A company started by two Australian universities to commercialise unique imaging technology has been sold for $76 million (USD 68 million) to a US company.
Canberra-based Lithicon AS has been bought by FEI Company, a world leader in imaging technology for a range of markets including oil and gas exploration.
The ANU will receive $11 million, representing a five-fold increase in its original investment, and the University of NSW $4 million.
The sale is the most significant commercial spin-off for ANU in the past decade.
“The deal proves that Australian universities can grow a start-up company and work cooperatively with industry to build a successful business,” said Professor Michael Cardew-Hall, ANU Pro-Vice Chancellor of Innovation and Advancement and Director of Lithicon AS.
“The deal also delivers a healthy return to private and corporate investors, and Lithicon’s Norwegian partners.”
Lithicon, previously known as Digitalcore, was originally set up in 2009 by ANU scientists in collaboration with colleagues at UNSW to develop an advanced computational approach to rapidly solving fluid behaviour in oil reservoirs.
The basis of this approach is a revolutionary high-resolution 3D imaging technique. FEI also plans to develop new markets for the technology outside oil and gas.
Working closely with some of the world’s biggest resources companies, the technology produces digital 3D images and simulations of fluids in rock samples, giving companies crucial information to help them work out the best way to extract oil and gas.
In 2013, Digitalcore merged with Norwegian company Numerical Rocks AS, a company originally considered a major competitor.
Today, Lithicon AS employs 18 people in Canberra and markets its services to resource companies around the world.
Under the sale to FEI, an American company which specialises in manufacturing electron microscopes and microscopy workflows, the ANU will also receive royalties under a licensing and development agreement.