32 Shoal Engineering


$7.2 million




Shaun Wilson, 35

Head office

Adelaide, SA

Year founded








Plenty of companies on the Smart50 list wrestle with complex problems — but for Shoal Engineering, complex problems are just the beginning.

The systems engineering group, founded in 2001, offers solutions for high-tech projects ranging from quantum computing to missile defense. The company achieved international recognition in 2009 when it led an international consortium for the capability design of broadband communications satellite solutions. 

The problems that Shoal Group looks to solve are massive, but founder Shaun Wilson says the business specialises in these types of projects by starting earlier in the process, with an agile approach.

“Shoal uses a model-based systems engineering (MBSE) approach to ensure our clients solve the right problem,” he says, adding that it’s so far helped solve over 76 large, complex and technology-intensive projects.

“This includes human-kind’s most complex creations, from submarines, warships, satellite communication systems, transportation systems, and organisational level planning for one of the world’s largest hedge funds,” Wilson says.

That approach has helped the company through some troubling times, such as the Defence Ministry budget cuts in 2013, which the company navigated without downsizing. However, Wilson says the ultimate goal of the business has remained: Shoal was first established as a way to “pursue challenging consulting work without suffering having to work for a consulting company”.

The company’s $7.2 million in revenue in the last financial year has helped contribute to a three-year revenue growth rate of 94%, landing it in 32nd position on this year’s Smart50 list.

Part of building the company meant flexible working systems and individual autonomy. All employees are able to suggest and implement changes, are given access to training and development, and they’re able to work from anywhere they want with an internet connection.

The business also conducts retreats to make sure people stay connected. With such an emphasis on positive, autonomous work, it’s no wonder that Wilson doesn’t have an exit plan.

“I continue to get a great sense of achievement in buildings things and striving to keep delivering real value for the nation,” he says.