Zedelef - Transducing technology enables a new generation of optical sensor networks

In partnership with the University of New South Wales, Zedelef innovate monitoring technologies for industrial applications.

Optical telemetry system based on Zedelef transducer technology developed in collaboration with Schneider Electric

Company Profile

Company: Zedelef Pty Ltd

Sector: Manufacturing

Location: New South Wales

Profile: Zedelef is a start-up company created to commercialise technologies developed by its three founders from the University of New South Wales. Its mission is to become a leading supplier of optical sensing network technologies for industrial applications.

Why R&D was needed

Industrial monitoring is broad in application and is utilised across a multitude of industries, including mining, ocean monitoring for both surveillance and geo-seismic exploration and monitoring oil & gas distribution systems.

Within these industries examples of specific industrial monitoring applications include weather monitoring, mine ventilation, air temperature, equipment performance and environmental compliance.

Currently these systems are expensive and come with limitations. This is because only intrinsically safe equipment can be used in hazardous environments, often restricting the amount of monitoring that is carried out.

As part of ongoing R&D carried out at the University of New South Wales, three researchers have developed an innovative approach to industrial monitoring using optical technology.

Based on optical fibres and liquid crystals, the technology developed will lead to a substantial simplification of existing sensing systems. In 2012 the optical sensor network was patented and Zedelef was established, with the aim of exploring opportunities to transition the technology into a commercial product.

Despite the expense and limitations of using traditional monitoring systems, those currently in charge of monitoring programs in industry are reluctant to depart from tried and tested equipment. As such, Zedelef look to convince key decision makers that the optical sensor network is not only intrinsically safe but offers better value for money.

CEO François Ladouceur explains that the optical fibres and liquid crystal technology is intrinsically safe in its nature, introducing large unit cost savings and making more detailed and extensive monitoring possible.

He further believes that whilst the new technology should offer a cost reduction per unit, companies will want to use this cost saving to expand their monitoring programs.

“Industry partners we've spoken to see the benefit of the technology in being able to measure and monitor more for the same price” he says.

Whilst the optical sensor network is intrinsically safe in nature, Professor Ladouceur explains that ongoing R&D activities are a crucial and expensive part of developing the technology further and attracting customers.

“There's a lot of research and development work that needs to be done before saying here's the technology, you can use it”

FRANÇOIS LADOUCEUR, CEO

How the Research and Development Tax Incentive Helps

Zedelef has taken part in the Research and Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) program for the past four years. Professor Ladouceur explains that participation has meant the company has managed to step up its R&D program.

“The program is a motivation to structure your R&D from the start and expenses are tracked better as a result” he says.

“[the RDTI program] has certainly amplified our R&D because it means you have more money to do the same work”

FRANÇOIS LADOUCEUR, CEO

Because Zedelef is a high-tech start-up company operating out of a university, R&D accounts for most of the activity undertaken, with 70 to 80% of all expenses being R&D related. Between 2014 and 2017, Zedelef received over $240,000 directly from the RDTI program and secured another $500,000 investment thanks in part to their participation in the program.

Professor Ladouceur explains that at this early stage Zedelef's focus is very R&D heavy so the RDTI program is extremely attractive to investors as they can see each dollar they invest goes further.

Zedelef has demonstrated their product across Australia and in France to receive support from a multinational industry partner, Schneider Electric. Schneider Electric has invited Zedelef to put together a business proposal to help them to build further support for their products.

Attracting investment in research and development activities is difficult in Australia given how high the labour costs are when compared with China or some European countries. Professor Ladouceur explains that the RDTI makes investing in Zedelef much more attractive as the tax benefit goes some way towards offsetting the higher Australian labour costs.

Zedelef has also been able explore new applications of their technology thanks in part to the RDTI program. Investigating new applications can cost tens of thousands of dollars so by making a tax saving, the money they've needed to explore these opportunities has been available.

The growth that Zedelef has enjoyed because of the RDTI program and the investment they have secured has enabled the company to offer internship opportunities to approximately ten students from the University of New South Wales. This opportunity has given students a valuable insight into the R&D work that Zedelef carry out. In addition to this, Zedelef have also employed one of the former students on a full-time basis.

Professor Ladouceur believes that participation in the RDTI program has had a profound impact on his business as well as other start-ups within the high-tech sector.

“The RDTI program helps start-ups to get off the ground and has been a factor that has kept the R&D for this kind of technology in Australia. The end of the RDTI program would be catastrophic for us and certainly detrimental to any start up in the high-tech sector.” Professor Ladouceur says.

“All we do is research and development, as such, 70-80% of our expenses are R&D related … so for us, the R&D tax incentive program is fundamental”

FRANÇOIS LADOUCEUR, CEO

RDTI Impact Facts

  • Secured $500,000 in investment thanks partly to participation in the RDTI program
  • Received over $240,000 directly from the RDTI program in the past 4 years
  • Incorporating optic technology in monitoring processes allowing industries to monitor more.
  • Reduced monitoring cost per channel so more monitoring channels can be adopted.
  • The RDTI program allows Zedelef to attract and retain investors as their money goes much further.
  • Students at the University of New South Wales benefit from being able to undertake work experience with Zedelef and learn about start-ups.

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