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Brightly coloured plastic device attached to the side of a small boat. It is similar in size and shape to a briefcase, but with a cylinder shaped part connected to one side.

The Life Cell is designed to float free of its bracket if the vessel sinks too fast for someone to grab it.

United States distributor on board with Australian water safety device invention

A harrowing sea experience was the catalyst for a couple of mates to create their Life Cell Marine Safety invention.

Known as the Life Cell, the buoyant device designed to save lives, is set to cash in on a $150 million global market after gaining interest from the huge United States marine and boating market.

Safety in all walks of life is big business yet it seems safety at sea had not perfected a package which could help save lives when boats quickly capsize, sink or are swamped by waves.

Rarely is there time in a small-craft emergency to grab, from under seats or from in cupboards, all the safety equipment needed.

Often that equipment is in bags and buckets that become a liability once people are in the water.

The founders of the Life Cell – Scott Smiles and Rick Matthews, found that out when clinging to an esky, with their 11-year-old sons Riley Smiles and Ryan Matthews; after their boat sank, in less than a minute, 10 kilometres off the Sydney coast.

Thankfully Scott could grab and trigger the vessel’s emergency beacon and an esky.

The fathers and their boys held onto that esky for almost two hours before the rescue helicopter reached them to drop a life raft.

They were inspired to redefine how boating safety equipment was stored, so everything needed in an emergency could be taken into the water without delay.

The Life Cell is a high-visibility buoyancy device that stores essential safety equipment and is mounted in a handy position but with the ability to float free of its bracket if submerged.

There are four sizes available, and the equipment which can be placed inside include an EPIRB (emergency beacon), air horn, torch, heliograph, VHF radio, flares and whistles, v-sheet, for example.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme, through Accelerating Commercialisation assistance and funding, is now helping Life Cell Marine Safety to take its simple yet brilliant idea to the world.

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The Accelerating Commercialisation grant has assisted us to achieve international product certification and helped us to meet the requirements of our newly-appointed United States-based distributor.

Jenny Aiken, CEO, Life Cell Marine Safety

“Attending six trade shows in the US, providing samples, modifying packaging and websites and training sales reps is an incredibly expensive process, but absolutely necessary to successfully commercialise our product.”

“The grant provided us with much needed financial assistance to allow us to gain traction in the US market. I am not sure that we could have achieved this without the grant. We are incredibly grateful for the Government’s support at this critical time for our company,” Jenny says.

Life Cell Marine Safety has international product certification for the Life Cell. It is already being used both commercially and recreationally within Australia.

It was at the time of launching the product in Australia when Life Cell realised they would need funding to survive the commercialisation process.

Jenny Aiken heard about the Accelerating Commercialisation element of the Entrepreneurs’ Programme at a trade show and she realised it could be the key to success.

“I was warned from the very beginning that it would be a significant investment of time but it was worth it. The process really forced us to define our business plan, identify our target market and determine the size of this market,” Jenny says.

“Although the funds from the grant have been invaluable, so too was the business planning process that was essential as part of the application.”

Learn more about the LifeCell flotation device.

Download Life Cell Marine Safety's customer story

Further information

For more information, visit Accelerating Commercialisation or call 13 28 46.

Read more to discover how our other entrepreneur programs can help you.