A message from Jens Goennemann

Greetings from the road.

As you read this, I am in Canberra and participating in The InnovationAus Innovation Papers Forum at the National Gallery.

Forty contributors from industry, research, and other points of view have made substantial contributions to The Innovation Papers, and it’s only fair that we manufacturers have ours included. AMGC is privileged to have provided our voice to this new essay collection.

For six years, AMGC has done its very best to first deeply understand to then redefine manufacturing and to advocate for manufacturing as it is, rather than what it was.

As I’ve said before, and as I point out in our chapter in the Papers, our industry has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and ill-defined for a long time, yet it remains the key to helping Australia transform from a lucky country to a smart one.

Nevertheless, it is an exciting time to remind everyone of manufacturing’s role in a global economy. Making complex things, underpinned by a high level of skill at each of the seven steps in the manufacturing value chain, is the way to move Australia from its position as largely a “digger and shipper” to a nation in which our wealth is either less dependent from commodities we won’t be able to sell in the future (coal) or add more value to them onshore (critical minerals).

The folks from the Future Battery CRC recently highlighted that Australia delivers 50% of the world’s critical minerals to make EV batteries, yet we only cash in 0.5% of it because we don’t add value to those minerals onshore. In fact, we reimport the processed minerals instead of making it here in the first place – or at least some of it for starters.

We have a new government which has promised “a country that makes things again” and which acknowledges manufacturing’s place as an enabler, a creator of high-skilled jobs, a booster of productivity, and more.

The impact of a new government on our industry’s capability will be known over time, and we choose to be optimistic.

Fortunately, we know of the kinds of companies that show the way to a more prosperous, more complex, more appealing future. We just need more of them, and for them to achieve scale. We also need their voice and their needs to be heard by policy makers.

It is a privilege to work with my team in an organisation able to advocate for such manufacturers.

I will give a stronger recap of some of AMGC’s industry policy suggestions in the Papers in our next newsletter and once the entire pack has been released, but I would like to make one point now:

Manufacturing needs long-termism.

Many times, I am asked what do we need to do in Australia to have an ecosystem similar to Germany’s innovation heavy Mittelstand, made up of the SMEs that account for almost all of the country’s firms? It takes many things, but it most certainly takes time and requires consistency.

One ingredient in the Mittelstand is the Fraunhofer network of applied research centres, which I’ve written about in a previous newsletter earlier this year.

The Fraunhofer initiative – linking industry with the country’s publicly and privately funded researchers, is 73 years young. 73! The UK Catapult, which took inspiration from Fraunhofer, has clocked up over 20 years by now.

We cannot think of many initiatives here that enjoy a similarly long-running history over so many governments. Australia needs to do better, and our manufacturing ecosystem deserves better.

As I write in the Papers being launched today: “Government support must be focussed and consistent: have a plan and stick to it for 20 years.”

In the six years of AMGC’s existence, we’re up to industry minister number nine. Let’s not go two digits for a long while, please.