23/04/2009 - 00:00

T-Line to harness safety benefits

23/04/2009 - 00:00

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A PERTH-BASED inventor has used $80,000 in government grants and some of his own money to develop an award-winning safety line he says would be on the market by year's end.

T-Line to harness safety benefits

A PERTH-BASED inventor has used $80,000 in government grants and some of his own money to develop an award-winning safety line he says would be on the market by year's end.

Meridian Safety director Leigh Dowie's T-Line allows higher mobility in harness equipment through a system that can facilitate both horizontal and vertical movement.

Last week, Mr Dowie's invention was listed in the top 20 of Anthill Magazine's 'Smart 100' most innovative new Australian products.

Australian Anthill and market research firm Colmar Brunton created the 'Smart 100,' using 1,600 judges to assess 861 different products.

The T-Line has also been featured on ABC television's The New Inventors, and Mr Dowie received a certificate of merit at the WA Inventor of the Year Awards in 2007.

The majority of government funding for the T-Line was provided through a $70,400 grant from the Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) program.

"The big challenge for anyone just starting out is money, but I found a lot of help through some small government grants," Mr Dowie told WA Business News.

"I've had to borrow a bit of money, and other than that it's been government grants and some licence fees."

Mr Dowie said it would have been difficult for the T-Line to proceed to this stage without the industry accolades.

"It was great to get that sort of recognition but it was a really big help in securing the government funding that I needed," he said.

"It really put it out there in front of people; it got me a lot of registered interest from companies, some big companies like BHP and Woodside and Qantas, so that really helped me build my business case."

Mr Dowie said the T-Line would be available commercially in a matter of months and he was aiming to gain a significant share of the estimated global falls prevention market of $US1.4 billion.

"Most industries use fall protection in some manner; construction and maintenance are the really big ones, but there's also applications in mining, transport, telecommunications and aerospace, they all use fall protection to a fairly large degree," he said.

"I can't really aim too high to start with, it'd be nice to just get it out there, but if I could get a five or 10 per cent market share after a few years I think that would be a fantastic result."

The T-Line is currently undergoing field trials with mine safety equipment distributors MSA Australia, global safety solutions firm Standfast and US-based fall protection firm Capital Safety.

The trials are scheduled to conclude in June, after which Meridian will seek international standards certification for the device.

Mr Dowie developed the concept while working as an engineering graduate for Woodside Petroleum in 2002.

"I was a little bit surprised at the lack of technology involved in some of the existing systems," he said.

"We were building quite a complicated plant and I guess I just started thinking there must be a more advanced solution."

But there's is still work to be done before the T-Line is available for sale.

"The company itself is still a one-man show. I do have all the resources I believe I need. I've got a legal adviser and, as part of the COMET program, I've got a business adviser who helps me through the activities," he said.

"But once we're ready to commence sales I think the business structure will really need to be looked at."

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