Brisbane infrastructure monitoring startup Aurtra has been acquired by French multinational Schneider Electric in a multi-million dollar deal.
The startup, founded in 2017 by Dr. Richard Harris, Steve McRae and Terry Woodcroft, is built on sensor technology developed by University of Queensland technology to monitor the health of power grid transformers.
Aurtra has licensed the proprietary technology designed by UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering by means of Professor Tapan Saha† dr. Hui Ma† dr. Chandima Ekanayake and Dr. Dan Martin, with help from the university’s commercialization company, UniQuest†
Woodcroft, the company’s CEO, said the Aurtra is developing industrial remote sensors to monitor aging transformers. The technology provides automated online reports to electricity distributors on the condition of a transformer, highlighting insulation problems, damage and potential failure probability in advance.
It has been welcomed by the industry and Aurtra now operates in 16 countries, with the product shipped from Brisbane.
“The key was the combination of available capital and software architecture that facilitated product deployment and support and a unique product that delivered strong customer returns,” she said.
“During this expansion, Aurtra came to the attention of Schneider Electric.”
Woodcroft said the company initially partnered with major electricity distribution companies in Australia to develop an economical way to monitor the health of a large and aging network.
“This transaction simply would not have happened without grants from both the state and federal governments, including essential seed money from the founders and a Brisbane-based family business, Brice Family Office,” she said.
In 2019, Aurtra subsequently raised capital from UniSeed and from investors in the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane Angels groups.
Woodcroft is now a member of the Schneider Electric team as the digital transformer services lead management, support and marketing.
UniQuest CEO Dr. Dean Moss said the acquisition of Aurtra just five years later was significant.
“It is remarkable that within five years, Aurtra has managed to license UQ’s intellectual property, build a successful business with global sales and exit under strong terms,” he said.
“The remote sensing market is valued at $2.5 billion and the technology is highly valued by asset managers as a way to perform preventive maintenance or controlled shutdowns.”
Professor Saha, who has worked on transformer monitoring instruments for over 25 years, said he was delighted to see the idea he developed now taking it to the next level with one of the world’s largest energy companies.
“As an innovator of some of the original ideas licensed to Aurtra, I am honored to lead the team involved in the childhood stages of research that forms the pillars of the company,” he said.