Advanced Manufacturing

2017 GBC: Where are they now? Smart Blox

Winners of the 2017 Global Business Challenge: Tim Larsen, Dr John Bensley (Coach), Katherine Monberg and Mary Dusek.

Solar Blox combines all of the necessary elements of a complete solar system into a single product that is similar in accessibility and mobility to a portable petrol generator, which can be bought from any local hardware store.

With its built-in battery and inverter system, Smart Blox can output a continuous level of standard residential power to run appliances through a standard power outlet. It includes fold-out mounting, can be safely stacked and pre-charged, can be set up in minutes and is built ruggedized for safe transport. For additional storage and power, the Blox simply click together.

Smart Blox went on to win not only the first prize but also the A$75,000 Project Prize and the industry prizes: ActewAGL Renewable Energy Prize of A$75,000 and the Queensland Government prize of A$75,000, both of which were awarded to support commercialisation. Subsequently, the team was invited to pitch at the Rice University Business Plan Competition and to compete for the MIT Clean Energy Prize. The Solar Blox concept really resonated with these global audiences and investors for application in the markets of disaster recovery as well as the consumer camping markets.

The GBC team recently caught up with team member Tim Larsen…

  1.  Describe your participation in the 2017 Global Business Challenge. What was the experience like for you and your team members?
    We entered the GBC with an idea, a prototype and a passion to deliver change. We knew we had something, we knew the market was there, we knew our intentions were right, but it wasn’t until the GBC that we really knew that what we had resonated with others. At the GBC we found a whole community of people who were passionate about helping us realise our vision and deliver change.
  2. What is the name of your company? How did the Global Business Challenge help you to build upon it?
    Our company, Smart Blox Pty Ltd was launched with the help of the Global Business Challenge. The funding we were provided allowed us to progress from a prototype and ideation to a viable commercial product.

  3. How have you progressed since the GBC? Have you raised any capital, started selling?
    It has been a wild ride with the GBC. We’ve turned over half a dozen revised models to get the product right, found our first set of investors and are charging towards our first commercial sales in 2019.

  4. What are your plans for the future?
    Newly equipped with a viable product, we’re hoping to launch a series of pilot programs later this year; ideally in Queensland where we have a passion for making an impact in disaster relief and in remote communities. We also hope to start generating pre-sales in late 2018 and early 2019 to prepare us for an initial high-volume production run in mid-2019, with an expectation of selling commercially by the end of 2019. By 2020 we see a big impact, communities transformed and an expansion of our product line.

  5. Are there any tips that you would like to give future contestants?
    Put everything else aside for these couple of days and focus, this is quite possibly the best opportunity you will ever have to launch your business. Spend the time to understand what information pack is asking you to do and quickly determine what information is relevant to help you formulate an executable business strategy. Most importantly be sincere, build a business strategy that you are passionate and sincere about executing and the rest will happen naturally.

About the Global Business Challenge

The Global Business Challenge (GBC)  is the first global graduate business case competition aimed at developing solutions to global problems and is conducted as a partnership between QUT, The University of Queensland (UQ) and Griffith University and with the support of government and industry.

For details about this years competition, go to


Associate Professor John Bensley is the Canberra Director of QUT Graduate School of Business and QUTeX. He has expertise in systems thinking, the management of innovation, product management and analytical psychology. John works with other University academics, Graduate School staff and industry professionals, to design, develop and deliver transdisciplinary education programs that meet the specific requirements of post-graduate students as well as a range of corporate and government clients. With more than 30 years management, marketing and operational experience from the mining and telecommunication industries his passion is understanding the determining effect of the human equation within organisations and helping people sense-make in complex environments.

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