Allan Branch, born at Waddamana in Tasmania’s central highlands, has lived and worked around the world and is currently based between New York City and Germany.
Until 1997 Allan had been a pioneer in the development, and a world leader in the commercialisation, of smart mobile robot technology and products. His emphasis was always on creating advanced products for which there was an independently proven demand. Early on Allan determined that all robotic markets are price sensitive. His skill therefore at developing and releasing sophisticated technology products at low price, as a result of early career activities in the hobby and education sectors, allowed his endeavours to succeed in a difficult industry. This included such fundamental achievements as the first successful mobile robot product (the Tasman Turtle educational robot), the first autonomous navigation system (Blinker’s parametric mapping), and the first autonomous household robotic vacuum cleaners (Florbot for General Electric in Pittsfield and D’Entrecasteaux for Moulinex in France). Around then, Dr Barry Jones, then Federal Minister for Science and Technology, identified Allan as one of the three key technologists in the country.
Since 1997 he has been travelling the world turning around international companies from impending bankruptcy, an area in which he has developed specialized methodologies and which are the subject of a management book (“Save the Day: How to Save Any Failed or Failing Company Without Downsizing”) currently nearing completion. “Any hatchet man can fix a company short term by sacking people. Nothing clever in that!” Companies have been of all sizes and industries, with differing problems and at various stages in their life cycles. They have included biotechs in Zurich and Pittsburgh, dotcoms in Chennai and San Jose, multimedia in Sydney and Los Angeles, retailing, construction, healthcare, management services, and non-profit organizations like Arts Horizons in New Jersey, aged health care in New York and public radio in Tasmania. In addition to the turnaround activities which he does as Interim CEO, Allan has consulted to numerous organizations around the world. As well as smaller companies, clients have included Fortune 500 companies like General Electric, Komatsu and General Motors; governments like those of Malaysia and Australia; institutions like NASA and the CSIRO; and organisations like the Milan Transit Authority. His interests include academic research into corporate financial analysis, product commercialisation and organisational governance. He teaches undergraduates, post graduate students and corporate leaders.
At one time Allan was the Productivity Officer for the Australian Department of Social Security in Hobart where he developed methods of measuring project work for senior staff, more valuable than traditional “time and motion” studies. One of his first positions, with the Department of Surgery at the University of Tasmania, saw him in a team pioneering kidney transplants and microsurgery. He also worked with Dr. Robert Jarvik on the controller for the Jarvik 2000 artificial heart.
Allan headed a consortium of Asian companies in Hong Kong including Mitsubishi to commercialise the Branch robotic technology and in Dallas was head of technology for Commodore Business Machines’ Research Centre in Texas when Commodore was the world’s leading PC company and listed on the NYSE. Following a year as the Invited Visiting Scientist to Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) prestigious Field Robotics Center in Pittsburgh in 1989/90, where among other things he was involved in the Martian Lunar Rover Project, he was in charge of advanced technology projects at Moulinex in France, a company listed in the French CAC40 exchange. He then took command of his Boston based competitor Denning Mobile Robotics, Inc., a NASDAQ listed company, turning it from total failure to becoming its industry leader by 1997. This was the stimulus that changed his direction to pursue further corporate turnaround engagements. Allan was awarded his PhD and MBA equivalency at CMU for his career achievements, and he has been featured in the media; lectured around the world including at MIT, Harvard University and Monash; has presented keynote addresses like Washington’s Defence Week Conference, the International Small Fruits Conference in the UK and Infrastructure For the 21st Century for South and Southeast Asia in Malaysia. He has been published and referenced in the scientific literature, featured in the popular press, on the Discovery Channel for his technology, is in Who’s Who in the World, and has been documented in financial newspapers like the full page feature in the Australian Financial Review for his business activities.