Management Team

In September 2016 when the NCEDA closed, the following staff comprised the Centre’s Management Team:

Mr Neil Palmer

Neil Palmer croppedNeil Palmer was appointed CEO of the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination in October 2010. Mr Palmer was General Manager of Technical Services at Osmoflo, the largest Australian owned desalination and water recycling company. Prior to this, Mr Palmer was Chief Engineer for United Utilities Australia for five years where he was responsible for engineering design and process solutions, after eight years as their Water Quality Manager. Mr Palmer is a member of the Institution of Engineers Australia and a Life Member of the Australian Water Association (AWA). He is a Director of the International Desalination Association, past President of the AWA South Australia Branch and was a member of AWA’s national Board for six years.

Prof. David Furukawa
Founding Chief Scientific Officer

David Furukawa3David Furukawa has more than 40 years of desalination technology experience in both public and private sectors. He is Chairman of the Research Advisory Board, National Water Research Institute; Vice-moderator of the Research Advisory Council, Middle East Desalination Research Centre; Past-President and Director of the International Desalination Association and American Desalting Association (now AMTA), and life member of AWWA. He has more than 60 publications and is patented in the field. His company, Separation Consultants, Inc., provides technical, management and strategic business consultancy. In September 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Professorship from Murdoch University.

Professor Wendell Ela
Chief Scientific Officer & Chair of Desalination & Water Treatment at Murdoch University

WendellEla_Dept (3)Wendell Ela was appointed Chair of Desalination and Water Treatment at Murdoch University (NCEDA’s Administering Organisation) in January 2015. In addition to this role he has now been engaged as the NCEDA’s Chief Scientific Officer, replacing Professor David Furukawa who retired at the end of 2014.

Professor Ela comes from the University of Arizona where he led teaching and research on water and wastewater treatment processes.  Particular areas of work have included desalination technology development and implementation, heavy metals release and removal, treatment and fate of contaminants of emerging concern in natural and engineering systems, decentralized and off-grid water treatment systems, and integrated water/renewable energy solutions for rural communities and agriculture. He has a deep commitment to the developing world and in 2014 completed a 9 month stint as a Fullbright Scholar at Zimbabwe’s National University of Science and Technology.

Mr Rhett  Butler AM
Chair, Research Advisory Committee

Rhett croppedRhett Butler has over 25 years experience in the international water industry and was the Business Development Manager for Siemens Water Technologies. He began his career in water with Memtec Limited in 1986 where he occupied various roles, including Regional Manager for NZ, Indochina, Korea, South Africa and Middle East. He spent 8 years with Vivendi Water (now Veolia Water), a world leading water and wastewater service, where he became the General Manager, Sales Marketing and Business Development. Mr Butler is an experienced water engineer well versed in technology and start-up companies water industry strategies and international water policies. He is the Founder and Chairman of the SkyJuice Foundation, a not for profit organisation which manufactures and supplies re-usable potable water treatment units for developing countries, third world water supply, disaster relief and emergency water supply. In this capacity Mr Butler was awarded an Australian Medal in the 2012 Australia Day Honours List for services to the international community for humanitarian projects. He is also Chairman and Director of Aquasynergy Solutions Pty Ltd and Managing Director of Ravia Pty Ltd. Mr Butler has degrees from Sydney University, the University of New South Wales and Deakin University.

Mr Larry Lopez
Chair, Commercialisation Advisory Committee

Larry croppedLarry Lopez is a Partner at Perth based Australian Venture Consultants, a solution driven strategic consulting practice focused on creating successful commercial outcomes for innovative projects, companies and institutions. AVC provides its clients with a unique service based on the insights it has acquired through hands on experience and engagements in the global innovation ecosystem. Mr Lopez has extensive experience working with knowledge based companies in Silicon Valley, Europe and Israel. Since coming to Perth in 2006 he has been focused on the intersection of technology and the resources industry, and prior to this he spent 17 years at SVB Financial Group, a publicly traded US financial services company (NASDAQ: SIVB) specializing in technology finance. During his tenure at SVB he was the founder of the Bank’s international venture capital practice and responsible for the Bank’s activities in Europe, Israel and Australia. Mr Lopez has served on a number of boards, and is currently a director of several organisations.

Ms Sharon Humphris
Chief Operating Officer

SONY DSCSharon Humphris has over 15 years experience in the public, private and university sector. Ms Humphris has been seconded to the Centre for the establishment phase from her role at Murdoch University as Manager, Strategic Development, where she was instrumental in developing the successful NCEDA proposal.

In her previous role with the WA Department of Industry and Resources, Ms Humphris wrote and led the development and implementation of the first Western Australian Biotechnology Industry Development Strategy. This strategy secured initial WA State Government funding of $4.17 million and helped establish the creation of a $72 million Science and Innovation Fund. In this role Ms Humphris was responsible for the management of technical, financial and due diligence assessment processes relating to organisations seeking innovation related support, and the preparation and negotiation of funding agreements, business cases and implementation plans.

Ms Humphris also has extensive experience in the innovation sector, working for the Lions Eye Institute and two spin-off companies in the areas of intellectual property management and clinical and regulatory affairs. Ms Humphris has an Honours degree in Science from the University of Western Australia. She is also a Committee Member for the WA branch of the Licensing Executive Society, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Tymen Brom
Commercialisation Manager

_DSC0074Tymen Brom has over 20 years corporate business, legal and scientific experience including successful research and development, progression of innovative technologies and commercialisation. Mr Brom’s roles have included Operations Manager, IP Manager, Patent Attorney and Metallurgist for organisations such as Excalibur Steel Company, Q Technology Group, Watermark, Bradken Mining and West Australia Specialty Alloys.

He has advised numerous businesses from start-ups to large corporate clients from direct IP advice to corporate strategy and route to market. Mr Brom has extensive commercialisation experience and has advised in the negotiation of international distribution and technology transfer agreements. Mr Brom is Registered Patent and Trademark Attorney, a Member of the Institute of Materials Engineering Australia, and has qualifications from Curtin and Murdoch universities, the Institute of Patent and Trademark Attorneys Australia and TAFE.

Mr Scott Humphries
Management Consultant

Scott croppedScott Humphries is a management consultant with experience leading financial modelling, business planning, and strategic development projects. He has led successful grant applications and business cases worth over $90 million in the last five years. He was awarded the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry Prize as the top MBA graduate of 2005 at the University of Western Australia. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of the Institute of Management Consultants.

Dr Misty-Lee Palmer
Research Program Manager

Misty-Lee Palmer is a Curtin University graduate, completing a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Genetics and a first class Honours project with CSIRO Minerals in 2004. Dr Palmer completed a PhD project with the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and subsequently moved to London to work as the Assistant Manager of Research Programmes for the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Dr Palmer joined NCEDA in March 2011 as the Project Officer and was promoted to Research Program Manager in March 2012. In her current role, Dr Palmer is responsible for managing NCEDA’s 50 research projects and scholarship program, a research portfolio valued at over $80 million and involving over 400 academic and industry researchers across Australia. Dr Palmer is the WA branch co-chair of the Australasian Research Management Society and is a former member of the Australian Water Association’s Young Water Professionals Committee.

Sandie Rawnsley
18 _DSC6732 cropped Marketing & Communications Manager

Sandie Rawnsley has been a marketing manager for over 20 years. With responsibility for the marketing of products and services in Africa, the UK and Australia, she has worked in the clothing, postgraduate legal training, renewable energy research and academic R & D sectors. Ms Rawnsley has been at Murdoch University for the over 13 years and in that time has been responsible for the marketing and business support of two of its research centres, the Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) and the Centre for Research into Energy for Sustainable Transport (CREST), as well as providing marketing support to the Division of R & D.

Warren Hays
2012-07-29 00.30.10 cropped Desal Discovery Centre Manager

A former Head of Learning Area at St Stephen’s School, Perth, Warren is a career educator with over 20 years classroom experience. Working most recently at St Stephen’s School’s Carramar Campus and previously at the Duncraig Campus as a Head of Department, he brings a wealth of experience teaching both in and out of the classroom. Mr Hays has taught across all ages, from the youngest students through to adult learners, with experiences teaching in the UK, Canada, Malaysia and Thailand. In his role with the NCEDA, Mr Hays is focusing on the Centre’s community engagement, outreach to schools and other interested groups, and desalination industry operator training.

Michael Blackwood
e. 26 _DSC6584 4.12.12 LS cropped Facilities Manager

Mike has 30 years experience in the water industry as an electrical fitter, plant operator, and process controller at SA Water, United Water, then United Utilities. His role prior to joining NCEDA was R&D Manager at Water Data Services in Adelaide where he supervised remote installations of water data collection systems.

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