Ged Finch stands next to an internal wall with patterned crosses on it. We see the reflections of these patterns on the floor.
He says, “No matter how remote or how removed you think you are from the IP process, stop and think about it. It's likely to be a very key part of talking about your technology, your invention, to other people.” We see him slotting wall panels into place. And then the finished internal wall, with a pot plant in front of it.
“Where I grew up is a very beautiful part of the world. It's a very untouched landscape. And as I grew up, I started to see a different side of that, which was development and growth and an impact on the environment that I loved. And so XFrame is trying to do something about it.” A New Zealand bush scene is shown, followed by images of XFrame internal wall components.
Ged sits in front of the camera, we see him answering our interview questions.
“My name is Jared Finch, Ged. I'm the director and founder of a company called XFrame.
On screen is a timelapse of a building being constructed. The XFrame panels and framing rise out of the foundations quickly. It has a distinctive lattice pattern that looks quite different from traditional framing.
“XFrame at its core creates a modular frame that is designed to go into buildings and then be recovered at the end of its life.”
We see Ged bolting internal panels together, inside a warehouse. Bolts are used instead of nails. The shot changes to Ged in the interview (again).
“I've been interested in construction and prefabrication, and new technologies, right since I left high school. I've been very lucky to continue that through my education and then spin a company out.
Halfway through my research process I made a series of models, small little laser cut models, and a pattern jumped out that made sense, structurally and architecturally.”
On screen is a timelapse of small architectural models being put together into lattice structures. Then full scale versions are shown.
“And here it is five years later in buildings in Australia, New Zealand and the US.”
Ged is again talking to the interviewer.
”XFrame’, the name, sort of just happened as it does. Our framing is X shaped. I was standing there, manufacturing the first prototype with one of our partners.”
We can see the manufacturing plant. In the fore ground is a computer driven laser cutter, machining lattices out of plywood.
“The guy asked me “Oh, what do I call this file?” And lo and behold, ‘XFrame,’ popped out, and here we are.
XFrame offers the ability to easily change the walls or the structure.”
Ged is shown changing modular wall panels, clipped to an internal wall. We then see him building an internal wall from XFrame modular parts.
“We're very confident that there's no other product like it in the market. It's easily recycled, updated, reconfigured, moved and on-sold. All of the things that you need to make a circular economy happen. XFrame operates within the construction market. Architects and designers love it, because they see it as a new way of interacting with the building.
On screen are builders framing a building in a suburban environment.
“Younger builders love it, because they can see the technology in it, the innovation, the willingness to try something new. In the customer end we're also seeing a great response from those who see value in something that they can then reuse.
We return to the interview scene, and then shift to unknown people working with Ged, constructing internal walls for a retail store fit-out. They have the components laid out on a polished concrete floor, while they clip them into place. The scene then moves back to the studio interview with Ged.
“The XFrame technology was publicly disclosed. And that meant we had to find elements of the system that weren't disclosed or had then since evolved after that initial disclosure. So we've used a design registration as a way to protect the physical shape and look of the XFrame system. Specifically in this instance, it’s the clip that holds some of the frame elements together.
The construction elements are shown, illustrating the ‘X’ pattern or lattice inherent in the design and trade mark.
“And then we related that to the trade mark of the XFrame brand, so that we've created a comprehensive protection of the XFrame brand and system.”
We see Ged in the studio interview setting. Close up shots of the internal wall system are shown as he speaks.
“Through the Victoria University of Wellington Technology Transfer Office, Stephanie Grant, the Intellectual Property Manager, connected me with AJ Park and other intellectual property firms, and then helped educate me around the process and the steps required. We've registered provisional patents in Australia, as well as registered with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand.
Because of the way we manufacture and the way we distribute that manufacturing, we need really clear, defensible solutions for the XFrame IP. I think start-ups should plan for that and speak to people that know what IP can be, as soon as possible. It’s really important. So although you might dismiss a patent initially, there might be other opportunities that can be extremely valuable.
The Xframe IP will continue to evolve and we're obviously constantly coming up with new ideas. And as part of that, we will always look to defend those new ideas to create a wider story and more impact.”
The final scene is of Ged leaning on a finished internal wall. There is a title sequence that says “Own your build it better idea.” This is followed by the IPONZ logo.
XFrame minimises building waste and revolutionises how architecture is put together.
Jared Finch - “Call me Ged,” he says - is the inventor of XFrame, a prefabricated modular framing technology used in the construction and fit-out of buildings. Reusable, scalable, efficient, Ged found this answer to building houses without traditional ‘4 x 2’ framing as a student. In short, XFrame minimises building waste and revolutionises how architecture is put together. So now he is also the founder of Australasian companies building XFrame structures in New Zealand, Australia and the United States, all while he finishes his doctorate at university.
This invention and his studies come from a life-long interest in construction and buildings – with the opportunities provided by new technologies driving his research, as well as this business. His view of the built world was inspired by the impact of development on towns and landscapes around his childhood home. It piqued Ged’s curiosity, and gave him a lasting interest in circular economies and architecture within a ‘sustainable resources’ world view.
Growing up in Central Otago, Ged has an ingrained respect for the wide-open spaces and the unique landscape of the region. He witnessed changing property development guidelines having an impact on an environment he loved. This inspired a sharper look at building and construction, and the possibilities for new technologies to support sustainable building practices. “The construction industry has a major problem with waste. About half of all waste in New Zealand comes from construction - that number is pretty stable over the world,” Ged says. As a researcher at university Ged focused on solving that problem.
XFrame at its core, creates a modular frame that is designed to go into buildings and then be recovered at the end of its life.
“It wouldn't have been possible without two initial grants which gave me the time, headspace and resources.
The idea took time to become clear to Ged. He says, “There was a lot of prototyping behind the XFrame system, and it came sort of halfway through my research process.” The design was refined, adapted and tested with small laser cut models. A patent jumped out of that experimentation that made sense structurally and also made sense architecturally.
Ged acknowledges the terrific support and recognition received from the industry. In 2017 he received a grant from the New Zealand Institute of Building that meant he could commit to formulating his ideas. From that little piece of seed funding he secured support for a doctorate and funding from BRANZ, the Building Research Association of New Zealand. This was the key kick-off funding he needed, giving him the headspace, the time, and the resources to launch the XFrame journey.
“I was supported by KiwiNet, they’re a government run commercialisation agency,” he says. “The KiwiNet programme led me on to explore the opportunity, and step into an accelerator program.”
In 2018, working with a commercial accelerator based out of South Australia called Analyze, the company which holds the XFrame intellectual property was launched and the commercial story began.
“XFrame operates in three market sections: building construction, internal fit-out, and furniture.
XFrame operates within the construction market, in three different sections. There is a structural load-bearing frame option which is for residential construction, small house design or other buildings. Then there is an internal fit-out solution. This is very adaptable and creates interiors for anything from offices, to retail fit outs, to apartment buildings. The furniture items use the distinctive look and construction of XFrame to support fit-outs and apply the same principles.
“The reason why we're interested in the internal fit-out or soft fit-out kind of space, is because it has a very quick turnover,” Ged says.
“Your average office fit-out only lasts between 5 and 10 years. XFrame enables all of the things that you need to make a circular economy happen.
XFrame fit-outs can be re-used, significantly reducing waste. “If you reflect upon the amount of waste that the short average life of fit-outs creates, it's obviously significant,” Ged says. “It makes much more sense to put something like XFrame in that space.” XFrame also offers the customer or the owner of the building the ability to easily change the walls or the structure.
When he talks about walls, he actually means the structure of the wall, the linings on the wall, the insulation, the services, the cladding - so that whole assemblage of materials that goes into the wall product with XFrame, is designed to come apart and be easily changed. Walls can be easily reused or reconfigured.
This results in a new paradigm: If you think about construction, you probably imagine timber framing and pieces of timber nailed together. We’ve been building houses like that in New Zealand for a long time. Ged’s invention brings an entirely different way of putting a building together and then fitting it out. “Architects and designers love it,” he says, “because they see it as a new way of interacting with the building. Younger builders seem to love it, because they can see the technology in it. They can see the newness, the innovation, and they are willing to try something new.” That's been really well received by the customer.
In 2020 the Sustainable Business Network, representing sustainably focused businesses from around New Zealand, awarded XFrame the Going Circular Award. “Winning this award is an external tick of approval from those that really know best,” Ged says. “It was really validating.”
“It’s a new paradigm… Architects and designers love it, they can see a new way of interacting with the building.
Choosing the XFrame name happened by chance. “Our framing is X shaped, and so that sort of spun out quite easily,” Ged says. By 'easily', he means that he was put on the spot by a technician needing a name for it: “I was standing by the machine, we were manufacturing the first prototype out at the Gracefield Campus in Lower Hutt. The technician asked me, ‘oh, what do I call this file, I don't know what to call it, you must have a name for the system?’ And the name XFrame popped out before I even had a chance to think about it. Here we are, five years later with that name, our brand and trade mark.”
By comparison, the ‘patent journey’ was not quite so straightforward. Some aspects of XFrame technologies were publicly disclosed. If an invention is published or disclosed publicly, including on social media, it is deemed to be in the public domain and rights to a patent can’t be claimed. With this bumpy start to owning his intellectual property, Ged set out to find elements of the system that weren't disclosed, or had evolved since then. After that initial disclosure, he became much more careful, recognising the technical novelty required for potential patents and applying to own them.
The fledgling business has been supported in the development of an intellectual property strategy by Wellington UniVentures, the commercialisation arm of Victoria University of Wellington. Stephanie Grant, the IP Manager there, connected Ged with AJ Park and other intellectual property firms. Ged feels indebted to her for guidance and education around the process and the steps required to own intellectual property.
”The IP team at UniVentures looked at the big picture and the details,” he says. These included the phases of a patent application, which are mentioned in the guides to applying for a patent on the IPONZ website. Ged also used the UniVentures team to learn about what things to look for when reviewing application drafts, and getting to grips with the complexity, as well as the finer detail of a patent document.
As well as a patent for the inventive aspects of XFrame, Ged registered the appearance of XFrame, claiming the intellectual property rights as a design. “We've used a design registration as a way to protect the shape and look of the XFrame system,” he says. “And then we've related that to the trade mark - the XFrame brand uses the same shape - so that we've created strategic protection of our intellectual property in the XFrame brand and system together.”
The business has registered provisional patents in Australia, in addition to those registered with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand. Ged says, “Because of the way we manufacture and the way we distribute that manufacturing, we need really clear defensible solutions for the XFrame IP. And so that's what this patent and design registrations mean to us.”
It also means that when an investor or a potential industry partner considers XFrame, they can see very clearly that they have protected the core value of the business. “The conversation when we're pitching or when we're talking to new people, has been made a lot easier by having that IP portfolio in place,” Ged adds.
“We're constantly coming up with new ideas. And as part of that, we will always look to own the intellectual property and defend those new ideas,” Ged says. “We are currently operating in Australia, New Zealand and the US. And so that requires at least three jurisdictions.”
“Five years later XFrame is used in buildings in Australia and New Zealand and in the US.
“We're very confident that there's no other product like XFrame in the market,” says Ged.
“My advice for anyone interested in the IP space would be to stop and take some time to think about it. I guess no matter how removed you think you are from the IP process, it's likely to be a very key part of talking about your technology or invention to other people.
“So flesh out a plan for that, and speak to people that know about IP, as soon as possible, it’s really important.”
Ged recognises that there is a lot of flexibility around how you protect something. He says, “You might dismiss a patent initially, but there might be other opportunities where it can be extremely valuable to you, as you grow your idea.”
“We're very confident that there's no other product in the market like XFrame. We have used design registration as a way of managing IP, this is because of the way the technology came to be, in its early life. And it's proven to be a really effective way of maintaining the defensibility of XFrame's IP over a very long period of time.
“Being involved as a PhD student and trying to start a business is stressful. But there's a lot of reward that comes with that stress.”