Innovation Case Studies

Three articles from 72 Innovation case studies for DFEEST

Bubble Curtain – Dolphin Protection

Noise is the enemy of a dolphin, just as it is the enemy of a submariner.

The noise a submarine makes might give away its position and leave it open to attack.

The noise we make in the 21st century can confuse and disorientate a dolphin.

Modern day construction activities create a lot of noise. When this happens on or near the river in Port Adelaide, the noise can interfere with the sonar readings the famous Port River dolphins use to communicate and find their way around. If this happens, it can alter their behaviours and travel patterns.

To avoid this danger to dolphins, the Port River Expressway Project has adapted an experimental technique used by stealth submarines to cut down the noise they make.

Although the details are secret, the general principle is to release streams of small bubbles from a belt of nozzles around the submarine’s hull. This creates a kind of cocoon that acts as a sound insulation barrier around the submarine.

The Port River Expressway Project has adopted an innovative bubble curtain system to protect the Port River dolphins during piling activity.

The bubble curtain pushes compressed air to the sea bed and expels it through holed tubing to create a curtain of bubbles around each of the bridge piles. The rising curtain of bubbles acts as a blast dampener and absorbs the sound and shock waves emitted during the pile driving activity.

Dr Mike Bossley and an honours student have studied the impacts of the construction activity on the Port River dolphins. The findings indicate that while there were variations to the natural movement patterns of the dolphins, there appear to be no significant or long term adverse affects.

The Port River dolphins continue to be regularly sighted in and around the construction site and within the Inner Harbour to the delight of locals and visitors.


The whole world loves Australian wine and South Australia is a leader in innovation to meet that demand.

Innovations have occurred in every area of wine production. New methods of irrigation have helped grow vines in a dry climate. The development of rigorous quality control processes means high quality product is assured through mass production. The invention of the wine cask at Angoves winery in Renmark in 1965 revolutionised the packaging and distribution of bulk wine and paved the way for the familiar cardboard box and collapsible bladder that is familiar today.

One of the ongoing challenges for the industry is to make sure its wines reach consumers in peak condition. This is where the wine bottle closure or stopper plays a major role.

Natural cork has been used for this purpose for centuries. But quality cork is becoming increasingly expensive to harvest and process. It also presents the risk of poor or tainted cork allowing the wine to spoil through exposure to air or bacteria.

Meanwhile a whole mystique has evolved around wine bottle corks and the ceremony of pulling them. There is strong consumer resistance to alternative devices such as the screw top closure in spite of proof of its effectiveness.

NuKorc Pty Ltd’s latest innovation is a major step in solving both these problems.

Its key product – NuKorc – is a single extruded synthetic closure designed for the global wine market. Made from high quality materials under the strictest hygiene conditions, NuKorc can be specifically designed to suit any length, diameter or colour requirement.

After years of painstaking research and development, NuKorc is the only company in the world to develop a single extrusion method to produce synthetic closures for bottles using a secret formula polymer.

NuKorc has several advantages over natural cork:

  • no tainting or flavour modification of the wine
  • improved sealing for no leakage
  • increased shelf-life of products
  • will not crumble or leave particles in the wine
  • customisable in both colour and printing.

Environmentally-friendly, NuKorc is also recyclable into products which keep helping the environment such as flower pots and tree tubes.

Headquartered in Pooraka, a northern-suburb of Adelaide, NuKorc Pty Ltd’s is a special purpose company established in 1996 to supply the global wine industry with innovative closure products.

The company has expanded significantly and today has a presence in every major wine production area of the world. Approximately 80% of its business is overseas.

The ability to have an innovative product which can be produced on a ‘just in time’ basis and delivered throughout the world quickly is a major competitive advantage. The business also set up various finishing plants in the U.S and Spain to ensure product delivery was in line with customer requirements and timeframe. 

Related products include NuSpark and NuStoppa. NuSpark is specifically engineered for the sparkling wine, cider and carbonated fruit juice markets to maintain high levels of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide in the bottle whilst eliminating spoilage of the product.

NuStoppa is designed to replace natural wood bark stoppers for fortified wine, distilled spirits, olive oil and other food products. A two-piece product, it gives producers the freedom to use their company’s current caps with a NuStoppa insert.

NuKorc is now the supplier of choice to some of the largest wine groups in the world, and is the leader in most fast growth or “lifestyle” brands worldwide. Target markets are all wine, spirit and olive oil producers throughout the world.

NuKorc has 3.3% of the total closure market world wide and approximately 20% of the synthetic closure market.

The business plans has to evolve, particularly into other closures.  One new initiative being explored is to venture into screw caps, although first NuKorc plans to improve substantially on the existing screw caps available in today’s market.

Australian Dance Theatre’s step beyond – Devolution

When the innovative production of Devolution premiered at the 2006 Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts, it confronted an issue that has challenged philosophers, intrigued scientists and fascinated artists for centuries.

Since 270 AD, when ancient Greek engineer Ctesibus made organs and water clocks with movable figures, the relationship between humans and machines has been a recurring theme, some might say nightmare, in art and literature.

In modern times, Mary Shelley explored the significance of an artificial human in 1818 in the novel Frankenstein.

Delibes’ 1870 ballet Coppelia told the story of a life-size dancing doll and its effect on its maker in an early portent of Devolution.

Not long after Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek introduced the word ‘robot’ in his play R.U.R. in 1920, the female robot Futura stunned audiences in the movie Metropolis in 1927.

The transformation scene, when Maria morphed into the robot Futura, epitomised that fascination with the interface between machine and humanity.

It blurred and confronted that boundary, in the same way that Terminator (1984) challenged the distinction when flames burnt away the human-looking exterior of Schwarzenegger’s T-101 to reveal the grim metal endoskeleton beneath.

Now, ADT’s innovative and unique work of dance theatre, Devolution has taken to new level similar themes explored in other contemporary works such as the cyberpunk Ghost in the Shell manga (1991) and the film I, Robot (2004).

A dance work on the scale and level of design of Devolution had never been attempted before in Australia.

This spectacular production began a new technical and theatrical journey through the shared landscape of human and machine.

Devolution broke new ground in choreographing free-moving machines with dancers.

Hundreds of computer-driven movement controls were connected to the various robots and devices via hundreds of metres of air and control tubes. 

Their movements were then performed in sequence, sometimes by pre-determined programs and at other times by operators who co-ordinated to animate the robots around the stage. 

Artistic Director Garry Stewart also asked some of his dancers to perform with robotic prostheses attached to their bodies.

The challenge of creating choreographed movement for a body being subjected to the forces of programmed cycles of independently powered movement was immense. It required many weeks of collaborative work between Garry, the dancers and roboticist Louis-Philippe Demers.

The remarkable team of creative personnel brought together to create Devolution ensured the work made a decisive statement about the ability of Australian dance to communicate and resonate with 21st century audiences. 

It won 2006 Helpmann Awards for Best New Australian Work and Best Lighting Design as well as the 2006 Inaugural Ruby Award for Innovation.

By mixing dancers with machines Devolution asks audiences to reflect on humanity’s relationship with technology

The show creates a distinctive parallel universe populated with humans and machines. As in an ecosystem, these two ‘species” struggle to co-exist in a symbiotic relationship.

Through the high-end technological sophistication on stage, Devolution presents audiences with a number of other issues such as the environment and our place in the ecosystem.

Garry Stewart says the work depicts our struggle to find balance and symbiosis with forces that are often beyond our control. The representation of humans within a strange, metallic, machine environment creates an allegory of our real life environmental situation.

Extracts from other case studies:

Port River Expressway – Shrink to Fit Process

In the early days of Australian settlement, wheelwrights used a centuries-old technique to fit iron tyres to cart wheels

They heated the iron ring in a forge so that it expanded, then slipped it onto the wheel rim. As the tyre cooled, it shrank to create a good, tight fit.

Today, bridge builders on the new Port River Expressway are taking that early trade secret to new levels of sophistication in their innovative precision engineering solution for the Expressway’s opening bridges…………..

RibLoc Australia

Under many of our cities, old water and sewer pipes are struggling.

When one occasionally fails, the results are rarely limited to being just a nuisance. More often they cause major disruption and are sometimes catastrophic.

Repairing them is a major challenge, both technically and logistically, especially in busy urban environments and under city streets.

RibLoc has come up with an innovative solution that fixes pipes without the need for major road works and extensive excavations.

Like a scene from a James Bond movie, RibLoc uses a robot rig that travels along inside a damaged pipe, automatically forming a new lining.

In effect, RibLoc creates a new pipe inside the old one………….

TARAC Technologies

When a winery finishes a vintage, what does it do with the leftovers?

The two major leftovers from winemaking are lees and marc. Lees is the sludgy sediment of spent yeast and other debris at the bottom of the vat. Marc is the pulpy mess of residual grape skins and seeds.

This is where Tarac Techologies innovative services come to the rescue.

Tarac’s business operations centre on the commercial recycling of winemaking by-products…………………….

Seeley International

Who could guess that a boy’s yearning for a yo-yo would be the inspiration for founding one of South Australia’s leading manufacturing industries and a string of innovative products with household names?

Frank Seeley AM, became an entrepreneur at the age of 10 when his mother wouldn’t give him the money to buy a yo-yo. Frank spent the next few days door-knocking and offering to do odd jobs for the neighbours to raise the money.

When he was 16 and learning the piano accordion, the shrewd young businessman saw an opportunity in purchasing old and dilapidated piano accordions, doing them up and selling them for a profit.

The early experience paid off and Seeley International was founded in 1972 as Seeley Brothers Pty Ltd by Mr Frank Seeley when it began manufacturing portable evaporative coolers. Since those humble beginnings, it has evolved into the Seeley International of today……………