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Australia, the magazine : Australia, the magazine
young australia 30 Tanya Monro's life was changed at the age of 14 by an "inspirational" physics teacher. Originally a musician, playing both cello and piano, Monro was on a music scholarship at Sydney's prestigious SCEGGS Darlinghurst when she encountered the teacher, "who turned me on to physics and made me realise the power and beauty of our world". Since then, music has taken a back seat, although giving piano lessons did help pay her way as she completed a science degree and then a PhD in physics at the University of Sydney. It was there, early in her undergraduate studies, that she became fascinated by photonics: the harnessing of light for applications as diverse as robotics, medicine, agriculture and defence science. "I had a chance to do some research in this area and at the end of my first year I had the photonics bug," she says. "I thought I might do astronomy but once I encountered photonics and had the chance to do some research that was it." PROFESSOR TANYA MONRO, 37 OCCUPATION: CHAIR OF PHOTONICS, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE TOM CRAGO, 34 OCCUPATION: ENTREPRENEUR In less than five years Tom Crago has built a company with revenues of around AU$10 million, but virtually none of that comes from direct sales within Australia. Tantalus is purely export. The Melbourne-based company is a video game developer that derives its income from concepts which are then published by global names, such as Sony and Nintendo. "We were the first Australian developer to have a title published by Nintendo, when we sold Top Gear Rally for the GameBoy Advance platform," says Crago. "That was a great success and really set up the future of our business, because it was a high quality title and then won a lot of awards." Crago came to the video game industry after completing three tertiary degrees: in arts, law and international business in his home city of Adelaide. He says he always assumed he'd "end up in film or television". But as soon as he learned that Australia had a video game industry, he was "determined to get involved". "The games industry was a natural fit for me," says Crago. "It is much more dynamic than film and television and it's a much more of a meritocracy, so you can be both young and successful. "There is no sense in which you need to spend years earning your stripes, and its an industry where Simon Schluter/Fairfax Photos you have all these great companies which are only able to be in business because they are profitable, and to do that they need to be innovative and creative." Crago joined Tantalus after a period as director of development at Adelaide-based game developer Ratbag, and saw that company grow from 12 employees to more than 100. He had admired a small Melbourne-based developer called Tantalus and, deciding the time was right to move on, bought into the company and became its chief executive, pitching and winning the landmark deal with Nintendo. "We genuinely compete on our merits with the rest of the world," says Crago. "If there is a publisher looking for a developer we in Australia need to be between 20 to 30 percent better than the local option if we are going to win that work. "If you are a publisher based in Los Angeles, for example, and you are commissioning several million dollars of work you are going to be pretty tempted to put it with the studio down the road, so we have to give them a good reason to put it with Australia, on the other side of the world."