By Mike Sullivan >>

CAN CERAMIC micro-encapsulation technology – a new materials process originally developed by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation – change the world for the better?

Not only can it happen but New South Wales company Ceramisphere has been established to make it happen.

Ceramisphere has developed two quite different product lines that utilise ceramic micro-encapsulation technology.

Ceramisphere itself manufactures green, smart additives for paints and coatings that provide unrivalled corrosion protection. Ceramisphere Health – an offshoot company that operates specifically in the health and medical sector – is developing a new type of transdermal patch for pain relief and wound healing. Trials so far have given the company great confidence in the ability of this technology to have a successful impact on post shingles pain treatment and help fighting the opioid crisis. 

The year ahead is expected to be a busy, fruitful one of commercialisation and stepping up sales for Ceramisphere smart pigments, according to CEO and founder, Chris Barbé, although there are certainly major challenges to be met.

“Our target for Ceramisphere in 2019 is to increase the market penetration for our smart anticorrosion pigments (known by the registered trademark, Inhibispheres) in North America and Europe,” Dr Barbé said.

“We will try to capitalise on the momentum created by our first sale in the USA and keep growing our pipeline through our network of nine distributors. We have more than 100 companies currently testing our products worldwide.”

At the same time, Ceramisphere Health is looking to raise capital and conduct clinical trials with a view to fast-track progress through the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“For Ceramisphere Health, we are looking to raise capital to take our ground breaking zero-waste nanocomposite patch technology through clinical trials,” Dr Barbé said. “We should benefit from an accelerated pathway through the FDA and potentially reach commercialisation as early as 2023, which is extremely rapid for Healthcare. 

“This makes it a very attractive proposition for potential investors.”

INNOVATION PEDIGREE

Investors looking at Ceramisphere are likely to be heartened by the company’s strong innovation pedigree and the way the company’s teams ‘keep finding a way’ to commercialise. 

Dr Barbé likes to quote from inventor and electricity entrepreneur Thomas Edison, whenever the going gets tough: “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”

Ceramisphere was created in 2007 as a fully owned subsidiary of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), as a vehicle to spin-off ANSTO’s novel ceramic micro-encapsulation technology. This first step to commercialisation was achieved in early 2010.

“Originally, we positioned ourselves as a micro-encapsulation company, with a service business model where the client brings a substance to encapsulate and we would develop the encapsulation process for them,” Dr Barbé said. The initial plan was for Ceramisphere to license the technology back to the client to manufacture – or contract the manufacturing of – the final product.

“We worked with a wide range of companies, all around the world, for various applications ranging from the encapsulation of flavours for chewing gum, to enzyme for washing powder, biocide for aquaculture all the way to RNA (ribonucleic acid) therapy.”

Dr Barbé founded Ceramisphere in 2007, working as the company’s technical director, and he became increasingly concerned by the slow commercial take-up of the technology, wondering if another business model should be explored.

“The development of smart additives for paints and coatings started in 2007 as a collaboration with (aircraft manufacturer) Airbus,” Dr Barbé said. “They were interested in developing a replacement for the toxic chromium primers currently used in aerospace to prevent corrosion. 

“After several years, we realised that our microencapsulation business model was not applicable to the paint industry. Paint manufacturers, being formulators, were interested in buying microencapsulated additives but not volunteering substances to be encapsulated. Like good cooks, they want to buy their ingredients not grow them …

“So, we changed our business model and became a smart additive manufacturer. This entailed building a manufacturing facility in Mt Kuringai, north of Sydney, and setting up a sales and distribution network in Europe and North America.”

“In 2014, when I took over as CEO we decided, being an SME with limited resources, to focus on two key areas where our patented technology presented some unique key competitive advantages: smart additives for paints and drug delivery for healthcare,” he said.

“On the healthcare side, after a number of collaboration projects with large pharmaceutical companies, technically successful but which did not progress commercially, we decided to take our destiny in our own hands,” Dr Barbé said.  “We chose to push through the clinic a ground breaking transdermal patch technology that we have developed in collaboration with a small company in the Czech Republic.

“The preclinical data is extremely positive with 30 times more efficient patches, with no residual waste – in contrast to 50-95 percent of the drug typically remaining inside current commercial patches when you discard them. We are currently developing a pipeline of three patch products: One, an extended release lidocaine patch for post-shingles pain; two, a new fentanyl patch for post-surgical and cancer pain’; and three, a bioactive wound healing dressing with faster and better healing properties.

“To better focus our effort, we have recently spun off the new company, Ceramisphere Health, which is solely dedicated to developing those novel nano-solutions for skin delivery.”

BREAKTHROUGHS

Two breakthroughs over the past year have been milestones for Ceramisphere.

The company made the first sale of its ground breaking Inhibispheres anticorrosion technology in North America in 2018. At Ceramisphere Health, positive preclinical data of the lidocaine patch confirmed superior efficiency and ease of disposal. 

“We are constantly expanding a modifying our range of Inhibispheres products to better address our customer’s needs,” Dr Barbé said. “In response to some specific demand from customers working in aerospace applications, we have developed two new products which are being evaluated in Europe and the US.

“The Inhibispheres technology is a rupture technology for the paint and coating industry. This patented technology is unique and offers significant increases in efficiency, with 30 times less chemical used for a better corrosion protection.”

Sustainability is part of Ceramisphere’s DNA, Dr Barbé said. The Inhibispheres products are a natural extension of that philosophy, finding a more sustainable way to manufacture anticorrosion pigments. They provided a novel, eco-friendly alternative to toxic chemicals, such as Chromium VI and other metals, currently used for corrosion protection.

And there has been significant commercial progress across North American and European markets with the establishment in 2018 of nine distributors.

“These distributors are acting as our sales forces and will enable us to penetrate these markets more quickly,” Dr Barbé said. “Our sales cycle is around 24 months. Lesson to be learned: patience … and the necessity to keep growing our pipeline.”

Ceramisphere is also learning that even a new, sustainable – and in many ways revolutionary – product must keep ‘showing up’ and weave its way through to industry acceptance.

“The paint and coating industry is a crowded place with a lot of consolidation occurring both for paint manufacturers but also distributors and suppliers,” Dr Barbé said.  “This makes it harder for a small entrepreneurial company based in Australia to enter the global market.

“Large companies tend to be benchmarking new technologies rather than adopting them. We rely on early adopters, to demonstrate the commercial potential of this novel technology and with this concentration happening throughout the industry, their numbers are dwindling.” 

Nevertheless, recognition is coming Ceramisphere’s way and sectors of the industry are taking note. For example, Ceramisphere received early acclaim from the Scandinavian Paint Association in Copenhagen, being named the Most Innovative Technology of 2018.

That sort of notice is appreciated by the hard-working teams at Ceramisphere who believe their products in development can genuinely change industry for the better.

“Our success is the result of close team work,” Dr Barbé said. “Every member of the team from the junior chemist to the business development manager contributes to the success of the company.

“We have had a slow and gradual increase of staff numbers over the past year. As a mature start-up, our policy is always to ‘hire slowly’. We are cautious but we are forging ahead.

“Our plan is to increase our sales into Europe and North America. Once we will have established our beachheads in these two markets, we will turn our eyes to Asia, which represents both a substantial opportunity – as the highest growth region for the paint industry – and a significant challenge both commercially and from an IP protection perspective.” 

While he admits the challenges are big for a small Aussie company, he believes the capability and the determination are there to see Ceramisphere succeed and become another great global company from Australia.

“To quote Thomas Edison again, ‘The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard Work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common Sense’,” Dr Barbé said.

“Our teams at Ceramisphere and Ceramisphere Health know all about vital ingredients – and they certainly have those three, in spades.”

www.ceramisphere.com

Ceramisphere Pty Ltd and Ceramisphere Health Pty Ltd

Best-known brands: Ceramisphere® Inhibispheres ®

Started in 2007 as an offshoot company of ANSTO, Ceramisphere companies operate in the ‘paints and coatings’, manufacturing and healthcare (human and animal) sectors. The businesses are led by founder and former technical director Chris Barbé – who became the CEO in 2014 – Ceramisphere today is what he refers to as a ‘mature start-up’ with a permanent staff of 12 people and a turnover of more than $600,000. The leadership team is CEO Chris Barbé, Chief Scientific Officer Dr Aparajita Khatri for Ceramisphere Health, and Business Development Manager Ron Cozijnsen for Ceramisphere .

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ADORA Handmade Chocolates has one of the most remarkable backstories of any Australian confectionery maker.

Adora started out as a simple home-made chocolates business in 1993, designed to make some extra money for sisters Tina Angelidis and Katerina Stavropoulos, as they supported their partners in raising their families. Over a quarter century later, the business has developed in both size and brand reputation to be poised for steady expansion. 

“Over time, the business has had to be the main income for both families,” director Tina Angelidis said. “Now the children have grown, the business has taken on another phase. We now can see the potential beyond just an income and would like to explore the possibilities.”

And those possibilities seem ripe for the picking, right now, for Adora Handmade Chocolates.

ADORA COMES OF AGE

Over the past few years, consequently, the Adora leadership team has focused on laying the groundwork for expansion – and this has rapidly paid off.

First came the decision to install new equipment and restructure Adora’s manufacturing site, a couple of years ago, supplying a broad range of customers and four Adora Cafes in Sydney’s CBD, Earlwood, Parramatta and Newtown.

“Significant technologies and systems introduced include ordering systems, purchasing, stock management, and making accountability more visible,” Ms Angelidis said.

But perhaps most rewarding was the relocation of Adora’s original Earlwood store.

“After 22 years in Homer Street, last year we relocated our Earlwood store to 118 Wardell Rd Earlwood, corner of Bass St,” Ms Angelidis said. “It was a big step for us, but we were able to relocate our business of 25 years to a new location and, at the same time, increase sales immediately.”

Ms Angelidis said she learned to “never underestimate or overestimate people’s potential”.

Furthermore, incentive rewards have successfully been introduced for staff at all levels.

MEETING GROWTH CHALLENGES

The company’s financial turnaround over the past year has been solid and confident, as a result of Adora’s innovative but measured approach. That seems even more remarkable in a retail environment that is rife with challenges.

“Currently the chocolate café industry has suffered due to the high rents, high staff costs and increasing costs from food suppliers,” Ms Angelidis said. “We have had to try to renegotiate all areas more regularly.” 

An area that needs special attention, Ms Angelidis and her leadership team agree – because it has such a negative effect on the retail cost of products – is the hurdle of payroll tax, often described by economists as a ‘tax on employment’.

“Payroll tax must be addressed for the hospitality industry,” Ms Angelidis said. “The industry hardly allows you to grow the business, pay staff correctly and still make a profit.”

Another challenge has been the quest to use more sustainable and ethical products, creating some logistical challenges.

“We are also using more and more natural ingredients in all our products,” she said, mentioning its impact on the bottom line.

Indeed, the public has reacted enthusiastically to all Adora product innovations so far. 

For 2019 and beyond, Tina Angelidis’s primary goals are to consolidate the manufacturing with the retail “in order to build the business to a more profitable and sustainable model and replicate thereafter”.

“I want Adora Handmade Chocolates to be a recognised, reputable and sustainable business,” Ms Angelidis said.

With that solid foundation – hand-built by sisters Tina and Katerina from the ground up, over 25 years – Adora Handmade Chocolates continues to innovate and foment ever-more heavenly chocolate experiences.

www.adora.com.au

 

Adora Handmade Chocolates 

Best-known brands: Adora Café, Adora Signature Truffles made with natural ingredients, Special Order chocolates and Hampers, Handmade High Tea, Chocolate Classes as team building for clients or colleagues 

Adora Handmade Chocolates operates across the manufacturing and hospitality industries, and is led by director Tina Angelidis.

Adora has one manufacturing site and four retail and café outlets across Sydney, with a total of 24 staff.

Awards: Adora’s chocolates have won many awards at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Adora has also been awarded Business of the Year for the Canterbury region.

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AUSTRALIAN company Ocular Robotics has been recognised as a ‘game changer’ organisation in the global robotics revolution.

Ocular Robotics, a New South Wales Leaders alumni member, was presented with the Next Generation Game Changer Award at the 2015 RoboBusiness Conference in Silicon Valley, California. 

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THE ORGANISATION that has been inciting Australian innovation since 2006 – the Hargraves Institute named after aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave – is now focused on helping public sector to transform.

The Hargraves Institute is backing the Australian Public Sector Innovation Awards in an effort to assist in the innovative development of public administration. Allan Ryan.

“The Public Sector Innovation Awards aims to recognise, celebrate and share innovative approaches to public administration,” Hargraves Institute CEO Allan Ryan said.

“The benefits of innovation to the APS (Australian Public Sector) is to engage everybody in problem solutions,” Mr Ryan said. “Engaging everybody gives the maximum opportunity to get the best ideas. (It is to) get many ideas and for the best of many ideas to be implemented.”

He said it was all about recognising innovation and fostering a culture that supports and celebrates people and agencies doing things differently.

“This means that an innovative APS is a high performing APS, because everybody at every level is engaged in the outcomes desired.”

Since it was founded on July 1, 2006, the Hargraves Institute has become a beacon for bringing through innovation in various sectors of Australian business, education and now public administration.

It is as unique as its namesake, who was an inventor – the man who developed box kites and gliders and whose experiment in wing warping are believed to have helped the Wright Brothers make their powered flight breakthrough in 1903 – who believed in sharing his ideas and findings with the scientific world.

Hargrave’s principle of sharing and collaboration to advance knowledge is the corner stone of Hargraves Institute.

There were 12 leading Australian organisations who formed the original Hargraves Institute Advisory Council.

The aims were many, all based on inciting innovation throughout Australian enterrpise and society. The concept of the members was to be part of the collection of the country’s best innovators; and  to “learn how to be more innovative through the collective experience of the group”.

The original 12 were Aristocrat Technologies Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, BlueScope Steel, Boeing Australia, Caltex Australia Petroleum, Cerebos (Australia), Cochlear, George Weston Technologies, Jacobs Australia, Mars Food Australia, Roche Products and Westpac Banking Corporation.

The Hargraves Institute is a NSW Leaders Industry Partner.

www.hargraves.com.au

 

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NEW South Wales Leaders executive member The Copyright Agency has struck a landmark rights agreement with leading Asia-Pacific media intelligence group, Isentia, that will both improve access to Australian online and print content and protect its publishers.

The Copyright Agency has announced it will use this agreement as the basis for “negotiating with all other online and print media content aggregators in Australia to ensure a level playing field and fair compensation to publishers for the use of their content”. 

While the agreement delivers significant client benefits to Isentia clients, it fundamentally helps Australian print and online publishers to invest in quality journalism and the development of content creation programs, with an assurance that they will be paid for its re-use.

The Copyright Agency’s CEO, Adam Suckling said “This agreement provides Isentia with a flexible and innovative licensing solution for its clients and ensures a revenue stream to publishers for use of their content so that they can keep producing high-quality journalism.

“The key publishers that the Copyright Agency represents publish great journalism and analysis which is expensive to produce. The revenue that flows from the new agreement makes a contribution to sustaining outstanding publishing, journalism and analysis in Australia.”

Under the new copyright agreement, Isentia will now provide clients with immediate access to media intelligence drawn from the millions of stories produced each year by Australia’s leading publishers of quality journalism including Fairfax, News Corp Australia, Bauer Media, Western Australian Newspapers and APN.

The media content licensed under the new agreement covers Australia’s most popular digital sites, newspapers and magazines, which reach a combined audience of close to 17 million Australians – about 94 percent of the adult population – and have greater influence and client impact than any other medium in Australia.

Under the new agreement the parties have agreed to significantly enhance the value provided to Isentia’s clients, who will now have retention and access to tailored online and print media content for a full 12 months – up from 180 days – providing Isentia’s clients with a fully searchable, 12-month archive of stories and business intelligence that is compiled on the basis of what is of critical importance to them.

Isentia clients will also now have real-time access to all stories as they are published, lifting a previous 4am embargo on some publications. For the first time clients will get immediate access to stories published across every major publication in Australia, Mr Suckling said.

Another key change is the significant increase in the number of people who are licensed to receive media items in a company, so relevant media items can now be shared with more people within an organisation. 

 

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Isentia chief executive John Croll said the new Copyright Agency agreement recognised the increasingly complex media environment that Isentia’s clients navigate.

“This new agreement ensures our clients will receive high quality content from all the key publishers in Australia,” Mr Croll said. “No matter where a story breaks, Isentia will have the access and the rights to supply our clients with real-time, relevant information. The new copyright agreement also provides significant improvements for clients in the length of the archive and the number of internal users who can access the information.”

www.copyright.com.au

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