A message from Jens Goennemann

Good afternoon, and I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s celebrations of International Women’s Day 2023.

As we do each year, the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre used the occasion to put forward some high-achieving women in our industry.

We hope that our inspiring examples help to stamp out old perceptions which still unfortunately linger among the public of manufacturing as a ‘smokey and blokey’ industry. 

Our cohort came from radically different backgrounds; among them was a podiatrist, a fashion business founder, and a biomedical engineering researcher.

We salute the important work of our female manufacturing leaders. Their businesses are helping workers in dangerous sites get through a day without injuries, providing electronic components to high tech industries, literally giving a voice to the voiceless, and more. You can find their stories here.

Another incredible woman I’d like to (re-)draw your attention to is Bonnie Hancock, whom I recently interviewed. Bonnie is an ultra-endurance athlete of giant accomplishments, and only the fifth person to paddle around Australia, a trip of nearly 13,000 kilometres.

Her 254 days are a world record, regardless of gender, and beat the previous record (held by another woman, Freya Hoffmeister). The three runners-up are men.

In our conversation you can hear from Bonnie how she overcame the many pains and dangers to circle our continent, and if you don’t find this a most inspiring accomplishment then you can’t be helped.

To go from an individual abundance of grit to our collective abundance of natural resources, Australia is at a crossroad for adding value to our critical and globally sought-after minerals, particularly those required for the manufacture of lithium batteries.

Launching consultations for the National Battery Strategy last month, federal Industry Minister Ed Husic said: “If we can mine it here, we should make it here.” 

We have a long way to go with lithium, which we lead the world in digging and shipping as an ore.

Experts argue that there is huge untapped value-adding potential, in chemicals, advanced materials, cells and elsewhere, but time is of the essence.

Dr Alan Finkel, the former Australian Chief Scientist, said recently that there are two forces combining to push us towards being “a value-adding superpower”: nations wanting to de-risk their supply chains away from China, and such nations wanting materials created through clean energy.

China leads the world in the import, refining and consumption of lithium, driven by their battery manufacturers.

AMGC has been enthusiastic about the potential offered by the global lithium battery value chain.

We have supported two collaborative projects led by Energy Renaissance, a manufacturer of battery packs, racks and integrated solutions optimised for hot conditions such as in Australia and elsewhere, yet we share Energy Renaissance’s frustration that their lithium feedstock must be re-imported after being dug up here and processed elsewhere.

AMGC has also co-invested in projects by companies making battery precursor materials. For example, VSPC which is manufacturing lithium iron phosphate powder or specialised componentry maker Feline that intends to manufacture a superior lithium ion battery cell and others.

Our opinion is that the potential is very real, and – in close consultation with our members – we were eager to advocate for our domestic industry players in our submission to the National Battery Strategy.

Let’s see how this all plays out. That’s it from me for March.