It has always been known that Territorians are innovative – how can it be otherwise when you live in a jurisdiction nearly six times the size of Britain but with a population of only 245,000?
But what was needed was an effective way of mining that creativity and making the enormous economic potential known to the world.
Darwin Innovation Hub is doing just that.
It was founded as a business unit of Darwin-based private investment firm Paspalis because chief executive Harley Paroulakis recognised that the NT is one of the most commercially exciting jurisdictions in the Asia Pacific.
Founded in 2019, Paspalis launched the first venture capital fund in the Territory, the Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund. With a team of experts across a range of sectors relevant to the NT, Paspalis has a multidisciplinary approach to investment.
The Paspalis Innovation Investment fund has backed a suite of great innovations, some of which include:
SPEE3D – Territory-born Steve Camilleri has developed a 3D printer that works faster and better than anything else on the market.
As part of the company’s additive manufacturing solutions, SPEE3D is working with defence forces around the world to quickly produce parts from well-known metal alloys to meet real-time needs in the field. SPEE3D co-founder and chief executive Byron Kennedy says: “We are excited to be working with the defence sector globally to bring our latest printer, XSPEE3D, to the field, offering a deployable and easy-to-use solution.
“Together, we have explored the impact of additive manufacturing to solve real supply chain problems by printing critical parts on demand and in rough conditions.
“We are so glad to leverage on the network and support provided through DIH to advance our business interests in both Singapore and Australia.”
Amphibian Aerospace Industries, which plans to manufacture and export the iconic Albatross amphibious plane, is undertaking research and development at Darwin International Airport.
The aircraft is in high demand internationally, with a prototype program being contemplated in the USA for FFA approval, positioning Darwin as a global future manufacturing hub.
Travello, a growing travel agency app with 900,000 users, has employed a full-time person in the NT to grow its experience platform, their biggest market is in Northern Australia;
Corrosion Instruments, Sam Pattemore’s Palmerston-based business, which has developed instruments to accurately measure metal corrosion – a significant advance in the tropics where metal, particularly if it in water, corrodes far more rapidly than in temperate climates;
Hold Access, which has developed a digital wallet that gives First Nations people control over their diverse identification.
Liandra Swim, a high-end fashion label owned by Liandra Gaykamangu, an Indigenous entrepreneur born and raised in a remote community in Arnhem Land.
During this year’s Afterpay Australian Fashion Week, Australian designer Liandra Swim led the NextGen runway. This was the first time an Indigenous designer had presented a standalone Indigenous brand since the AAFW was founded 27 years ago. Liandra Swim founder Liandra Gaykamangu says: “We’re here and we’re ready to be seen, heard and worn. To have an opportunity to be spotlighted and acknowledged as an up-and-coming designer to watch … that’s really important. I want the brand to be a mainstream label.”
Darwin Innovation Hub is also involved in two exciting space ventures.
Equatorial Launch Australia has launched three NASA suborbital rockets from the Arnhem Space Centre, which marked the start of the company as a multi-user commercial space launch company and kickstarted a new industry in Northern Australia on Indigenous-owned land. Singapore-based space-tech company Aliena aims to provide high-resolution datasets by enabling a fleet of imaging satellites to fly closer to the Earth using proprietary electric propulsion engines.
It will provide datasets specific to the Territory, which can be used for advanced crop monitoring for smart farms, fire detection and defence.
Aliena chief executive Dr Mark Lim says: “The datasets obtained from the very-low-Earth-orbiting microsatellites will provide high value, actionable insights for the industries of tomorrow.
“Specifically to the NT, the datasets can be used for advanced crop monitoring for smart farms, fire detection for disaster mitigation and hazard response, and also for the security and defence sector.”
Mr Paroulakis says: “This showcases that the Territory is ideally placed to host key infrastructure and services for the global space industry.”
Darwin Innovation Hub’s cleverly named annual Croc Pitch is enormously popular.
The 2022 Croc Pitch winner of $1 million investment from Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund was Atomionics, a Singapore-based startup building quantum sensors for navigation and resource exploration.
Atomionics is on a mission to build a complete model of the Earth’s crust using its Gravimeter technology and has started to conduct trials with their “treasure hunters” in mine sites across the Northern Territory.
Company co-founder and chief executive Sahil Tapiawala says: “At Atomionics we’ve built the world’s first quantum Gravimeter that can be deployed for pinpointing minerals.
“We’re deploying this device across the Northern Territory, which is a world class province for mineral exploration.
“We are planning on expanding to Australia in a big way, by having multiple devices that explore mineral resources, hiring not just local talent, but also bringing top quality global talent to Australia.”
Paspalis and its Darwin Innovation Hub, which are seen as a “safe pair of hands” by entrepreneurs and investors, have strong partnerships with Charles Darwin University and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University in turning research into commercial opportunities.
The partnerships were further strengthened in 2023 with Paspalis providing a $500,000 commitment to invest in research and development opportunities born out of CDU.
Paspalis wants the Government to focus on industries that exploit Australia’s competitive advantages.
Mr Paroulakis says: “In the Northern Territory, it is the combination of land, enterprises, labour and capital that will drive economic development, as well as the abundance of natural resources and high industrial production per capita.”