to identifying the effort needed.

Concurrently, Canada is turning its attention to those that refuse to clean up where they have polluted, and Environment Canada is beginning feasibility studies of remediation technologies that could be used on federal properties contaminated by chemicals.  Source: http://mobile.firehouse.com/news . A watching brief on Canada’s and other overseas, state and private groups suggests it is very wise to manage contamination within property decision-making groups and that they undertake research into solutions under key terms that may be available to reference available literature and what might be uncovered.

What CO2Land org has noted is that DoFD is finding the need to validate their understanding of the Commonwealth’s legal obligations relating to contamination liability – to clarify what they must manage as opposed to should manage.  (Those that follow this thread might recall – Posted on January 6, 2013 by co2land, Contaminated Land – Obligations to manage – was written to help the reader to understand that managing the environment means many things and it is not necessarily so that moral decisions will be made). This implies there are many areas of uncertainty and any contamination related advice would be welcome to help them target key areas of uncertainty.

In relation to the DoFD data project, Posted on January 8, 2013 by co2land , Contaminated Land – Remediation challenges was written Presently for a majority of contaminates, there are no endorsed standards or guidelines within Australia that define, for each category of land use, safe levels of soil contamination. What we do have within the National Environment Protection Measures Act 1998 (NEPM Act) guidelines is an adopted remediation criteria recommending investigation levels. Our suggestion is this investigation criterion is far too conservative and not well adopted or able to properly adept to manage health and environmental risks. Also written was CO2Land org noted that the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation has a number of areas responsible or have responsibility pertinent to management of contaminated land and wonders if it might be data collection that is the greater weakness in terms of the abilities for adequate and timely responses. This new post suggests DoFD is now prepared to push the boundries into uncertainty for those areas not previously covered by the scope of the land policy functions. CO2Land org also notes the timeframes for the project indicates the willingness for the data to be available for the 2013/14 Strategic Review Program – we applaud you for that. Small steps by a leap forward in terms of past efforts.

EOI – the label of convenience at risk

Calling for an Expression of Interest (EOI) gives the impression of progressive policy, but ‘paused development’ is often the result. A high risk for innovation and innovators to participate is the loss of Intellectual Property (IP). In more recent times it is common for government to test reactions to hard issues that are deemed to be important, and there is a belief finding acceptance of ‘real’ truth of the purpose – the use of EOI to assign work to institutions that have been otherwise denied funding at the expense of genuine innovation. Legally this is acceptable, but the morals are questionable when you consider that the ideas come from innovation and the innovators and they are at risk of loss of IP. Before participating in EOI invitations, the best defence could be to better understand Intellectual Property Law – starting with 101.

CO2Land org can give numerous examples of brilliant ideas. Many of these fail to be taken up because the main need was not correctly evaluated. In short a market was either not ready or the opportunity for the market to mature was outside the timeframe to sustain a reasonable return to run a business.  The carbon market is a very good example of brilliant ideas and correct intentions and misreading the timeframes. It follows that the space is a long way from being mature and it is complex as we have green markets, carbon markets and clean markets and a lot of individuals and entities wanting to be in the place where it is seen to be happening.

When we have a commodity we are well protected by our reputation and brand and the profile of what is offered carries warnings on ethical behaviours and legislation for protection. It is acceptable for the society to do this especially where the standards are deficient or omit adequate definition of the goods or services. Despite all this, as an innovator, it is very difficult to protect yourself and your intellectual property. Why? Because most participants establish their trademark/logo believing it is not necessary to establish reputation in the right of the mark. If someone comes along and does a better job of using the trademark or borrowed a look of your trademark to show a better use of it – they have the reputation not you. Also it is important to consider a reputation is not a single dimension it can be words with the addition of pictures, sounds, smells, colours and shapes.  Another question related to trade marks is different entities in different classes of specific goods and services need to be named in the specific classes. It would be prudent to check this matter out if you are moving from one market opportunity to another!

Starting up 101 – Intellectual Property (IP) is just a label of convenience! IP is a number of things that range from subject matter to rights. IP falls into categories in order to get rights and longevity over those rights. The significance of the difference makes the difference in the context of enforcing rights. Conversely you cannot enforce rights you do not have.

In relation to EOI – it could be argued you are permitting others to use or exploit your IP. Before participating you should take the matter up with a specialist IP Lawyer.

Background of what is IP in practice (Australia):

IP Matter Process to approve IP Type Definite Time
Innovation/Inventions yes Patents Yes
Genuine confidential and trade secrets no Trade Secrets and confidential information (not trivial) no – but you must maintain secrecy/confidentiality
Plant varieties yes Plant breeders rights yes
Visual features of a product yes Registered design yes
Signs distinguishing goods or services provided yes Registered trade mark Rollover by renewal fees paid
Original works and aligned subject matter (written down ideas) no Copyrights yes
Original layouts of semiconductor circuits no Circuit layout rights yes

Carbon Training International will be road testing their newest short course on the 16th & 17th August 2012

Carbon Training International will be road testing their newest short course on the 16th & 17th August  – “Source, Evaluate & Purchase Carbon Offsets” (national course code CTICM402A).

We are invited to be participants and chosen from across industry and from a cross section of the market to be involved to QA the program and the content. This includes industry professionals who work across the value chain, including finance professionals, suppliers and end users.

Co2Land org has been asked to extend the invitation for its readers to participate and we have a great deal of respect for the chief presenter – Bill Mcghee.

The program outline and the registration details are available on the webpage setup for the Carbon Offsets Pilot course

Carbon Trade Exchange is assisting with additional candidate recruitment & providing the trading platform for the course.

If you want to know more contact Rob Nicholls:

  Robert Nicholls

Managing Director

Carbon Training International

GPO Box 3414, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia

m: +61 (0) 403 806 779

www.co2ti.com

build a carbon-responsive workforce

 

Qualification – gap filled for AHC10

There is a qualification that fills the gap in the current Rural Production Training package AHC10. In conjunction with NSW Dept. of Education and Training and George Gundry (g.gundry@bigpond.com), a course in Holistic Management has been developed to meet the needs of land managers for accredited training in holistic management. George supplied a background on the founder of holistic management (developed over a period of 40 years by Alan Savory) and the facts to support the importance of the principles that include:

  • Over 12 Million hectares worldwide are managed using holistic principles
  • Since 1994, 250 people in Australia have attended training in holistic management.
  • The principles are sound and are suitable for people who want to make decisions on ecological, financial and socially sound land use in the short and long term for what they manage.

The course starts at TAFE Goulburn Campus on 24 &25 August 2012. There will be 8 workshops in total. The delivery pattern is two consecutive days off-farm with a reasonable interval to focus and achieve the outcomes desired of the course. Cost $231 plus textbooks.

CO2Land org is happy to alert where worthwhile learning structures are put forward. While we do what we can to determine whether the material is factual, it cannot be verified as suitable for what you intend and cannot be seen as a recommendation to participate. However, unashamedly we give credit for effort when the material is for the purpose of building sound practices.