A near tragic boating accident in 2011 led highly experienced boatie Scott Smiles to invent an innovative all-in-one marine safety device, Life Cell.

The product has since secured regulatory approval by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and is currently in the process of receiving similar approval overseas. Following on from the success of his invention, Smiles’ startup company Life Cell Marine Safety was recently named the Small Exporter of the Year at the 2017 Australian International Marine Export Awards. Life Cell has also recently achieved massive growth into overseas markets.

The catalyst for the birth of Life Cell came when Smiles was forced to jump off his sinking game boat while travelling from Sydney to the NSW North Coast. With only an ice box to keep him, his mate Rick Matthews and their two 11-year-old sons afloat, Smiles had no idea that he was on the brink of inventing a marine safety device that had the potential to save countless lives and would be worth millions of dollars – all he cared about was keeping everyone alive. Thankfully, all concerned were plucked from the water safely by rescue crews. In the weeks that followed, Smiles realised he had the seeds of an idea to help other people caught out in the same situation. He went on  to develop the Life Cell, an all-in-one float-free rescue kit storage container and life-saving flotation device.

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 offers a revolutionary solution: It has buoyancy to keep users afloat with easy grip handles and lanyards to help everyone stay together while awaiting rescue.  The highly visible Life Cell comes in four sizes to assist groups of people from two to eight in number. Each Life Cell will house mandatory safety equipment such as EPIRB, flares, horn or whistle, V-sheet, torch, heliograph or mirror, and has extra space for a handheld VHF radio and small personal items. Life Cell units come with a special mounting bracket that allows them to float free in the event of a sinking.  

The recent International Marine Export Award wasn’t the first time Life Cell has received industry recognition. In 2016 the company 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 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 redefine 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.”