Research transforming industry

ANU 70th anniversary - Seven decades of discovery

Then - A rock star start-up

When a high-tech start-up sells to a global business for $US68 million, you know you have a remarkable success story.

It's the story of Lithicon, rst spun-out in 2009 as Digitalcore by ANU scientists from the Research School of Physics and Engineering in collaboration with colleagues at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

The big commercial step was taken after 10 years of fundamental research, in which time over 30 companies had engaged
the group.

Their research combined novel scanning technology and advanced computer algorithms to produce high-resolution 3D images and simulations of uids in oil reservoir rocks. Research that is now providing companies with improved information
to help them extract oil and gas - possible only by combining innovative scienti c instrument design with clever mathematics.

In 2013, Digitalcore went global after a merger with Norwegian- owned Numerical Rocks and was renamed Lithicon. This union resulted in a unique combination of core imaging and processing technologies that placed Lithicon as a leader in the digital rock analysis revolution.

It also represented a major win for innovation at ANU, underscoring the University's capacity to take fundamental research and discovery through to commercial application for business and industry. Better still, the returns have established

two endowments to support fundamental academic exchange through the Stjepan Marcelja Scholarship and proof-of-concept commercial development Technology Development Fund.

In February 2014, US-based microscopic technology company FEI acquired Lithicon for $US68 million and so cemented a
very special research relationship with ANU. Today, the partnership harnesses the University's ability to develop novel scanning instrumentation for a rapidly growing commercial market in precision, non-destructive imaging.

Over the years, this research has been recognised with many professional accolades in the oil industry, including the 2010 ENI award to Professor Mark Knackstedt for better use of renewable energy and promotion of environmental research. In 2012, the Eureka Prize for Commercialisation of Innovation went to the ANU-UNSW collaboration.

The result of true success on the path to commercialisation can be gauged by the enduring nature of this research enterprise. Since the inception of the research, the Lithicon story boasts external sponsored research income exceeding $40 million, over and above the commercial returns from the acquisition.


Now - Challenging the nature of things

The decades-long monopoly of energy generators and distributors could soon be challenged by a technology company co-founded by ANU adjunct lecturer Dr Lachlan Blackhall, PhD '11.

As an enthusiastic entrepreneur with experience in founding and growing start-up companies, Blackhall has combined his love
of business and skills in engineering and mathematics to become an inspiring teacher, mentor and innovator.

After completing his PhD at ANU, and while working at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Sciences, Blackhall co-founded Reposit Power, a technology company that designs control software for energy storage.

A link-up with automotive and energy storage leader Tesla, and a number of other global energy storage companies, means
the Reposit Power hardware is central to consumer adoption
of residential energy storage, which enables users to store solar- generated power and use it when they wish.

"When the electricity grid was rst built, it was a case of consumers buying energy," Blackhall says.

"But now consumers are much more empowered, mostly because they have solar panels.

 "Battery storage really enables consumers to have energy freedom because they don't just have to use that power when the sun is up."

Entrepreneurship has been a passion of Blackhall's for years. While completing his PhD at ANU, he founded InnovationACT, a business planning and entrepreneurship outreach program that has given out more than $300,000 in awards and grants.

"I had a really good PhD program and it was a very welcoming place," he says.

"ANU gave me an unparalleled education experience. It's such a worldclass institution and I was supported to experiment and challenge myself."

Blackhall continues to teach Master level engineering courses at ANU and has designed an engineering power lab for advancing research and teaching around grid-connected renewable energy generation and distribution.