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Dr Jim Howarth

1992 Australia Prize


Dr Jim Howarth is managing director of a public company, MCI Ltd in Forestville in South Australia when he co won the 1992 Australia Prize.

As a senior officer of the Australian Minerals Development Corporation (AMDEL) in 1972, Dr Howarth set up a division to manufacture analytical instruments for the minerals industry.

Dr Howarth left AMDEL in 1981 and used his own savings to set up his own company, Mineral Control Instrumentation in partnership with Adelaide electronics engineer Mr Richard Kelly and the geophysical instrument manufacturer Geoex.

When Geoex failed in 1982, Mr Howarth was able to keep MCI going by finding another partner with connections to the coal industry, Sedgman and Associates of Brisbane. He supplemented his capital by successfully applying for dollar-for-dollar grants from the Industrial Research and Development Board.

Dr Howarth developed a close familiarity with the Australian and international coal industry, and identified a range of technologies, developed mainly by CSIRO and the University of Queensland, that could be applied to in-stream analysis of coal moisture and ash content.

MCI began developing the Coalscan suite of instruments, bootstrapping itself to success by ploughing most of its profits back into the development and marketing of new instruments.

MCI survived, became profitable, is profitable, and achieved a turnover of $10 million in the recession year of 1991. It employs about 40 people, and sells Coalscan instruments mostly to coal-mining companies in Europe, Africa, India, Asia and the United States.

Today, MCI's Coalscan instruments are acknowledged as the best in the world. Mr Howarth said the company's success stems from a combination of factors - the existence of a large domestic market that enthusiastically embraced its products, helping it to become profitable before it began exporting.

By re-investing its early revenues, and maintaining a spartan operation, the company was able to reach commercial viability before facing the major costs of developing overseas markets. In addition, the Australian coal industry helped spread word of the excellence of its instruments to the international marketplace.


Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June 2014

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