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Meet the Territory's homegrown tech entrepreneur

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Engineering
Former engineering student and successful entrepreneur Dr Mark Englund

Successful serial entrepreneur Dr Mark Englund has had a life-long fascination with all things technical. A supportive mother and an inspiring engineering academic changed the course of Mark's young life, leading to him study engineering in the Territory before taking the tech world by storm.

“I was the kid in the family who would read the instruction manual on a new piece of technology in the house, like a video cassette recorder, not once but twice!” Mark says.

“My mother saw this and suggested engineering as a career in mid high school and I never looked back.”

Dr Mark Englund with his mother
Mark with his mother, Terry Englund, "who set and inspired me on my career path"

A chance encounter

Mark credits a fortuitous encounter with Professor Dean Patterson as the reason he chose to stay in the Territory and study engineering at CDU (then Northern Territory University).

“He was the driving force behind the incredible run of success and fame that the NTU enjoyed in the world car solar challenge,” says Mark, noting that Professor Patterson invented the electric motor technology that would help the team place fourth, ahead of international giants like Honda and MIT.

“Let that sink in, a small university in the NT invented and built the most efficient electric motor in the world – it still gives me the goosebumps today.”

As a young engineering student watching it all up close, I was truly hooked on the notion that innovation with hard work can take you to truly amazing places.

“Dean’s passion for engineering and his inventions revolutionised many electric motor applications but it has influenced several engineering careers and spawned several related companies (including my story),” he adds.

Sensor success

The project in Mark’s final year of engineering would evolve into the optical fiber sensing fascination that fuels his current endeavour as founder and CEO of FiberSense.

“[The project] was to build a new type of sensor system that could allow the solar car to sense the presence of a head wind or a tail wind and sense whether the solar car was ascending or descending.”

“I adapted sensors usually found on an aircraft for the job and this culminated in many months of testing using my 1971 VW beetle… and it worked!”

After graduating, Mark followed his interest in sensors to a defence research role creating a new type of SONAR for the Australian and US Navy using optical fiber based sensing.

He has since spent over 25 years in optical fiber technology engineering as a successful serial entrepreneur.

There are many aspects of Mark’s engineering degree that remain with him, though he credits one as the most transformative:

The ability to think critically, analytically, but in balance with the precursor to innovation, which is creativity (almost an opposite discipline to thinking analytically).

It is a skill that has allowed him to see the opportunity where cutting edge technology meets the direction of the information and communication technology (ICT) markets and build successful businesses that leverage these insights.

You can take the boy out of the Territory...

Though he no longer lives in Darwin, Mark maintains his connection to the place he was born and raised.

“One of my family values is to give something back in lieu of the amazing inheritance of growing up in the pristine wilderness of the Northern Territory and receiving a quality education all the way to PhD,” he says.

In fact, the city of Palmerston became the first to receive a large-scale deployment of Mark’s FiberSense technology.

He continues to actively support the NT Government’s STEM strategy and invest in the digital innovation space in the Territory.

Dr Mark Englund has been nominated for an Alumni Award for Industry Excellence in the 2023 CDU Alumni Awards.

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