HomeArticlesBusiness & InvestGold Coast Businesses Shine at the Queensland Export Awards
Ryan Aerospace winner of Small Business Award

Ryan Aerospace has succeeded in winning a major contract with the US Army for its innovative helicopter simulator.

Gold Coast Businesses Shine at the Queensland Export Awards

Tim Baker | December 2019

A diverse range of inspiring Gold Coast businesses have been honoured at the prestigious Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards.

From aerospace technology to health and beauty products, innovative building materials to environmental educators, the awards have highlighted the growing diversity and world-leading innovation of Gold Coast businesses.

A small business in Southport has won a major contract with the US army. A family business in Helensvale harnessing solar power sells two of its products every minute across 30 countries world-wide. An environmental education provider attracts students from 60 countries. And, a 10-year-old family business manufacturing building products attracts distributors in the US and UK.

The winning Gold Coast businesses were Knotwood aluminium building products for e-commerce, Alpha-H skincare for manufacturing and advanced materials, Ryan Aerospace for small business, and Envirotech Education for sustainability.

And, all four companies have gone on to be finalists at the national Australian Export Awards, going up against the best of the best in the country at a glittering presentation at Parliament House in Canberra. Knotwood was a finalist in the e-commerce award and Alpha-H made the finalists in Manufacturing and Advanced Materials.


Knotwood started trading in 2009 on the Gold Coast as a family-run business, after identifying a need in the market for aluminium systems that could be coated with a wood grain finish. Knotwood’s range of products offer lightness and durability with the warm look and feel of timber.

“We started with the fencing market to find out what they required,” says Knotwood’s Brendan Galway. “With this feedback it was clear that the market was looking for products that had a wood grain finish as well as hidden fastenings (no welding). Our hidden fastening system has been the concept for all of our systems to date.”

Three years of attending trade shows in the US to better understand the local market paid off when they secured their first distributor in North America and took out the best outdoor living product at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas.

“In 2018, Knotwood successfully sold the right to manufacture and sell our uniquely designed systems and IP in the USA,” says Brendan. “This is proving to be a very successful venture that sees us receive ongoing royalties and a record selling first financial year in export sales. With North America now secured this has allowed us to focus on the European market. We have now secured a distributor in the UK.”

Knotwood teamed up with another local Gold Coast business, Edrupt & Co, to develop their award-winning e-commerce software. “This allows us to streamline the production process by letting each factory team leader track orders as they move in and out of their process queue,” says Brendan, who helped develop the system. “Customers can also log in and check on the progress of their order online. Our website is frequently updated, and emails are sent to distributors and customers advising of any changes, new ideas or new sections available. Likewise, our mobile-friendly version includes features such as installation videos and datasheets for user convenience.”

Being based on the Gold Coast has proven ideal for their growing business. “We have many customers in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and are proud to support the local economy,” says Brendan “The benefits of working on the Gold Coast is the support Knotwood has received from the Gold Coast City Council. The programs and the advice the Council has given has been invaluable. This has helped us to grow our business tremendously.”


The Alpha-H story began in the early 1990s when founder Michelle Doherty was living with a chronic skin condition that she had been suffering from for nearly 14 years. While on a desperate search to find something that would help her skin, she was introduced to Glycolic Acid.

“After four very short days, she saw such a huge improvement in her skin. And while it didn’t get rid of her acne straight away, it changed her skin, and she was sure that she’d found something that would disrupt the beauty industry as we knew it,” says Alpha-H operations manager, and Michelle’s daughter, Libby Doherty.

“Fast forward to today and her one-woman operation has grown to be a global cult phenomenon which is lauded by the beauty elite, makeup artists, top industry figures and loyal users alike,” says Libby.

Key milestones in their growth include being stocked in Myer and Sephora in Australia, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales in the Middle East, and ASOS, Selfridges and Marks & Spencer in the UK, entering the American, European and additional Australasian markets with Sephora in 2019, and growing to the point where two bottles of Alpha-H Liquid Gold are sold every minute.

Manufacturing out of our Gold Coast headquarters has been a big step in us being able to better control products we take to our customers which consequently has seen us invest in multiple warehouse expansions, purchase state-of-the-art machinery, and acquire numerous industry certifications which have all contributed towards our operations strategy to grow our export market,” says Libby. “Our strong industry relationships, and the efficacy of our products have also been crucial elements of this growth. Currently we export to more than 30 countries.”

And being based on the Gold Coast, in Helensvale, has proven an asset to the business on many levels. “What we love most about doing business on the Gold Coast is the amazing Gold Coast locals that make up our incredible team,” says Libby. “In addition, the year-round sunshine that the Gold Coast is renowned for is another reason we love doing business here. We’re also making the most of all this sunshine and recently added 195 solar panels to the roof of our factory and head office at Helensvale. These solar panels give us the ability to produce 10,000 bottles of Liquid Gold per day using solar power alone.”

“In addition to this award, we were finalists in the Sustainability category on the night, and were recognised as a finalist in the Australian National Export Awards,” says Libby. “As we have made manufacturing and sustainability huge focuses for us, it gave us such a sense of pride to be recognised for these areas.”


Envirotech has over 100 employees in seven countries and has attracted international students from over 60 countries to its campuses on the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. It began as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in 2008 with courses in horticulture, landscape and business technology and has since expanded into information technology, business and project management, early education, hospitality, environmental management and sustainability.

Director and CEO Shelly Bengiat moved from her home in Israel to the Gold Coast in 2003 and its stunning natural environment has informed Envirotech’s move into sustainability. “I consider the Gold Coast to be the most beautiful city I have visited and, with my travelling passion, I visited many cities,” Shelly says. “My husband Noah, our three kids and I live in Currumbin Valley, our property is nestled on the Currumbin Creek and rock pools. Currumbin Valley has been our home since 2005 and we are privileged to live here. I love the Gold Coast business space, as it more relaxed than other cities. There is focus on innovation, lifestyle, fun, beach, nature, and a young vibe. It’s a city with so much potential, in respect to natural resources. We are truly blessed on the Gold Coast.”

The development of their Environmental Management and Sustainability course was the result of a collaboration with the Gold Coast Innovation Hub and has achieved Vocational Education and Training (VET) accreditation.

“We created an in-house business and project incubation program, that is generously hosted by the Gold Coast Innovation Hub, and this is a practical, managerial, multi-disciplinary, capacity-building program,” says Shelly.  “Environmental Management and Sustainability as a VET accreditation is an important milestone in creating practical vocational pathways to promote ecological accountability into mainstream training in both domestic and international markets,” says Shelly.

Envirotech recently launched accredited courses in Marine Habitat Conservation and Restoration, a project developed together with Australian, Israeli and Brazilian Marine Scientists. “The exciting outcome is the educational reform that will allow fishermen to get trained and accredited in the first National Accredited Courses in Marine Protection jobs, creating a new skilled workforce that hopefully generates demand to support our stressed ocean ecosystems,” says Shelly. “Our Marine VET Standards aligns to national and international marine protection programs, including the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Long-term sustainability plan, by creating marine job opportunities as alternatives to non-sustainable fishing and reducing professional marine employment costs.”


From its modest headquarters in Southport, Ryan Aerospace has succeeded in winning a major contract with the US Army for its innovative helicopter simulator.

Ryan Aerospace  specialises in the design, manufacture and through-life support of a new kind of helicopter simulator using the latest virtual reality technology, aimed largely at the defence sector, but also in use by many other commercial and emergency services operations.

Ryan Aerospace was established in 2005 after founder Chris Ryan discovered the need for a low-cost trainer to teach aspiring helicopter pilots the basic motor skills required to hover a helicopter. Following the success of a simple and rudimentary device, Chris saw a gap in the helicopter training market, feeling there was a need for helicopter simulators that are better than gaming equipment but without the exorbitant costs of existing, higher-end simulators. And thus, Ryan Aerospace (Australia) was created.

Starting out in Taree, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Ryan Aerospace has since relocated to the Gold Coast and its small but dedicated team have developed a passion for innovation and quality with a focus on improving safety and reducing risk in the helicopter training industry.

The company’s new HELIMOD Mark III has changed the face of helicopter training. Compared to traditional simulators, the HELIMOD Mark III is lower in cost, simpler to run and takes up a very small footprint. It also provides a new level of immersion and realism using the power of virtual reality technology.

In December 2018, the US Army tested the device at Fort Rucker, the undisputed leader in military helicopter training. They were so impressed by the training system that they committed to rewriting their training curriculum and completely changing the way they train their helicopter pilots. As a result, Ryan Aerospace won a world-wide search and received a purchase order for 32 HELIMOD Mark III helicopter Simulators.

Managing Director of Ryan Aerospace, Chris Ryan, said he was “delighted to partner with the US Army and prime contractor SAIC to work on this ground-breaking project.”

Ryan Aerospace now has satisfied customers all around the world and has become a leader in this niche market area.

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