Boating invention makes waves

30/01/2015 - 14:23

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The former chief executive of ASX-listed company Advanced Braking Technology, Ken Johnsen, has taken the helm of Dunsborough firm Nauti-Craft, which has developed a suspension system for boats.

RIDING THE WAVE: There’s plenty of interest in Nauti-Craft’s innovative approach.

The former chief executive of ASX-listed company Advanced Braking Technology, Ken Johnsen, has taken the helm of Dunsborough firm Nauti-Craft, which has developed a suspension system for boats.

The system, which suppresses movement in volatile waters, has applications for pleasure and commercial vessels alike.

Nauti-Craft uses hydraulics to limit the impact of waves on the stability of the vessel’s deck.

The idea, Mr Johnsen said, was an innovation that seemed obvious in hindsight.

“Motor vehicles have had suspension since their inception, evolving from horses and buggies that had springs on them … but boats have never had springs or suspension systems on them,” Mr Johnsen told Business News.

The invention has grabbed attention from as far away as the UK, and Mr Johnsen said the task this year would be to focus the company’s small team toward the most viable opportunities.

“We’re active in discussions with a number of boat builders at the moment,” he said.

“We have a multitude of potential opportunities or applications for the technology, so we need to determine where it will be most compelling.

“We’ve got demonstration prototypes running and our task now is to actually receive income in terms of doing consulting to advise on putting the technology on boat builders' boats … and then licensing the technology.”

Mr Johnsen has previous experience with the commercialisation of intellectual property, having undertaken similar programs at Advanced Braking and Orbital Corporation, where he worked for more than two decades.

The Nauti-Craft team also includes inventor Chris Heyring and a number of other specialists from Kinetic Suspension Technology, a Western Australian company that developed passive automotive suspension technology.

Mitsubishi utilised the technology in the Dakar rally and Citroen in the World Rally Championship, while McLaren has used the system on the racetrack in its supercars.

Mr Johnsen said Nauti-Craft hoped to sell two or three licences of its intellectual property in 2015, with work on at least one strong option already under way.

“There are Australian opportunities but the biggest driver (of interest) is the wind farm service business (in the North Sea),” he said.

Offshore electricity production through wind farms is a burgeoning industry in northern Europe, producing around 4 per cent of all wind-powered electricity in Europe.

There is a fleet of about 350 vessels dedicated to servicing and maintenance of the turbines and infrastructure.

The industry faces challenges, however, with power produced offshore nearly twice as expensive as onshore wind power.

This has led to large-scale research and development investment to cut the costs of the offshore operations, with an eye to the advantages of lower noise and visual pollution in an area as densely populated as Europe.

UK-based organisation The Carbon Trust has consequently backed Nauti-Craft’s technology as a way to lower maintenance expenses offshore and increase the useability of the fleet.

Nauti-Craft has 10 employees and is privately owned, but Mr Johnsen was open to the idea of a potential listing to raise capital in the future.

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