We can take chances that we otherwise may have not taken without access to the R&D tax incentive.

Bernard Blake, CEO, Biarri Networks

Company Profile

Company: Biarri Networks Pty Ltd

Sector: Software development

Location: Victoria

Profile: Biarri Networks has developed algorithms and supporting software to configure the optimal route for a fibre network at scale.

Why R&D is needed

The internet is becoming important in our daily lives. Australians own an increasing number of connected devices. Yet, there is a digital divide in Australia, with 1.3 million households not connected to the internet. Many people without internet are over 55, unemployed, or migrants. This raises concerns around equality to the economic and efficiency benefits the internet can bring, as well as the social benefits of being connected to the online world.

Quality of internet connection is important. A recent global ranking of internet speed revealed Australia’s fixed broadband speed currently ranks at number 55.

Australia is addressing these issues via the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN). Yet, a nationwide fibre network poses many challenges, particularly financial. In remote areas the cost of connecting a single premise can be higher than $91,000.

Another major challenge for the NBN is the logistics involved in planning the network’s geographical layout.

Algorithm-based software developed by Biarri Networks plays an important role in realising the roll-out of a fibre networks – in Australia, and globally.

Biarri Networks, part of an Australian group of technology companies, has been specialising in the fibre optic network market since 2010. The company was founded based on the idea of applying theoretical mathematics to the commercial world. Since then, the company has worked on many major telecommunication infrastructure projects globally, including the NBN roll-out.

The NBN is an illustration of the complexity of designing fibre networks. Biarri Networks CEO Bernard Blake explains that the design of a fibre network of this scale requires calculating a connection from source point to consumption point (or exchange), and from this exchange to 11 million homes across Australia. Amongst millions of possible connections to build such a network, some connections are more efficient than others. In addition, there are civil access regulations that differ across states. These restrictions impose further challenges in the design process.

Biarri Networks’s unique software uses algorithms to consider all possible variables and visualise the optimal connection for a fibre network. The software aims at achieving optimal coverage rates with the lowest associated costs.

The company’s software is based on geographical databases that contain layers of infrastructure information. One layer might display all street networks. Another may contain information about all houses and buildings. The technology considers all these layers in calculating the most optimal network route while addressing the specific needs of different markets. The software is based on ‘operations research’, a branch of mathematics founded in logistics. Operations research principles are also used to calculate mail truck routes.

The development, evolution and improvement of Biarri Networks’ software requires a strong commitment to core R&D projects. For example, one project was overcoming the computational limit on the number of homes that could be considered in the network design. This in turn impacted the number of options to be factored into the route optimisation. Originally, the number of homes considered was limited to 200 to 300.

Through extensive R&D, Biarri Networks has achieved computations for 40,000 homes in a single run – the world’s only software capable of delivering to this scale. The company is working towards increasing the computational capacity to 60,000 homes. This would make it possible to design a network for a suburb in one run.

How the Research and Development Tax Incentive helps

Bernard Blake stresses that for a small business like Biarri Networks the R&D Tax Incentive (R&DTI) plays an important role in supporting the development of first-to-market, innovative products. He explains that the additional funding that comes with R&DTI enabled the company to pursue more opportunities with high return prospects:

“The R&DTI changes our risk and investment profile quite dramatically. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to do many of the things that we want to do,” he said.

Support from the R&DTI allows Biarri Networks to undertake more projects. The added financial security also helped the company hire 50 highly specialist employees. Mr Blake says there is a direct link between the incentive program and taking some of the commercial and technical risks that are needed for the long-term success of the business.

Investing in new talent also means more employment opportunities science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates. Mr Blake says the vast majority of the 50 employees originally hired are still with the company 3 years later, with great employment prospects in Australia and globally because of their experience with Biarri Networks.

The R&DTI also helped Biarri Networks to invest in their relationship with universities. Biarri Networks has been able to offer sponsorships and internships to support STEM-related employment.

The R&DTI program also supports the big picture: Biarri Networks’s vision of a global high-quality internet. Through the company’s technology, fibre networks can be realised 30% cheaper and 80% faster than would otherwise be possible.4 Without these substantial time and investment savings, projects like the NBN may not be feasible.

“It’s not only about the savings, it is about the viability of the project,” he said. The financial burden of projects like these is particularly high for developing countries and those with small-scale funding for network development. The financial upside achieved through Biarri Networks’s software can therefore mean all the difference between a project’s success or failure.

Mr Blake firmly believes that a global, high-quality internet would carry immense social and environmental benefits: “We fundamentally believe that quality internet access creates all sorts of material, measurable flow-on effects in the world.”

One example is making education and information accessible for everyone, particularly those living in remote or underdeveloped areas. Additionally, higher internet speed and quality allows more people to work from home, reducing the need for commuting and easing the pressure on transport systems and the environment.

Further social and economic benefits are linked to the delivery of government services. In developed countries, government services are very expensive to deliver. These costs could be reduced through high-quality internet, meaning that substantial amounts of tax money could be invested elsewhere.

Australians undertake more than 800 million government-related transactions annually. Some 40% of these transactions are conducted offline. A Deloitte Access Economics report estimates that a reduction of transactions completed offline by 20% would result in benefits for the government worth around $18 million, not considering savings in time, convenience and out of pocket spend for citizens.

Mr Blake is also convinced that the software developed by Biarri Networks will make internet access cheaper for the end-user, thanks to savings during the design and construction process. The software would also support more companies to build fibre networks — which creates competition and ultimately saves costs for consumers. Mr Blake says optimising the network design also minimises the use of materials and construction work required to build the network infrastructure. This lowers environmental impacts and minimises disruption for people living in the area.

The R&DTI has helped Biarri Networks to stay competitive in a global market. Mr Blake is convinced of its value to the Australian economy:

“The R&DTI is a wonderful program that supports Australian technology and innovation. It’s an important part of our economic development going forward.”

R&DTI Impact Facts

  • Supported the development of a software enabling the design of fibre networks 30% cheaper and 80% faster
  • Accelerates the development of a world-wide unique technology solution out of Australia
  • Supplied additional funding to hire highly skilled employees
  • Supports continuous investment in employment opportunities for STEM graduates
  • Long-term positive impact on accessible and affordable high-quality internet to the world
If we continue to advance our product through further R&D, we believe this will accelerate a ubiquitous global internet because it will reduce the costs and risks of building networks dramatically.

Bernard Blake, CEO, Biarri Networks