Two security-focused IT developers creamed the competition this year at the patrons' awards for the NSW Government's export-focused Australian Technology Showcase (ATS).
Biometrics company Argus Solutions, based in the Sydney suburb of Milsons Point, took out the top gong at the export incubator awards night at Government House on Tuesday night.
Argus beat off six finalists, including two other IT companies, to win prizes including two business class airfares for promotional trips into promising export markets, advisory services from Macquarie Bank, assistance from venture capitalist firm Pacific Capital Corporation and a giant Panasonic plasma screen.
Michael Egan, NSW Treasurer and Minister for State Development, said Argus had won for its success in growing export deals. It had won a border control contract with the Singapore government, and was exploring further opportunities in Singapore, China, Malaysia, the UK, US and the Middle East.
Argus' patented iris recognition system had netted $600,000 in export sales in two years -- a considerable achievement for a new, innovative technology, he said.
“The ATS includes ICT, biotechnology and biometrics but there are also some great technologies in very old-fashioned things,” Egan said.
“We only spend about $2 million a year on the ATS program, but you get really good bang for your buck for money spent innovatively and creatively.”
He said companies in the ATS program had contributed some $550 million to the NSW economy via equity investments, exports and sales. The ATS was started to take advantage of opportunities springing out of NSW's heightened global profile for the 2000 Olympic Games.
Past years had seen winners ramp up their sales all over the world. One had developed a better hip replacement technology now used in Yale University medical facilities in the US. Another had supplied superior braking systems for the trucking industry, Egan said.
Warren Dick, a partner at ATS patron and consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, said each of six finalists was unique and offered innovative technology that ATS patrons believed had great potential for export success.
“If patrons manage to do nothing but raise awareness of what these companies have done around the world, then we've done our job,” he said.
Second place went to another IT surveillance system developer, iOmniscient, based in Sydney's Chatswood. iOmniscient earned 80 percent of its revenue from overseas and had won a 2004 International Federation of Security Award for best security technology worldwide, Dick said.
iOmniscient had patented a surveillance system using artificial intelligence to detect unmoving, suspicious objects -- such as bags and boxes that could contain bombs -- in crowded areas such as airports and train stations, he said.
The system could use existing closed circuit TV infrastructure, he added.
“The company has signed distribution agreements with companies in the US, UK, Asia and the middle East,” Dick said.
A third finalist, Sydney-based Wireless Monitors Australia had developed a unique device, dubbed Cent-A-Meter, that helped companies improve their energy efficiency, lowering power bills and making their operations more environmentally responsible.
The company planned to target Canada, the UK, Europe and Japan, Dick said.
“Cent-A-Meter launched this year, and has already achieved $85,000 in export sales to New Zealand and received orders for $200,000 from the US,” Dick said.
The other three finalists were Surry Hills water sanitation specialist Ioteq, Baulkham Hills-based medical waste disposal system maker MediVac and Coffs Harbour's heart rhythm monitor developer USCOM.
Minister Egan said some 402 technology companies had so far gained entry to the ATS program, which had proved so successful that other states had begun instigating their own.
“Over the last four months, another 52 companies have gained membership,” he said.
Companies are assessed on 10 criteria. Applicants' technologies have to be clearly innovative, scientifically credible, have significant local content, be demonstrably marketable and commercially attractive.
They also have to be socially and environmentally beneficial, readily exportable, backed by good, skilled stakeholders, be easily deployed and have potential strength in the market. Admission is free.
The Patrons' Award kicked off a week of ATS events.