Manufacturing news briefs – stories you might have missed

Star Combo slips as inbound tourism remains weak

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Star Pharma Combo saw a fall in sales in FY22 as its retail revenues through its AustoYou and Koala Mall channels continued to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and low inbound tourism. Star Combo reported total revenue fell by 14 per cent to $22.9 million, driven by a 53 per cent fall in its AustoYou and Koala Mall sales to $6.7 million. However the company’s OEM and own brand product slakes were up 30 percent in the year to reach $16.2 million. During the year the company increased the number of customers for which it manufactures, securing contracts from rivals. Distribution continues to strengthen for the company’s proprietary health supplement brands Living Healthy, Costar, Amax and J&K, with improved performance through Terry White Chemists and other retailers. During the year Star Combo completed a $13 million upgrade of its Smithfield, Sydney factory, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration inspecting the upgraded facilities in June.

Tiwi green hydrogen venture gets major project status

Provaris Energy has been granted major project status by the NT government for its Tiwi H2 green hydrogen project planned for the Tiwi Islands off the coast of Darwin. Major project status will guide the development of the project which is targeting up to 100,000 tonnes per annum of green hydrogen for export to Asia Pacific by 2027. The project has received critical regulatory approvals allowing planning for the green hydrogen production and export scheme to be constructed on aboriginal land on the Tiwi Islands. Planned is a 2.8 GW solar PV array, a 30-kilometre electricity transmission line and a green hydrogen and production facility at Port Melville on the northern tip of Melville Island, the larger of the two Tiwi Islands. Provaris an d the NT government have entered into a project facilitation agreement to maximise the economic and community benefit of the project.

$1.2 million in “Robot Olympics” prize money to be reinvested in scientists

CSIRO has said it will fund a $1.2 million scholarship program at Queensland University of Technology to train the next generation of aspiring Australian roboticists. The Alberto Elfes Memorial Scholarship Fund is named after a former Chief Research Scientist of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group, and who passed away in 2020. The prize money is from CSIRO’s Data61 team’s historic silver medal finish in the international DARPA Subterranean Challenge in 2021. It will sponsor eight scholarships for domestic or international high-performing students belonging to groups under-represented in the robotics industry. Professor Elanor Huntington, CSIRO Executive Director of Digital, National Facilities and Collections said the scholarship fund was an investment in the future of Australian robotics and would spread the benefit of the win across the entire community. “Using that prize money to educate a diverse cohort of robotics experts – who might be a 2031 DARPA Challenge team – will help Australia seize the AU $22.17 trillion global AI opportunity,” said Huntington.

Q-CTRL appoints Silicon Valley tech veteran

Quantum control software company Q-CTRL, this week announced the addition of Alex Shih as Head of Product. According to the company, Shih will lead the company’s product management teams to deliver the technology’s value and ROI to customers and end users in new, broader markets. Prior to joining Q-CTRL, Shih was a principal of technical products at Slack; director of product & ecosystem at Planet Labs; led emerging market products and initiatives at Twitter; built developer products and integrations at Airbnb and Google, and co-founded a social enterprise called Global Cycle Solutions (later acquired by Sun King). Shih holds a master’s in engineering and management from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Cornell University. “Alex’s consumer and enterprise expertise will help us deliver Q-CTRL’s powerful capabilities in quantum computing and quantum sensing to the broadest range of end users, regardless of their experience levels,” said Q-CTRL founder and CEO Professor Michael J. Biercuk.

Trajan reports strong sales and profit growth for FY22

Analytical science and device company Trajan Group Holdings reported its 2022 financial year results this week, with revenues of $107.6 million (an increase of 40.5 per cent on the prior corresponding period) and a full-year normalised EBITDA of $12.5 million (up from $10.0 million in the PCP.) During the period, Trajan acquired four complementary businesses: Axel Semrau, Neoteryx, LEAP PAL Parts and Consumables, and Chromatography Research Supplies to drive growth beyond strong organic performance.
The new acquisitions contributed $22.7 million to revenue and $2.1 million to normalised EBITDA, which Trajan said continued a a “strong track record in acquiring and integrating businesses.” CEO Stephen Tomisich said, “The revenue and profit performance of the underlying business in both FY21 and now FY22 exceeded the guidance provided in the IPO Prospectus in early 2021.”

WA feasibility study into low-carbon concrete delivered

A new concrete manufacturing process using Collie fly ash has been developed via a Western Australian government-funded study by Murdoch University. Representatives from Murdoch University and the research team delivered their “Colliecrete” report to the government on Thursday, developed in collaboration with industry partners including Synergy, Bluewaters Power Station and South32. The feasibility study investigated the use of fly ash and other industrial by-products and waste materials as an ingredient in a low carbon concrete product. Lab and field trials were undertaken to demonstrate access to necessary industrial by-products to use in the product, which could potentially be used in retaining wall blocks, sea walls, sound barrier walls, storm water pipes and elsewhere. The report identifies options for commercialising the geopolymer concrete.

Carbon capture part of net-zero: King

Carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) research organisation CO2CRC has said it welcomes the federal government’s decision to award new greenhouse gas permits in WA and the NT, saying CCUS stands ready to drive Australia to a lower emissions future. Resources minister Madeleine King announced approval of the first two new offshore greenhouse gas storage sites on Wednesday, the first since 2014. The permits were granted to the joint venture between INPEX, Woodside Energy and TotalEnergies in the Bonaparte Basin, and Woodside in the Browse Basin, all members of CO2CRC. CO2CRC CEO Dr Matthias Raab said the announcement reinforced the vital role CCUS has. “CCUS is a very significant option for certain industries to drive down their emissions permanently and immediately at a competitive cost,” said Raab. “Geological storage of carbon dioxide allows emission abatement at scale. It is immediate and permanent and we are building technology for very large emission reductions.”

Picture: One of team CSIRO’s Data61’s quadruped robots in the foreground with one of the tracked all terrain robots carrying an aerial robot in the background (image credit CSIRO)

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