Peter Clarke, Former Scanalyse CEO
What were the major barriers when it came to commercialising the Scanalyse technology and taking it to market?
One barrier we encountered was getting the product trialled in the marketplace. However, we were able to overcome that fairly easily because the service we were offering didn’t interrupt the production processes of the mine sites. We could work in with their schedules, and not risk any damage to their machinery or their processes. We were able to work with them and show them what the product did.
We were able to respond to our client’s needs by adding extra features to our software which would add extra value and deliver the information they needed.
As we developed the company, we came across other barriers like extending our customer base from initial early adopters to a different set of customers who were really pragmatic and needed to shown the true value of the product, if they were going to save money, or get extra production. We overcame this barrier by doing a lot of case studies and doing analysis on our customers who were using the product and that gave us the knowledge required to sell to the rest of the market.
Another barrier was expanding into international markets. We needed to understand the cultural barriers to operating in those countries and to adapt to their local practices.
How did Curtin’s approach to IP cater to your unique business requirements and timeframes?
The academics within the university developed the software and the processes initially. However, when we formed Scanalyse, the IP was fully assigned to the company.
The ownership and control of the IP didn’t stay within the University and that was a key factor in making the company successful because we were able to raise investment money to help the company grow. This process would have been much more difficult if the company didn’t control or own the IP.
The other aspect of Curtin’s approach is their sharing arrangement with academic staff. When the company was sold several years later the researchers and inventors were able to benefit from the technology they created.
Why did your company choose to partner with Curtin and how did the relationship come about, and what outcomes has this partnership led to?
The company initially was 100% owned by Curtin, and my role was to run the company and take it out of the university and commercialise the technology. When we raised some investment money from local venture capital people they would then go on to take some shares in the company.
Do you have any advice for other businesses looking to collaborate with universities?
I’ve always been a really strong supporter of industry and companies working and interacting closely with universities. There are some challenges in finding the right people to work with that will support you in a commercial manner, but they are there – it’s just a matter of finding them.
There’s a lot of very good science that goes on in universities and a lot of that science can be turned into products. It’s not a process which happens overnight. You have to be prepared to have a reasonably long term relationship with the university so both parties get to know each other and understand what it is they can deliver.
Spending time finding out what research is being conducted that is of interest and value to your company, and who’s doing what within the university is a very worthwhile process.