Though continued government support isn’t assured, META and its members are positive about by the precinct’s and their industry’s future. Brent Balinski talked to the Manufacturing Industry Innovation Precinct’s CEO Zoran Angelkovski about what's next.
Though META (shorthand for Manufacturing Excellence Taskforce Australia) has only been running since the beginning of the financial year, it has already, by its own count, attracted 300 members. These are made up of manufacturers, partners and researchers, with every single university and research institution in the country having signed up.
(Incidentally, those who run it dislike the description of “precinct”, with the group’s members being located all over the country.)
“We’re a membership organisation, as you know. Commonwealth funded, but this means getting industries, universities, CSIRO, with a clear mandate to organise themselves with an innovative mindset, and in such a way to turn around the declining trend in manufacturing and make the industry globally competitive and create jobs,” explained Zoran Angelkovski, who has been CEO since late-July.
“Meta is an industry-led organisation.”
The words “mandate” and “industry-led” frequently come up in conversation, as if to remind the listener that there’s a necessity to act, and this is being expressed by those involved in the survival and growth of Australian manufacturing.
The survival of META is, according to the group, likely but not assured. Shadow industry minister Sophie Mirabella – who at the time of writing is behind as preference votes are counted in her seat of Indi – told this magazine that an incoming Coalition government would not continue to fund theprecinct.
META was one of ten planned precincts in the outgoing Labor government’s Plan For Australian Jobs, and a pet project in its effort to address the industry's difficulties.
“I think we’re quietly confident, we’ve got a good case and a good value proposition to put to the government of the day, and we will work with the government of the day,” said Angelkovski.
“Both sides of politics are bi-partisan on manufacturing and they believe in manufacturing and know that manufacturing is a key component of a strong economy, creating jobs.”
The support of industry was demonstrated today with a statement that $2 million of “value-in-kind” services had been pledged by META’s members.
Phillip Butler, the chair of non-woven textile specialists Textor – which is a member – commented that he was lending his support due to the potential for knowledge sharing across sectors and the positive, can-do message that META was promoting.
“We have to lead the future of our own industry – and we have the potential to be a more powerful force by creating products that rival the best or are better than the rest of the world,” he said.
“META provides that platform for us to work together to build creativity and to look outside of our immediate industry to find the solutions we are looking for.”
Which leads to one of the important ways in which META is different to any other manufacturing industry body.
“META is different by the fact that there’s a cross-sector of industries that it represents nationally,” explained the CEO.
“If you look at, for example CRCs, they serve their purpose, but they’re not across the industry sectors. So our aim is to get different industry players – you could have people from chemicals and textiles sitting together, and solving an issue.”
The group has not yet had a chance to coordinate any major projects, but currently offers online Continuous Collaboration Hubs, with members linked by needs, rather than industry. It also provides assistance linking businesses with services and suppliers, and includes the Industry Collaboration Fund in its portfolio.
Angelkovski, however, is excited about what the future might bring. In a 30-year career in the automotive industry (including at Continental, VDO Automotive Malaysia and Draexlmaier), with half of this at the CEO level, he has helped establish three greenfields sites internationally. The task of helping build something from the ground up is something he’s familiar with.
META, which he has been a part of nearly since the beginning, fits a role that no other group has yet been able to, according to the chief executive.
“I think people were just crying out for manufacturing to get a voice. And what we help to do, of course; we’re industry-led, we listen to what industry has to say,” said Angelkovski.
“I think that’s a powerful message to whoever the audience is.”
For more on META, click here.
Image: Monash University