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Tuning in to opportunity

IN an unmarked, nondescript building among the car yards of Cannington, sit the offices of a company that is developing cutting edge explosive detection technology based on radio waves – a security application that is generating worldwide interest.

The company, QRSciences, said that its technology was attracting the big names of aviation and it had already signed a deal with a major US defence contractor as well as conducting negotiations with several major multi-national companies to establish manufacturing alliances.

The technology’s current application is to detect plastic explosives in luggage using radio waves that are passed through an object such as a suitcase and return a unique signature if explosives are present.

Not bad for a company that initially developed the technology for above-ground mineral detection in the mining industry.

And this is perhaps why the company is reportedly the subject of a takeover bid from a group of shareholders that have a 13 per cent stake in the unlisted company – well short of the 48.1 per cent understood to be held by controlling shareholder, the listed Clearwater Group.

QRSciences executive director Justin Hollyock said the technology was a low cost, highly effective means of detection and “one of the most exciting things to come out of WA in quite a few years”.

Mr Hollyock said the company was looking at plans to extend the technology for use in other industries such as pharmaceutical quality control.

“A lot of the smarts are in the software, the analysis and the methods we use,” he said.

Mr Hollyock said QR’s technology was designed to be added to existing machines and would be used in addition to the security measures such as x-ray and metal detection currently used in airports.

“Our goal is to have our technology in every security machine available,” Mr Hollyock said.

“We have patents and our technology has been tested by the UK Home Office and by the US Federal Air Administration,” he said.

“All the hype is now at airport security.  It is where our initial profits are going to come from.”

However, Mr Hollyock said the demand for security screening was not just at airports but also high risk buildings such as embassies and certain multi-nationals that could be terrorism targets.

“We are even looking at developing a drive-through scanner for a truck,” he said.

“Our next major market is pharmaceutical quality control. Over time they [pharmaceuticals] can change in quality…there is very limited ability currently to detect that the active ingredient is chemically present in the right quantities.

“We have already been in touch with the pharmaceutical guild and they are very excited.”

However, the achievements so far have been done on a shoestring, when compared to what the company’s US and European competitors can front and funding remains an issue.

“We have faced huge hurdles from the investment community,” Mr Hollyock said. 

“They just don’t believe that a firm based in Cannington, WA can do what we’re doing.

“Industry players are dealing with us. They are the only ones taking us seriously.”

That is set to change with QRSciences looking at releasing a financial forecast fairly shortly that, Mr Hollyock said, should create a bit of interest in the market. He said there has been investment interest from a Japanese delegation from the Kansai region that sounded promising.

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