Calix Limited is a good example of how Australian-owned technology has been commercialised to the world.  Calix’s technology involves grinding minerals to between one hundredth and one thousandth of a millimetre in size, and then “flash” heating them in an externally heated reactor in a very short time, at up to 950 °C. As trapped gases in the minerals “bubble out” of the particles, they create highly porous honeycomb-like structures in the particles. Calix technology allows for the direct separation of CO2, allowing it to be used for carbon dioxide reduction in traditionally carbon dioxide intensive industries, such as lime and cement production. (Calix website)

Many factors combine to make Calix a global success.  Listening recently to CEO Phil Hodgson, perhaps the most interesting is the technology itself and how it has been leveraged to develop an R&D ecosystem able to develop new market applications from its core technology platform quickly and efficiently.  As investment in R&D is scaled and accelerated, that investment becomes a valued balance sheet item that needs active management, like any income-producing asset rather than an item of operating expenditure in the P&L.  As a constantly developing strategic asset  it delivers technology leadership and a superior market position as a result.  The Calix R&D ecosystem has the following features:

1.  A hub and spoke model.  Calix has identified the set of R&D capabilities that are essential to its technology platform, IP strategy and market positioning that cannot be outsourced.  These capabilities are cross-discipline (chemistry, physics, biology) and engineering (mechanical, materials).  This recognises that Calix core IP innovates at the intersection of these disciplines.  Calix outsources R&D to third party research institutions that have complementary or scale capabilities it needs.

2. University relationships scale Calix R&D.  Calix identifies specific capabilities and individuals in research institutions that add value commonly in science or specific application technology.  Contract relationships are global and are also formed to leverage the industry relationships and Government relationships, including grant funding, researchers have in their home markets.

3. Industry relationships drive commercialisation.  Calix works with industry to prototype and pilot solutions allowing their R&D a seamless passage to customer access, development and market validation.

4. Contract R&D management.  Calix has developed strong IP, contract scoping and management capabilities that builds Calix core IP and effectively links commercial opportunity to R&D resources.  Calix manages a dynamic worldwide R&D ecosystem characterised by scale and speed but enabled by trusted bilateral or multilateral information exchange.

5. High leverage on internal capital.  Calix is assiduous in securing non-dilutive grants to catalyse its R&D ecosystem and limit the call on internal capital which it devotes to product development, commercialisation and growth.  This is a short step to driving the ecosystem towards self-funding.  Importantly, Calix has engaged with Governments locally and offshore to support and accelerate its growth.         .

6. Active IP management.  Calix builds and manages its IP portfolio (patents, designs, brand, trade secrets, know-how, people) as a strategic asset.

7. People management.  The heart of Calix ecosystem is smart people.  Every person at Calix has an opportunity to become a shareholder and benefit from Calix success.

Building organisational R&D into a strategic asset and a competitive weapon is not easy and is often not deliberate.  However, it can be and if it is pursued with conviction, this outcome can be achieved faster and more efficiently than anyone thinks.  Calix is but one example.  .

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