A 10-year-old gem that helps others to shine

Gems, in fact, are a species of mineral flowers; they are the blossoms of the dark, hard mine; and what they want in perfume, they make up in durability

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Growing gemaker since 2011 has involved some dark days and lots of hard work for me and my team, so we don’t always smell lovely but we have endured and blossomed. As our tenth birthday approaches, we’re shining with pride in our achievements.

When I co-founded gemaker, I knew that most start-ups fail. I aimed to succeed by assisting other start-up founders to avoid common pitfalls – see our top ten tips. Our mission is to help Australian researchers and innovators take new ideas and technologies to global markets. Over the past decade, we have:

  • assisted 74 innovative businesses, 33 research organisations and 9 government departments or agencies
  • completed 195 major projects for these clients, involving market research, development and implementation of commercialisation strategies, IP protection, funding, and business and marketing plans
  • grown our team from two to 20 people, with senior members averaging 21 years’ commercialisation experience
  • trained researchers from 16 institutions in industry engagement and commercialisation
  • helped clients secure $210M funding from grants and investment; and
  • generated media coverage for clients worth $1.35M.

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a [hu]man perfected without trials


Commercialisation takes a far greater investment of time, money and dogged determination than most people expect. Deep-tech commercialisation takes even more. Typical of start-ups, gemaker’s success hasn’t come easy, the path hasn’t been straight, and growth hasn’t been linear. We’ve had several disappointing knockbacks and a few body-blows that knocked us down, temporarily. We’ve also experienced confidence-boosting breakthroughs and big wins, including the following:

  • Since 2012, we’ve provided marketing communications, and community, investor and government relations support to progress the Dubbo Project – a globally significant source of critical metals for advanced technologies. We influenced the Federal Government to change the Efic mandate to enable more diverse companies to access funding, and we’re excited by this recent announcement of a $2B fund for Australian critical minerals projects.
  • We assisted the Smart Services CRC to launch two thriving spin-off companies and delivered strategic communications for the CRC for Low Carbon Living.
  • We helped Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia win a grant to conduct world-first research into the competencies required by tech-transfer professionals (TTPs) to successfully commercialise new knowledge and inventions. Commended by Australia’s Chief Scientist, our recommendations have since been implemented internationally by TTP associations and employers.
  • In collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Group, we delivered an internal strategy for engagement with SMEs that led to the Small Business Innovation Research for Defence program.
  • We won a $450k Accelerating Commercialisation grant for Stormseal and managed all marketing communications to launch their operations in the US and UK.
  • We guided strategy and delivered business plans and marketing services to the ANU’s Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre and InSpace
  • We rolled out industry engagement training and spearfishing events for early-to-mid-career researchers around Australia.
  • We launched #AUSinnovates to share Australian stories of successful research or technology commercialisation, to guide and inspire other innovators.

The hardness of a diamond is part of its usefulness, but its true value is in the light that shines through it

B.K.S. Iyengar

Political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental forces beyond individual control play a significant role in determining business destiny. But you can improve your odds by staying alert, informed and adaptable, nurturing your network, learning from every setback and ultimately, having an inspiring ‘why’ to keep you going when the going gets tough.

From the start, I was inspired to give back to my community and ecosystem. Over the past decade, gemaker has donated $152K and 1,673 hours of work to many groups and organisations that promote education and careers in STEM and innovation, especially for girls and women. In 2020, when the pandemic hit, we doubled down on this commitment and provided:

  • free webinars on industry engagement for researchers experiencing job insecurity
  • free strategic advice and marketing/PR services to pivoting businesses, including guidance on managing flexible work-from-home, which has always been gemaker’s business model; and
  • a series of Rays of Sunshine newsletters full of good news, tips on everything from homeschooling to mental health, job vacancies and hope.

In 2021, gemaker has again levelled-up in capability, influence and impact. For example:

  • We developed Cicada Innovation’s winning application for a $2.1M NSW Government grant to deliver the National Space Industry Hub. Cicada subsequently engaged gemaker to develop a tender to deliver the NSW Health Commercialisation Training Program, which was also successful.
  • We also won $833K from the Australian Government’s Manufacturing Modernisation Fund for CST Composites.
  • We again collaborated with KCA to deliver the vital Survey of Commercialisation Outcomes from Public Research (SCOPR) and report the findings, including that commercialisation revenue has more than doubled over the past two years.

Ten years ago, some people said I was crazy to leave the safe confines of a public research organisation to found a consultancy, but I believed that diamonds are created under pressure. What’s next for gemaker? We’ll continue to promote the commercialisation of excellent Australian research and innovations, thereby improving lives, nurturing the health of our planet, and growing the new, sustainable industries on which our future wellbeing depends.

Shine on you crazy diamond

Pink Floyd