Risk, reward, and being brave enough to back yourself


@AuManufacturing’s Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers campaign has returned, and will culminate with an awards event at Australian Manufacturing Week 2024. Brent Balinski speaks to Martin Ripple from ANCA CNC Machines and Ian Lowrey from Wireman about an always-important topic.

Innovation requires a lot. High up on the list are a conviction that things can be done better, an understanding of what problems are worth the time and effort, and the ability to accept and manage risk.

“On one level, why do anything risky?” asks Ian Lowrey, co-founder at agricultural fencing products specialist Wireman.

“But on the other side, not taking any risks can be very risky; it’s a risky strategy.”

Being able to balance risk and reward – the essence of entrepreneurialism – is vital in driving innovation, believes Martin Ripple, CEO at ANCA CNC Machines.

“I think [it’s] the main reason for me why the large part of innovation in most countries comes out of the SME base,” he offers. 

“Because that’s where the real entrepreneurs are. I often am confounded when I see the large corporates who claim to drive innovation but usually they buy the innovation through the acquisition of smaller companies and then integrate them. 

“The most ambitious leadership that I’ve seen is usually in the small and medium-size enterprises, where you’ve got true, hardcore entrepreneurs wanting to succeed, accepting risks. Giving it their all, basically, to be successful, ultimately, for the company, and delivering something to the customer of value.”

Want to join @AuManufacturing’s list of Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers – apply to be recognised in this exclusive group here:

The pair lead two companies that were a part of our 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers campaign earlier this year, and spoke at the webinar launching the 2024 version.

Again, we will seek to identify and celebrate innovation among Australian manufacturers, and consider questions such as how they understand and approach the topic, how they know where to apply their efforts, how they execute on this, and how this created value. 

As with last time around, we hope to celebrate companies of all sizes, not least of all the hardcore entrepreneurs in the SME community.

There are many ways to understand innovation. One of the popular and elegant definitions is change that creates value, and that’s one we admit to liking.

For Ripple, innovation is about technological progress and how it solves problems for humanity.

“And so for us, innovation — first and foremost — is nothing else but technological progress put into action,” he says.

It can be broken down into continuous and disruptive innovation. 

An example of the first might be taking a process step from 16 seconds to 14, optimising bit by bit. This requires the right technical skills and company culture.

The second might look like going from 16 seconds to two.

“Bringing that type of innovation to the market needs more than just skilled engineers, I believe,” Ripple says.

“It needs that leadership jump into the unknown future, the willingness to take risks and to push forward, driving through that entrepreneurial passion and the will to succeed.”

Lowrey’s view on the subject – which as a long-time industrial designer he has considered many, many times – is influenced by the World Intellectual Property Organization’s definition.

“It has to be useful, it has to be novel, and has to have a commercial application, essentially,” he tells us. 

“But with all that said, you’ve got to come to the market and bring things that people find useful and are useful to people. It can’t be innovation for the sake of it. There’s no point solving problems that no-one has.”

Both agree that criticism is useful to the process, with extreme negativity disregarded.

“I think you’ll find always those people who will say ‘well it’s never going to work ever…’” says Ripple of the kind of opinions to be tuned out.  

“But some people have valid points that have to be taken into account. So it’s up to your experience to differentiate between one and the other.”

Lowrey advises always listening carefully to your customers, but also having confidence in your idea when it matters.

And the knee-jerk naysayers, if you win them over, can become an asset. 

He uses the example of people in the bush – his customer base, but not one that always trusts a novel product at first sight.  

“It’s a question of turning those people around… People will be very quick: ‘nah.’ ‘Do you want this?’ ‘Nah,’” he says. 

“But then if you show them how something works it can turn around, and then that word of mouth — other people telling other people about it — that’s what you’re chasing. That’s what you’re after. And if you truly believe in the product and you know it does do the job you’re setting out to make it do, you’ve just got to back yourself.”

You can watch the launch webinar, featuring the heads of two very different manufacturers, below. You’ll also hear from Bruce Minty, Senior Product Manager at MYOB, the campaign’s lead sponsor.

@AuManufacturing is thrilled to open nominations for our second iteration of the 50 most innovative. As with last time around, it’s open to all kinds of manufacturers, and is completely free to enter. You can find a nomination form at this link.

Nominations close March 8. Finalists will be contacted on April 2 and invited to the breakfast awards event on April 18, the second day of Australian Manufacturing Week in Sydney. 

Follow this website for regular profiles of innovators who have put themselves forward, as well the @AuManufacturing social media pages, and join our Australian Manufacturing Forum LinkedIn group if you haven’t already.



Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers has been made possible by the generous support of MYOB.

Be sure to check back at this website for regular updates, including profiles of nominees and other information.




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