Australian Manufacturing Growth Centre, Features, Manufacturing Experts

Mission critical for Australian manufacturing

Many announcements of strategic missions are crowding manufacturing publications. Yet, I come back to one question: what is a manufacturer’s mission – and correspondingly, how can the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) continue to support them?

Association COMMENT Dr. Jens Goennemann, managing director, AMGC

Mission critical for manufacturers, like all businesses, is to have a paying customer – and this is where AMGC has supported local manufacturers and will continue to do so. 

Manufacturing companies like Zella DC, Artic Installations, Alpha HPA, Black Sky Aerospace, Harvest B, Energy Renaissance, BluGlass, Vaxxas, Action Laser, and many others, have worked with AMGC to successfully commercialise their ideas to reach global customers. 

How? By working collaboratively to create value differentiation in the market to solve a customer’s problem. That is why international customers choose to purchase from an Australian company rather than a cheaper or geographically closer competitor – because the Australian-made product offers something different, better, more complex.  

For over eight years, AMGC has stood side by side with manufacturers and hundreds more to earn the right as a capable manufacturing nation. While we have a considerable way to go on boosting the complexity and diversity of the products we export, we are very capable.

This purpose has been at the centre of AMGC’s mission, which is to transform Australia from a lucky country to a smart country through the manufacture of complex things. This means an industry that continues to be internationally competitive, dynamic, and thriving with advanced capabilities and skills at its core. 

Speaking of missions, I recently attended an event where the globally renowned economist and academic, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, made a comment about the intersection of industrial policy and manufacturing capability. 

She said, “Where are you actually trying to go – what is the goal? You must have intersectoral collaboration. Climate change for example will not be solved if it is just about renewable energy.”

Bingo! 

In a single phrase, Professor Mazzucato expressed the value of a diverse and capable industry, willing to cooperate to solve problems. 

The good news is that we have a ready pool of innovative and willing manufacturers able to turn their skills to address the needs across many areas of Australia’s economy and other nations’, too. Particularly, to solve global, intractable problems, such as meeting Net-zero commitments. But more importantly, a paying customer’s problem.

Take for example, Action Laser, a manufacturer that makes stainless steel screens and sieves for global customers. Action Laser excels at drilling miniscule holes with lasers to make long-lasting products that underpin the refining of sugar, minerals processing, and water purification. Its technology was theorised at the CSIRO and commercialised by Action Laser.

Bevan Rashford, CEO ActionLaser, holding a melt filter. Image: AMGC

Through an AMGC co-invested fund, the company now makes stainless steel screens, better than anyone else in the world, for the plastic recycling industry and is considering options to enter other sectors. Over 80 per cent of Action Laser’s product are now exported to Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, and South America.

To Mazzucato’s point: it can do this, because their capabilities solve problems of numerous sectors and for global clients, including those tackling environmental issues. 

Action Laser is one of Australia’s 47,000-plus manufacturing businesses, many of which are family owned and operated, with 93 per cent of them employing 20 people or less. Many of these manufacturers do more than rely on luck. They point their ‘smarts’ at difficult, thorny problems and provide solutions to meet customers’ needs.

What this demonstrates to me is that we have the capabilities, but we lack the capital and investment market targeted directly to these small businesses to help them scale and stay onshore. 

Directly backing our manufacturers – of which many are small and intergenerational – is where our growth and prosperity will come from in the future. Not just new, but stable and capable companies. These companies know who they are, what their point of difference is, and what they need to scale. 

This will build diversity of manufacturing that, like Action Laser, can be pointed at multiple problems. Doing so will ensure that we give companies the best chance to take ingenuity to the world. 

If we fail to identify and back these businesses they will, like many others have, be snapped up by international investors, move offshore, or remain idle despite its dormant capability, and all of the above to Australia’s detriment. These nations understand that climate change, as stated by Mazzucato, will not be solved by renewable energy companies alone, but the combination of numerous companies tackling the weighty challenge from the bottom up.

AMGC has worked hard and intimately with many manufacturers that offer a vast array of solutions to the most urgent of challenges. Harvest B develops a sustainable, and less emissions intensive, food system. Provectus Algae decarbonises beef production. PVT Lab squeezes every ounce of efficiency from existing solar assets via its novel technology.

In the end, Mazzucato is right, intersectoral collaboration is the key to success for the big issues at hand. None of these issues can be addressed without manufacturers having a paying customer first. The best way to find one is to know what works. AMGC knows what works, and we have helped many manufacturers take that critical first step.

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