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Business Envoy

Pandemic pivots: rising up to the challenge

From gin to hand sanitiser, high fashion to personal protective equipment (PPE), there are great instances of Australian businesses rising to the challenges posed by a global pandemic in creative and unexpected ways.

As COVID-19 restrictions closed borders and smashed established international supply chains, ‘business as usual’ was turned on its head.

Ballarat's Gekko Systems is one example of an early adapter, leveraging a quarter century of capability in mining services and technology to meet an urgent community need.

When the Ballarat-based company heard the local medical community was concerned about a lack of ventilators in the region to meet COVID-19 requirements, it sprang into action.

Gekko's Technical Director, Sandy Gray, a successful inventor and an International Mining Hall of Fame inductee, worked with local intensive care anaesthetists and another Ballarat company, Eurkative, to 3D print a prototype.

“One of the unique things about Gekko is that we have design, prototyping and manufacturing under the one roof,” said co-founder Elizabeth Lewis-Gray. “Our areas of specialty include hydraulics, pneumatics and control systems – the core technologies in a ventilator.”

Gekko Systems is gearing up to deliver more than 1,000 of its GeVentor ventilators for distribution across Australia.

Gekko's adaptability and ingenuity in the face of seismic changes in the trade and investment landscape were echoed elsewhere.

Sandy Gray with the GeVentor in the Gekko bio lab. Image credit: Gekko

Other sectors were also quick to make manufacturing switches in response to COVID-19, including distilleries such as Gypsy Hub of Victoria and Prohibition Liquor Co of South Australia, which started producing hand sanitiser, and fashion houses Nobody Denim and Scanlon Theodore, which started making personal protective clothing, including masks and gowns.

“COVID-19 has created extraordinary volatility and uncertainty around the world. It has fundamentally recast global supply chains, significantly impacted trade and investment flows and hastened the transition to digital ways of working and living.” says Tim Beresford, Austrade's acting Chief Executive Officer.

“Like the private sector, Austrade is adapting to these challenges creatively to help exporters maintain their overseas customers despite disruption to freight routes, rising costs and quarantine measures.”

Internationally, the response from Australian businesses has been no less impressive.

As Australian businesses navigate a newly uncertain environment in 2020, new opportunities are arising.

AwakenedMind, a Sydney-based start-up that participated in Austrade’s Landing Pad program for innovation start-ups in Singapore, has caught the eye of Asia’s largest employee benefits package producer with a healthcare app designed to assist employees dealing with stress.

RxMx, which offers digital management of drug use for clinicians and patients, adapted its platform and launched 'certify covid clear' to help businesses speed up their return to work post-lockdown. It provides seamless diagnostic testing, reporting and analysis in one app to track and manages employees as they return to work.

For more stories of innovative Australian businesses, visit

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