Dr Simon Poole is an engineer/entrepreneur with over 30 years experience in photonics in research, academia and industry. He has been involved in start-ups in both Academia and Industry for the majority of this time and is renowned both for his contribution to the technology of photonics as well as the companies he has founded.
After gaining a 1st Class Honours degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nottingham University in the UK 1979, Dr Poole worked as an electronic design engineer for several years then returned to University in 1981 to study for a PhD, this time at Southampton University. During his PhD work he developed the first techniques to manufacture and characterise rare-earth-doped fibers and was a member of the team that invented the Erbium-Doped Fiber Amplifier, one of the key enablers of current photonic communication systems. He was also fortunate to be involved in two of the earliest University spin-off companies, York Technology and York VSOP Ltd (now Fibercore Inc) which emerged from the research group at Southampton.
Moving to Australia in 1988 he founded the Optical Fiber Technology Centre (OFTC) at the University of Sydney and, subsequently, the Australian Photonics CRC. During his full-time research career, which spanned 1981 to 1995, he published over 150 refereed papers in journals and international conferences as well as 7 patents, including the initial patent on the Erbium-Doped Fiber Amplifier (EDFA).
In 1995 Dr Poole left Sydney University to start a spin-off company, Indx Pty Ltd to manufacture Fiber Bragg Gratings (FBGs) using technology initially developed within the Photonics CRC. At the end of 1997, Indx was acquired by Uniphase Corporation (subsequently JDS Uniphase and now Lumentum) for $US6m, and subsequently grew to over 300 people with exports of over $100m pa, making it one of the most successful divisions within JDSUniphase worldwide.
Dr Poole left JDSUniphase in late 2000 and worked as a venture partner with KPLJ Ventures – a VC firm founded by Kevin Kalkhoven, the former CEO of JDSUniphase where he acted as a technical and market advisor analysing potential investee companies.
In September 2001 he founded Engana Pty Ltd with Dr Steve Frisken, and as CEO he oversaw the raising of $13M in VC funding, the development and launch of Engana’s market-leading Dynamic Wavelength Processor line of Wavelength Selective Switches in early 2005 and the subsequent sale of Engana to Optium Corporation in March 2006. As General Manager of the former Engana organisation, now called Optium Australia, from March 2006 to January 2008, he managed the transition of the company from an R&D organisation of around 20 people to a fully-fledged manufacturing company with over 120 employees, as well as participating in Optium’s successful IPO on NASDAQ in October 2006. In August 2008 Optium merged with Finisar and the Sydney organisation is now Finisar Australia, a company with 220 employees in Sydney and a similar number in manufacturing in China.
In 2008 Dr Poole started a new group within Finisar, the New Business Ventures Group which aims to generate new, high value businesses based on both existing technologies within Finisar and also those it can bring in from outside. Using the principles of Open Innovation, the first business within New Business Ventures worked with the University of Sydney to develop what is now the WaveShaper range of programmable optical filters for optical test and measurement applications. Additional businesses have now been built in optical signal analysis, and componentry for Optical Coherence Tomography.
Dr Poole was elected as a Fellow of the IEEE in 2001 for work leading to the development of the erbium-doped fiber amplifier and is also a Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia (FIEAust), and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE).
His contribution to innovation and entrepreneurship has been recognised through a number of awards including; the Warren Centre (Sydney University) Australian Innovation Hero in 2010, the 2011 NSW Pearcey Medallist for his contribution to the development of the ICT industry in Australia, the Institute of Engineers Australia (Sydney) Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010, the prestigious Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering’s Clunies Ross Award in 2013 and the Charles Todd Medal by the Australian Telecommunications Society in 2016.
Dr Poole was an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer for 2012-13 and 2013-14, lecturing on “Confessions of an Entrepreneur: 30 years of Photonic Start-ups”, which is the subject of this presentation.