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Two Northern Territory enterprises that have demonstrated innovation, resilience and forward-thinking during the coronavirus pandemic won the top prizes at the Chief Minister’s NT Industry and Export Awards.

SPEE3D, which designed and built a world-beating 3D metal printer in Darwin, was named NT Exporter of the Year. The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation was named Resilient Territory Business of the Year. Chamber of Commerce chief executive Greg Ireland congratulated the winners and applauded the high standard of entries. “It is positive to see such adaptability and innovative thinking in our NT businesses,” he says.

“In the face of adversity, Territorians have stepped up and shown that they really are resilient.”

As sales in the international manufacturing market dried up overnight, SPEE3D saw an opportunity to leverage their copper material knowledge to offer a real-world solution in response to the pandemic.

The company managed to pivot their business to address two major needs in response to covid-19: improving supply chains for the Defence Force and providing a public health solution to the touch transmission of viruses.

They developed ACTIVAT3D copper, which required entirely new algorithms, to allow SPEE3D printers to coat existing metal parts with copper.

This is more efficient than printing solid copper parts from scratch. Work with the Defence Force also required significant modification to the WarpSPEE3D to ensure it could be deployed to the field, including the containerisation of auxiliary equipment.

SPEE3D is selling 3D metal printers to the USA, Europe and Asia. Company director Steve Camilleri says: “Here in the Territory we are known for our self-reliant and pragmatic attitude.

“As the pandemic was emerging earlier this year and it became more difficult for SPEE3D to work with international customers, we got together to try to work out what we might do to help.

“We then developed our antimicrobial coating process, which uses our existing 3D printers to provide simple, robust, cost-effective antimicrobial coatings that can reduce the transmission of covid in the community.

“This activity was written up in the New York Times and has seen international acclaim.”

The second major award was presented to the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation for their quick response to the coronavirus crisis. Australian and international buyers couldn’t attend the fair as usual, so organisers worked ferociously hard to put it online.

The 14th annual fair was profiled in 85 international news outlets and overseas sales tripled. And the online platform attracted 44,784 unique visitors from across Australia and overseas.

It is estimated that the fair gained exposure to 110 million people worldwide. The event supported 1335 artists from 69 art centres. DAAFF executive director Claire Summers hopes the success of the virtual fair will drive a growing interest in Aboriginal art.

The not-for-profit organisation has Indigenous art centre members throughout Australia, but half the membership is from the Territory.

It does not charge commission. More than 350 guests attended the 27th Chief Minister’s NT Export and Industry Awards at a gala dinner at the Darwin Convention Centre in November. Awards were presented in 16 categories with a key theme of recognising resilient Territory exporters and industry leaders in response to the global economic uncertainty.

The awards are staged by the International Business Council, a division of the Chamber of Commerce.