In 2017, the Subsea Innovation Cluster Australia Steering Committee announced Richard Rickett as Australia’s first Subsea Cluster Manager.
AOG spoke to Richard before his presentation on day two of the conference’s Collaboration Forum to find out more about the SICA and how what it means for the Nation’s oil and gas industry.
What is the Subsea Innovation Cluster Australia?
Subsea Innovation Cluster Australia (SICA) is Australia’s first Subsea Cluster, an exciting new entity bringing together companies across the entire subsea value chain, fostering collaboration and innovation, and creating accelerated sustainable growth and value creation for the subsea inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) sector, both in the regional market and worldwide. SICA is operated and managed in Perth with strong support from Subsea Energy Australia (SEA) and NERA, who were instrumental in helping to get the cluster off the ground and are continuing to support moving forward
Who are the key stakeholders in the project?
The key stakeholders in Subsea Innovation Cluster Australia are oil and gas companies, suppliers and service providers (including classification societies, law firms, banks, recruitment consultants), innovation and research establishments (universities, test houses etc.), potential investors and the state and federal governments.
How will the cluster benefit the industry, academia and state and federal governments?
SICA aims to increase the value of the Australian subsea industry, acting as a catalyst for growth and stimulating the prospect of export of products, services and solutions. SICA provides an opportunity for all participants to support local operators by addressing challenges that are unique to Australian conditions and may be common to multiple operators. The technical collaboration between SICA members enables enhanced solutions, something that standalone vendors may not be able to achieve in isolation. Results of the SICA collaboration are anticipated to be transformative to the local industry. SICA also provides enhanced access to government R&D funds through an improved ability to collectively conceive of, bid for and manage research-linked inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) technology projects.
The cluster provides academia with additional insights into the regional challenges faced by the industry, and the opportunity to work with industry suppliers and service companies to develop innovative and practical solutions leading to value generation with high impact in the oil and gas industry.
SICA’s objective is to raise the profile of Australia’s Subsea industry regionally and worldwide, promoting its specialised IMR knowledge and skills and thereby strengthening its competitive advantages. Showcasing Australian industry to the world is seen to offer a significant benefit to state and federal government. Establishing Australia as the world leader in the IMR oil and gas industry is paramount to exporting knowledge and know-how via Australian service companies.
Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter defines clusters as groups of similar and related firms concentrated in a small geographic area. Does the remoteness and diversity of subsea projects in Australia help or hinder the ability for the cluster to collaborate effectively?
The remoteness, large scale of distance and project diversity that are the norm in Australia are representative of the challenges that the industry has overcome. These achievements are a great advertisement for Australian collaboration and efficiency, borne out by the fact that a group of companies predominantly based in Western Australia manage projects throughout the Asia Pacific region, an area significantly larger and more diverse than the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico in every respect – culture, politics, economics, geology and environment.
Is there any pushback from large organisations that are unwilling to collaborate due to IP or other issues?
The question of protection of Intellectual Property is undoubtedly a topic of interest amongst prospective members. The cluster aims to disrupt the “business as usual” inertia and encourages businesses that normally compete with one another to collaborate in specific areas. In some cases, this comes naturally, and in others, support (a legal framework/demonstration of size of prize) is required to provide the confidence that the any perceived risks can be mitigated, and are far outweighed by the potential advantages.
Collaboration for innovation requires trust, and trust takes time to generate. Creating a safe environment with defined legal Intellectual Property protection is essential to ensure that the process of building trust between entities is not hindered; especially between entities that would normally compete with one another. SICA has engaged lawyers with expertise in IP to advise SICA and its members on the best way to proceed on a project-by-project basis. IP protection is nothing new and is usually found in most existing contracts. There are many successful examples around the world where collaboration and innovation result in industry advances in efficiency.
Similarly, does the relative immaturity of many offshore projects in Australia impact the role of SICA?
As the construction of the majority of Australian mega-projects reaches completion, the industry has transitioned to a new phase dominated by IMR of these large fields, where it is of paramount importance to maintain uptime while ensuring safe and fit-for-purpose operations. To this end, SICA will initially focus on IMR, ensuring that it remains relevant and current, and maximising the benefit to the industry in the short term.
For more information on Subsea Innovation Cluster Australia watch Richard’s presentation on day two of the AOG Collaboration Forum.