The Australian Financial Review‘s annual list of Most Innovative Companies is out, and once again the engineering profession is well represented.
Brisbane company GroundProbe has taken out the top spot in AFR’s latest list of the Most Innovative Companies thanks to an innovation that can monitor mines in complete darkness and predict mine collapses.
GroundProbe’s Geotechnical Monitoring LiDAR (GML) was recognised by AFR as this year’s Best Overall Innovation. The device produces real-time images to warn of conditions such as ground movement that could lead to mine collapses.
“Every time we deploy the GML underground in a mine, there is a strong likelihood that it will save somebody’s life,” Lachie Campbell, GroundProbe’s vice-president of marketing and technology told AFR.
Campbell added GML could be used as a productivity tool to access areas otherwise deemed unsafe and target ground rehabilitation – and thus help save companies millions of dollars.
In second place was health and pharmaceutical company MedicalDirector. It was recognised for their Helix system, which provides cloud-based healthcare solutions.
“Helix offers a cloud-based ecosystem that enables patients to access their health information in real time, anywhere and on any device, in a secure, encrypted environment,” the list stated.
Manufacturing companies GUD and NOJA Power also made the top 20, coming in at number 9 and 13 respectively. Construction giant Laing O’Rourke was at number 16, and mining firm Orica – which recently acquired GroundProbe – at number 20.
Backing great ideas
An interesting trend for this year’s most innovative companies list was the financial investment the top 10 most innovative companies were willing to make to back employee ideas.
“Over half of employees at the most innovative companies reported that there is money available if they have an idea they want to pursue. At the least innovative companies, only one in four employees feel they can access money to work on innovations,” AFR stated in their analysis.
The top 10 companies on the list also gave their staff time to pursue innovation, with 70 per cent of their employees stating they are given time to explore creative solutions, compared to 42 per cent in the bottom 10 companies on the list.
For example, GroundProbe holds ‘work on whatever’ days where staff can focus on pet projects. The company also cultivates a startup and entrepreneurial mentality by renting off-site spaces to host employee idea ‘accelerators’.
“We rent a small space off-site and set it up like a garage business, complete with folding chairs and bad coffee,” Campbell told the AFR.
The company encourages employees in these ‘startups’ to reach customer-facing milestones like scientific validation, first field tests, first customer trials and – most importantly – work towards generating revenue from their new ideas.
“We believe anyone can have a great idea, but not many people can turn an idea into a reality that customers love,” Campbell added.