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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Simon Palumbo


Simon Palumbo, the co-founder and CTO of Silentium Defence, has commercialised passive radar system technology for defence and civilian use.

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In 2016, Palumbo resigned from his job with the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group to pursue the commercialisation of 10 years’ worth of research in passive radar technology.

Along with a former colleague, Palumbo built a South Australian SME from the ground up in just two years, developing a team of specialists in the field.

Put simply, passive radar, unlike conventional radar systems, doesn’t incorporate a transmitter, rather using radio frequency transmitters already in the environment – like communication signals or commercial broadcasts – for target detection.

Silentium Defence specialises in the design, engineering, research and development of these systems for both defence and civilian applications.

Palumbo graduated from Flinders University in 2005 with a Bachelor degree in Computer Systems Engineering and completed a Master’s degree in Defence Signal and Information Processing at the University of Adelaide in 2008.

He began his career as a radar system engineer at the DST Group in 2006 as one of the initial team members researching passive radar technology.

In late 2016, Palumbo was accepted into the ON accelerate commercialisation training program run by CSIRO, which enabled him to develop the business skills needed to commercialise his technology.

In June, Palumbo was named in InDaily’s 40 Under 40, which recognises the best and brightest young business people in South Australia.

What is the single most important lesson you have learnt in your business career so far?

The most important lesson I’ve learnt to date is that you need to understand your customers’ roles, their responsibilities, what they like and dislike about them, so you can use that insight to shape your offering. You can have the best technology in market, but if you are not addressing the customer’s needs, you are going to find it hard to sell.

You cannot sit around and wait for things to come to you – you need to get out there, use your networks, understand your customer and solve their problems.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

I believe the strength of doing business in South Australia is that we have a great high-tech ecosystem in the state. Silentium Defence is heavily involved in the defence and space sectors and South Australia has some of the best support services, hubs and networks of collaborative companies in these areas anywhere in Australia. South Australian companies, including Silentium Defence, are proving that South Australia is more than just ‘churches, wine and tourism’ and, in fact, is an innovative state creating impact on a national and international stage.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

South Australia historically had a reputation for being a ‘small-town’ and there was a perception that, if you wanted to ‘go global’ you would need to move to the eastern states.

This is changing, however, through support from both local and Federal Government initiatives such as services and opportunities provided by South Australia’s Fixe or even the late TechInSA’s Early Commercialisation fund, which have spurred the emergence of the strong high-tech eco-system and are putting SA on the map both locally and globally for breakthrough innovations.

Do you see your future in South Australia? 

Definitely. South Australia is a great headquarters location for Silentium Defence. You can’t go past the proximity to our key customers in the Defence and Space sectors and, increasingly, if you’re doing business in those markets, SA is absolutely the place to be.

Investment is being made in the right areas to position SA as a location of choice for high-tech companies and the support and infrastructure is growing to help attract and retain the best talent (local and global) to support the new jobs being created here and convert ideas developed in South Australia into opportunities for South Australia.

That said, our ambitions are global, and while we’ll be looking to keep the home base here in South Australia, we absolutely intend to leverage the state’s credentials to help us expand into other markets.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

Keep supporting the eco-system, provide opportunity and take on an appetite for risk. You can not push boundaries without taking on risk.

To see the full list of 40 winners go here.

InDaily is profiling each of the winners – go here to read more.

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InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.

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