In Style + Design

How Elon Musk’s Lithium Battery Project Will Change Adelaide

Will the city become the largest tech start-up centres in the Asia-Pacific region?

Adelaide has had a few big wins in the technology space. Last year, the world’s eyes were on South Australia as Elon Musk announced it would be home to the world’s most powerful lithium battery. Musk’s globally transforming electric vehicle and solar tech wonderbrand, Tesla, has already constructed, installed and commissioned its giant battery, near Jamestown in the state’s mid north.

Tesla’s Model X. Photo: Supplied

The new battery can power 30,000 homes for a little over an hour. The South Australian Government will have access to part of the battery’s output to prevent blackouts like 2016’s state-wide power outage. Tesla’s lithium battery isn’t an isolated project but, rather, one of several announced in Premier Jay Weatherill’s $550 million energy plan – to combat supply issues, rising energy prices and security concerns.

The lithium project came at the right time for Adelaide, building local confidence after big industries like automotive and defence have tapered off. And with the Government’s plan to make Adelaide one of the largest tech start-up centres in the Asia-Pacific region, technology and innovation is becoming a pivotal part of South Australia’s economy.

An untapped market

Elon Musk Photo: Heisenberg Media/Flickr CC

Elon Musk’s choice to design the battery in Adelaide, paired with the Government’s commitment to technology and innovation has encouraged small, grassroots companies to bring their ideas to life.  The New Venture Institute (NVI) at Flinders University has been a game changer.

Caspian Batory came to Adelaide 15 years ago and decided to do the ‘city hop’ for a few years because South Australia didn’t have enough work for his area of specialty – after working for the London Stock Exchange, building a broadcast suite for using Vizrt for the New York Stock Exchange, BBC, and Sky News, and exploring how humans interact with IT at Sopra Steria.

“Back ten years ago, things were very different in Adelaide. Integrated video and web streaming technology wasn’t in place. People didn’t understand my methodology,” Batory said.

But he believes the opening of the NVI was when things started to shift. Since it opened, the incubator has helped created 232 startups, with $1,694,000 in lifetime cash injections.

However, it’s the people that are working from the innovation precinct that make it different from any other co-working space.

“Standing at the coffee machine, I’d meet people like Cryptocurrency developers and the holographics team doing the fitout for Tag Heuer. One casual conversation led into a big client for me – one that let me move back to Adelaide full time,” he said.

“I designed the prototype for information-fed holograms using the Microsoft HoloLens platform, where we could do cool things like use eye contact to activate menus. It’s about bringing the physical world to online tasks.”

Batory says there’s ‘a lot of activity’ happening in the city’s technology scene which is giving him (and many others) hope.

“Adelaide is small enough to get noticed but big enough to make an impression. The environment is actually really unique. Never in Sydney or the UK have I felt so involved, from top to bottom. Here, you can have coffee with the CEO unlike other places where I had to jump through hoops just to get their email address.”

When asked about the lithium battery project, Batory said it’s going to ‘become the catalyst and final turning point for Adelaide – turning what is now a ground swell into a tsunami in the technology space.’

Adelaide’s promise to renewable energy

Two of Fleet’s co-founders Flavia Tata Nardini and Matthew Pearson. Photo: Fleet

With Adelaide’s location, low cost of living and excellent universities, all it needed was a driving force to push technological growth. And they now have it, with the support of the South Australian Government (and the world, thanks to Musk’s project).

Adelaide is a great launching pad. Another Adelaide-based technology start-up, Fleet, specialising in nano-satellites raised $5 million from Blackbird Ventures and other investors last year. This led to an expansion into Europe, opening up an office in the Netherlands. They’re building a global nano-satellite network dedicated to low-cost IoT connectivity.

Another area of technological development are the very first driverless car trials in South Australia’s distinguished wine region.

Technology advancements are also coming to the mining sector, with local companies such as AIAA Internet of Things – Mining and Energy Resources (IOTMER) Cluster. They’re bringing together industry, business and academia to encourage the use of technology in mining, such as machine learning.

Innovation and development is spanning across all industries, not just renewable energy. However, the success of Musks’s lithium battery project will show the world just what Adelaide is technologically capable of.

(Lead image: Elon Musk Photo: Heisenberg Media/Flickr CC)

Published 10 January, 2018