Australian start-up Life Cell Marine Safety has been named the Small Exporter of the Year at the 2017 Australian International Marine Export Awards. The Life Cell is an Australian invention, created to save lives at sea and has recently achieved massive growth into overseas markets.

When Life Cell creator Scott Smiles was forced to jump off his sinking ship in 2011 with only an ordinary blue esky to keep him, his friend and their two 11-year-old sons afloat, he had no idea that he was on the brink of inventing a marine safety device worth millions of dollars, all he cared about was keeping everyone alive. In the weeks following this incident however, Mr Smiles realised he had the seeds of an idea to help other people thrust into the same situation. The innovation he went on to develop in response to this terrifying ordeal is the Life Cell, a float-free rescue-kit storage container and life-saving floatation device all in one.

Existing safety equipment is usually kept in grab bags or drums which can fill with water, and are often stored out of plain sight, under seats or in gunwales, which makes them difficult to locate quickly in a fast-moving, life and death situation.

The Life Cell is a revolutionary solution: It has buoyancy to keep users afloat with easy grip handles and lanyards to help everyone stay together while awaiting rescue. It’s mounted with float-free technology to auto-detach in the case of submersion, is highly visible with clear signage and stores all essential safety equipment needed for survival.

This isn’t the first time Life Cell has received industry recognition. In 2016 Life Cell Marine Safety was awarded the Australian Marine Industry Export Award for the Most Innovative Product or Service. It’s also been awarded the NSW Premiers Export Scholarship Award and earlier this year, Life Cell CEO, Jenny Aiken, was chosen to represent Life Cell at the Springboard Enterprises Accelerator Program in Sydney. The amazing potential of this technology has also been recognised by the Australian Government in the form of a $370,000 Accelerating Commercialisation grant which has helped Life Cell Marine Safety establish a number of international distribution partnerships, including Land N Sea in the United States, the largest marine distributor in the world, selling to 17,000 retailers. CEO Jenny Aiken says there are no other float-free devices on the market that combine life-saving buoyancy with secure storage of marine safety equipment, which means Life Cell has a significant first mover advantage and is essentially operating in a “blue ocean”.

“Our technological leadership combined with the five distribution contracts already secured across Australia, the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom gives Life Cell Marine Safety potential prime access to 22,249,088 registered boats, 753, 954 new boat sales and a market size of $7 billion.” Ms Aiken said she is proud of the award and hopes it can help contribute to the growth of the company with the aim of saving more lives and redefining the way safety equipment is stored on boats.

“Tragically, thousands die each year in boating accidents. Life Cell is the missing link which will re-define the industry and help save these needlessly lost lives. One day soon it will be considered as essential as the seat belt in our cars, the airbag or the baby capsule. Once these devices never existed, but now people won’t risk their safety without them. We already have the life jacket and the life buoy, and now we have Life Cell – the future of maritime safety.”