When Dr Elizabeth Lewis-Gray was studying her Masters of Business Management at University of Ballarat she had just started a business from her backyard marketing her husband's mineral processing inventions, had newborn twin girls and was travelling to and from their home in Avoca with her babies in tow.
Many times she breastfed her babies in the back of the lecture theatre while studying, so as not to miss out on her course.
The company she founded in 1995 with husband Sandy has grown along with their daughters and today Gekko Systems is a major player in the mining industry in Australia and around the world, with more than 400 installations across 44 countries. Dr Lewis-Gray is its chief executive.
Dr Lewis-Gray was this week honoured with a distinguished alumna award from Federation University, one of 11 former students to be celebrated for their outstanding contributions to the community.
"As we developed Gekko and grew Gekko everything was being developed through the lens of what I was studying. We started out thinking it would be really good if we got to seven employees ... now we have about 100," she said.
In 1998 the couple moved their family and business from Avoca to Ballarat but Gekko's big breakthrough came with the Ballarat Gold Mine development in 2004 where their technology was used.
"It really proved our basic broader philosophy on a much larger scale. The core of our business has been a focus on improving energy efficiency. Mining is quite energy intensive and the technology we have can make a significant difference," she said.
"One of the things Ballarat Gold Field mine proved was we could really reduce energy consumption and reduce the footprint of the processing plant and reduce chemical usage."
More recently Gekko has diversified in to biogas and waste to energy production using modular systems.
"With biogas we are very much focussed on the food and agriculture industry in Australia. We need smaller size units than people use overseas because our application is smaller and there's not much available that's efficient at the smaller end of the biogas sector."
Much of Dr Lewis-Gray's work in the past few years has been within the mining industry and with the federal government.
In 2011 she founded the Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution which promotes alternative strategies for improving energy efficiency in the mining sector. In 2013 she became Chair of Austmine, the peak industry body representing mining equipment technology and service suppliers; and in 2015 she was appointed chair of the Federal Government's Mining Technology and Services Growth Centre.
But her focus is never too far from Ballarat.
"Ballarat has always been for us an attractive centre to do business. It's close to Melbourne, close to the ports, close to a major international airport ... but we are under a bit of threat at the moment with the state government's proposed gold royalty because we work very closely with Ballarat Gold Mine."
Dr Lewis-Gray said the achievements of the alumna who were honoured with her at the Federation University awards this week were inspirational.
"It's always worthwhile celebrating what has been achieved locally. In Ballarat we need to aspire to business achievements and success, not rest on the laurels that the city is growing, the population is growing therefore the economy is growing. We need to focus on how we develop people and business here so we are a highly competitive regional city."
Other Federation University alumni honoured this week include new Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton, ICT expert Dayle Stevens, gaming industry developer Samuel Mayo, eLearning pioneer Rodney Beach, graphic designer Benjamin Cole, scientist Dr Gregory McRae, education and community theatre stalwart Vernon Wall, marine biologist Dr Jeanette Watson, Julia Margaret (Bella) Guerin, the first woman to graduate from an Australian university who also taught at Loreto, and inclusion and disability advocate Dr David Stratton.
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