Listed companies back 'accelerators'

23/03/2015 - 14:15

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Blue chip mineral sands miner Iluka Resources and small biotech Sun Biomedical are as different as chalk and cheese; but what they share, apart from a Perth base, is a willingness to invest in Western Australia’s emerging technology ‘accelerator’ programs.

Iluka managing director David Robb.

Blue chip mineral sands miner Iluka Resources and small biotech Sun Biomedical are as different as chalk and cheese; but what they share, apart from a Perth base, is a willingness to invest in Western Australia’s emerging technology ‘accelerator’ programs.

Iluka is one the backers of Unearthed, which had its second Perth ‘hackathon’ over the weekend, while Sun Biomedical has agreed to invest in the Amcom Upstart initiative.

Iluka’s keen interest in new technology was highlighted by its investment in UK company Metalysis, which is developing a potentially disruptive technology for titanium powder production.

Managing director David Robb said last week Iluka would continue to look for ‘seed corn’ investments, and is no doubt hoping the Unearthed hackathons will present opportunities.

The Perth hackathon brought together about 70 developers, programmers and innovators to work collaboratively on developing prototype solutions to resources sector problems.

IIuka, Acquire Technology Solutions, and the state government-backed Minerals Research Institute of WA, which are supporters of Unearthed, each presented a problem to the participants.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion said the state government's $25,000 sponsorship through MRIWA would help to extend WA's global mining leadership.

“I am excited to see an event that delivers real results, especially with technologies which increase efficiency and reduce costs - both crucial factors in the competitive world of mines and petroleum,” Mr Marmion said.

Unearthed director Justin Strharsky said $30,000 in cash and prizes was available to participants in the Perth hackathon, the first of four nationally this year.

Winners may progress to an accelerator program, which offers extra funding and mentoring support.

In related nbews, Resources innovation through Information Technology, the not-for-profit body that runs Unearthed, has bolstered its board with the addition of venture capitalist Larry Lopez.

Mr Lopez is one of the backers of the OzApp awards and a director of Jolimont Global Mining Services, which invests in mining technology ventures.

Another positive for Unearthed was the signing of an MoU with Austmine, which represents the mining equipment, technology and services sector.

Meanwhile, Sun Biomedical has agreed to invest $100,000 in Amcom Upstart, which will make it one of the top investors in the program.

Executive chairman Howard Digby said the investment would support Sun Biomedical’s search for new products and technologies.

Amcom Upstart, run in tandem with the eGroup business association and the Spacecubed shared working space, will identify up to eight startups and provide $40,000 in seed capital and professional mentoring support.

Another recently established accelerator program in Perth is KPMG's Energise, which plans to provide mentoring support to early-stage busineses tackling problems in the resources sector.

 

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