Energy innovation lights Newcastle's future

James Giblin, with Dr Andrew Mears, says the expertise in Newcastle is starting to bear fruit and a properly funded taskforce could help. Picture: Simone De Peak
James Giblin, with Dr Andrew Mears, says the expertise in Newcastle is starting to bear fruit and a properly funded taskforce could help. Picture: Simone De Peak

NEWCASTLE is well placed to benefit from new energy technologies, according to some of the region’s best innovators.

As the city’s council grapples with the thought of life after coal, many in Newcastle are already making things happen. 

Trent Bagnall, the co-founder of Slingshot and an expert in start-up businesses, said there was ‘‘momentum’’ around some of the emerging industries.

While overall, the Hunter was still a ‘‘traditional economy’’, it was in a position to capitalise on the fact that it ‘‘understands energy’’, he said.

The Hunter is already home to the CSIRO’s Energy Centre and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, and James Giblin, the principal at Australian Energy Consultants and co-founder of business incubator Eighteen04, said that expertise was bearing fruit. 

He noted the example of BuildingIQ, a company that produces cloud-based software that forecasts and manages energy demand in commercial buildings. It was developed by the CSIRO, with much of the research taking place in Newcastle, before eventually being capitalised out of Sydney.  

In April, The Australian Financial Review reported the company was preparing an initial public offering that could value it at about $100million.

‘‘I’d like to see a bit more of that commercialisation be able to stay in Newcastle, rather than Sydney and the United States, because we do have the expertise here to grow those businesses past the commercialisation point,’’ he said.  

Much of the challenge was offering ‘‘the right support at the right time’’ and a properly funded taskforce could help in that space.

‘‘A lot of it is really simple stuff, like getting entrepreneurs out of their home offices and into commercial spaces, and exposing them to the right kinds of corporate investors,’’ he said.