CSIRO’s place within Australian manufacturing

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A strong manufacturing sector remains central to any first world economy as a result of its contribution to overall productivity, its input to R&D and innovation, its contribution to exports and its multiplier effects on growth.

The government through its Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda has indicated six sectors where Australia is seen to have competitive strengths and these include in Advanced Manufacturing.

To support this Agenda the Government established the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) which will shortly release its Sector Competitiveness Plan, intended to drive and support an industry led approach to the transformation of Australian Advanced Manufacturing. A draft of the AMGC plan indicates opportunities for Australian manufacturing competitiveness through:

  1. Reducing production costs
  2. Increasing the value differentiation of manufactured products and services; and
  3. Directing attention towards higher potential markets.

Amongst the competitive requirements identified for Australian advanced manufacturing success are three of relevance to the R&D sector to which we in CSIRO can contribute.

These are the: “need to lift skill intensity and drive technical leadership”; “ need for industry to collaborate with research institutions” and “the need to increase business-led R&D expenditure”. As the national research organisation there is both a need, and a Government expectation, that CSIRO will play a role in working with Australian manufacturers to address these competitive requirements.

CSIRO Strategy 2020

The CEO of CSIRO, Dr Larry Marshall, has outlined a vision for Australia as a high performing innovation economy in the CSIRO Strategy 2020: Australia’s Innovation Catalyst. Dr Marshall points out that we live in an increasingly interconnected world of fast moving technology driven change in which our future prosperity, health and sustainability is intimately linked to our capacity for innovation.

A number of recent reports, including the forthcoming AMGC Sector Competitiveness Plan indicate the need to markedly improve our performance as a nation in collaboration and CSIRO has a role in helping to create the necessary connections at the intersection of disciplines, industry sectors, science and business if we are to succeed. This success will require us to respond to accelerating global change; digital disruption and a faster more networked world while partnering across boundaries to reinvent existing or creating new industries. CSIRO’s Strategic Plan has eight Strategic Actions:

  1. Customer First
  2. Collaboration Hub
  3. Global Outlook, National Benefit
  4. Breakthrough Innovation
  5. Excellent Science
  6. Inclusion, Trust and Respect
  7. Health, Safety and Environment
  8. Deliver on our Commitments

CSIRO Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap

The Customer First Strategic Action seeks to create deeper innovation relationships between CSIRO and its customers and prioritise our investment decisions. As part of this action CSIRO will shortly release its Advanced Manufacturing Industry Roadmap which complements the AMGC Competitiveness Plan by providing a longer term perspective of global drivers, opportunities and Australia’s competitive position. This report, developed in conjunction with Australian manufacturing companies and AMGC, will identify 5 Global Manufacturing Megatrends namely:

  • Made to Measure
  • Service Expansion
  • Smart and Connected
  • Sustainable Operations
  • Supply Chain Transformations

In addition, the report will identify comparative advantages for Australian manufacturers including:

  • Education and Research Skills
  • Quality
  • Flexibility and Agility of a SME dominated landscape
  • Access to a Growing Asia
  • Our Natural Resources
  • A History of Early Adoption

The report will outline growth opportunities including customised high-margin solutions; sustainable manufacturing and the inclusion of service provision.

CSIRO Manufacturing


CSIRO Manufacturing is one of nine Business Units in CSIRO wishing to play a role in responding to the challenges and opportunities identified above. We have a vision of an Advanced Manufacturing sector which is innovative, economically viable, connected and high-tech which uses advanced materials, systems and processes to deliver products that meet the needs of customers and global markets and is recognised worldwide for its innovation.

IDENT: MCL218 Email: Keith.Mclean@csiro.auWe seek to create impact by helping transition the existing manufacturing sector, for by example, developing new processes such as flow chemistry to support our chemical manufacturing sector or by catalysing the creation of new industries and business in, for example, the MedTech/BioTech sector.

CSIRO Manufacturing employs 400+ staff and 160+ students with a diverse scientific and engineering expertise at four sites around Australia. Our 4 Research and 1 Future Science Programs are directed toward:

  • Biomedical Manufacture
  • Chemical Manufacture
  • High Performance Metal Industries
  • Agile Manufacture
  • Advanced Integrated Materials

These Programs serve customers in the MedTech, Biotech, Chemical, Defence, Metals, Energy and Agriculture sectors and thus demonstrate advanced manufacturing’s role as an industry horizontal.

Collaboration Hub

A second action in the CSIRO Strategy is to act as a Collaboration Hub and we are developing each of our locations to enhance our connectivity to research, industry and Government. We work with several hundred business per annum from Global players (eg. Boeing or GE) to SME’s (eg Textor Technologies; Anatomics; Norwood Industries or MDI). Our Clayton and Geelong sites are co-located with Monash and Deakin Universities and each of our sites has company co-locations.

In addition, the AMGC has established a presence in both locations with the National Additive Manufacturing Collaboration Hub in Clayton, and the National Carbon Fibre and Composite Manufacturing Collaboration Hub in Geelong to showcase local technology leadership.

Our Lindfield site has several SME’s on site (eg. Baraja) and a medical device incubator (www.fledge.com.au). Clayton has seen the arrival of Oventus (www.oventus.com) who manufacture 3D printed sleep apnoea devices for global markets. Our Geelong site is shared with a number of carbon fibre and composite companies including Carbon Revolution; Carbon Nexus and Quickstep while Parkville has long incubated biotech start-ups. Recently, in Sydney we formed a strategic partnership with Romar Engineering (www.romarengineering.com.au) and co-invested in a $1.4m additive/subtractive capability. This machine complements our Clayton Lab22 facility which provides open access to 3D printing for Australian companies to support adoption of additive manufacturing in Australia.

We are also building through Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) support and in conjunction with Monash University a Biomedical Materials Translational Facility to support MedTech and BioTech companies and expect our Australian Industrial Flow Chemistry Centre to be completed in 2017 to support the adoption of new processes in chemical manufacture.

Breakthrough Innovation

To increase our capacity to help re-invent existing Australian industries and create new industries  we are implementing a transformative innovation and entrepreneurial program (CSIRO’s ON Program); providing a toolbox of creative commercialisation models, including equity transactions; spin-outs; co-investments and access to the Innovations Connections Program through our SME Engagement Centre.

Australian industry is, in general, poorly prepared for the digital disruption happening today and CSIRO Manufacturing is working with Data61; the PM’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce and global partners to ensure Australia has a globally competitive digital innovation capability.


We are working directly with a variety of advanced manufacturing SME’s to deliver innovative solutions to their problems and with bodies such as the High Performance Consortium or South East Melbourne Manufacturers Association to provide access to design led innovation or to undertake reciprocal visits to and for industry.


A growing and successful advanced manufacturing sector is essential to Australia’s future and CSIRO wants to contribute. By providing technical leadership; deep collaboration; strong partnerships; access to capability; flexible business models and by understanding our customers’ goals we’ll build an advanced manufacturing future.

Case studies:


Brisbane Dentist Dr Chris Hart approached CSIRO two years ago, with an idea for a revolutionary mouthguard to prevent sleep apnoea. The disorder causes dangerous pauses in breath during sleep and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and diabetes.

Working with Dr Hart’s company, Oventus Medical, CSIRO figured out how to 3D print the mouthguard and make it light weight, strong and easily customised for each patient

When Oventus recently listed on the Australian Securities Exchange it raised $12M for further research, development and commercialisation. The partnership continues, with Oventus setting up its own 3D printing facility at CSIRO’s Clayton site.


Australian healthcare company Medical Developments International (MDI) and CSIRO partnered to develop a smarter, more efficient manufacturing process to scale-up the production of the drug methoxyflurane – the pain-relieving ingredient used in Penthrox (commonly known as the “green whistle”).

A new manufacturing facility employing CSIRO’s process is expected to begin operation next year and will be capable of producing up to 25 million units a year. It’s an integral part of MDI’s global push.

MDI recently closed a $76 million licensing deal with Mundipharma International Corporation to develop and commercialise Penthrox in 39 European markets. Penthrox has been approved for sale in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, France and Belgium. It’s expected to enter other European markets such as Germany, Spain and Italy over the next year.


CSIRO and Sydney based engineering company Romar recently signed a strategic partnership to develop new manufacturing technology. Together they will research, develop and commercialise innovations ranging from 3D printing processes to polymers, innovative medical devices and implants.

Their joint purchase of a DMG Mori Lasertec 65 3D printing and milling machine is central to the partnership. The first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, it opens up new opportunities in additive manufacturing.

CSIRO and Romar will send staff to work and train inside each other’s organisations as part of the partnership.

Keith Mclean will be a keynote speaker at the Advanced Manufacturing Summit, Sydney, 15-16 November. Click here for more about the event.

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