Schneider Electric buys transformer monitoring start up

French manufacturer Schneider Electric has bought a Brisbane startup company founded on University of Queensland technology to monitor the health of electricity network transformers.

Schneider Electric, which manufactures Clipsal electrical equipment in Adelaide, has bought Aurtra which develops remote industrial sensors to monitor ageing transformers using technology designed at the university’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering.

Professor Tapan Saha, who has been working for more than 25 years on transformer monitoring tools, said: “As an innovator of some of the original ideas that were licensed to Aurtra, I feel honoured to lead the team involved with the infant stages of the research that forms the pillars of the company.”

The sensor technology – the work of Professor Saha, Dr Hui Ma, Dr Chandima Ekanayake and Dr Dan Martin – was licensed to Aurtra in 2017 by UQ commercialisation company, UniQuest.

Aurtra CEO and co-founder Terry Woodcroft said the company quickly expanded into 16 countries, with product developed, supported, and shipped from Brisbane.

She said: “The key was the combination of available capital and software architecture that facilitated ease of product roll-out and support and a unique product that delivered a strong return to the customer.

“It was during this expansion that Aurtra came to the attention of Schneider Electric.”

Aurtra’s technology provides automated online reports to electricity distributors of a transformer’s condition, highlighting insulation problems, damage, and any probability of failure ahead of time.

Ms Woodcroft said the company initially collaborated with major electricity distribution companies in Australia to develop an economical way of monitoring the health of a large and ageing network.

“This transaction just would not have occurred without grant funding from both state and federal governments, including vital seed money from the founders and a Brisbane-based family business, Brice Family Office.”

In 2019, Aurtra raised investment capital from UniSeed, startup investors the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane Angels and a team of high-net-worth investors.

Picture: University of Queensland

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