The notus Program: collaboration defined by a desired outcome

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Australian manufacturing companies came together under the notus Emergency Invasive Ventilator Program to build much-needed ventilators.

The consortium of manufacturers received backing from the Victorian Government in the form of a $500,000 grant for the project’s feasibility stage. This was swiftly followed by a $31.3 million contract from the Federal Government to build hundreds of units for the national stockpile.

Backed by AMGC and led by technology commercialisation experts Grey Innovation, several AMGC members are involved in the initiative. ANCA and Marand are among the key suppliers manufacturing and assembling thousands of critical parts, while Bosch is manufacturing the test equipment required to verify the ventilators, and Swinburne University of Technology’s expert metallurgists are confirming materials specifications.

According to Dr Peter Meikle (Chief Executive Officer, Grey Innovation) each member of the consortium has played a vital role. “Everyone involved in the consortium has done whatever was needed to get the job done to an incredibly high standard.”

A highly collegiate, collaborative effort

As Dr Meikle explains, collaboration was essential to the success of this program.

The relationships required to successfully undertake a project of this magnitude, within such a compressed timeframe, had to go beyond the normal, commonsense approach to processes such as tendering and negotiating. It required a highly collegiate, collaborative effort.”

A standard contractual agreement is less tolerant of failure; a collaborative arrangement, defined only by achieving the desired outcome and a fair and reasonable meeting of costs, meant all parties involved were able to take on some incredible problems that they might not otherwise have taken on. Everyone had the freedom to think a bit differently, and approach the problem from a different angle.”

The response of every one of our partners, from the very outset of the Program, was phenomenal. We really are spoilt for choice here in Australia in terms of capability. While we may not have the scale, our capability is certainly as good as anywhere in the world. From the very first company we approached, to the last, everyone was a very willing participant. As a result, we have preserved over 325 jobs at last count,” said Dr Meikle.

Government Backing: Key to Success

In addition to a highly collaborative approach, Government backing was equally important in ensuring that the notus Program delivered a successful outcome.

One of the keys to our success was the fact that the Federal Government backed the consortium with a purchase order. This meant we weren’t fighting for the feasibility phase dollars. There was an acceptance that delivery would come from the consortium, which meant everyone involved could move forward with confidence,” said Dr Meikle.

“As a model for the future, the notus Program has proved to be extremely successful. Our governments need to put these types of problems out to market to be solved; this has proved to be a more powerful means to stimulate a response and correlate capability, expertise, and innovation to achieve a strong result.

The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. Many highly competent businesses in Australia are of a scale that means they are not competitive internationally, but if they collaborate in a consortium aligned to individual, specific, high impact projects, they can create a great deal of value. Individually, these businesses cannot achieve the same outcome—just as Grey Innovation couldn’t have built the notus ventilator without partners,” said Dr Meikle.