When it comes to manufacturing in Australia we have witnessed a regression in the quantity of goods made here over the past few decades, increasingly relying on imports to serve our needs. The result has been a decline in our economic complexity – a measure of how well a nation can mobilise knowledge and technology to produce high-value, innovative products. The focus has undoubtedly been on our ‘comparative advantage’ in resource extraction and exports. Whilst this has delivered economic growth during periods of high-commodity prices, at the end of the day, we are dealing in finite resources and this does not guarantee us any sustained long-term growth or stability. Today we look at 3 emerging industries Australia can thrive in.
Australia’s global ranking for economic complexity places us 86th out of 133 surveyed countries – a weak position for an advanced industrial economy. That should concern the reader, as at the heart of it, it means we lack sufficiency to produce the goods that we use to support, enjoy and better our lives.
A country that can ‘make things’ is a country that will prosper economically and socially. As we progress through a global arena demanding improved environmental outcomes and an advancement of the distribution of wealth for societal gain, we should be giving more attention, investment and support to the knowledge and capabilities that allow us to ‘make things’ in Australia. Sure, it may no longer be realistic to think we can revive our manufacturing capability to mass produce vehicles, textiles or electronic goods. Certain nations will likely maintain their competitive advantage in the production of such items, but there are unique opportunities arising in new industries that we are well positioned to take advantage of and improve our economic complexity.
Read on to find out about 3 emerging industries Australia can thrive in.
Emerging Industry 1: Electric Vehicle Manufacturing
Kicking off our list of emerging industries Australia could thrive in is in the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EV) and EV parts. Global automotive manufacturing is rapidly transitioning to the production of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in line with technological advancements and the global community’s commitment to addressing climate change.
It can be argued Australia holds competitive strengths that facilitate an EV-driven industrial future with regards to renewable energy generation, extractive industries, manufacturing ability and skilled workers.
The benefits of establishing an EV manufacturing base in Australia are far-reaching and would be considerable for our society, economy and the environment. We are already seeing wide-spread investment into extraction for materials like lithium and other rare earths needed for batteries and various high-tech components on new EVs. Instead of shipping these resources offshore for processing, we could value-add onshore and utilise the resources as needed, diminishing the environmental footprint of the process and expanding their value many times over. An integration of EV manufacturing into our economy would spur innovation, research, and engineering activity in Australia – still recovering from the closure of mass vehicle manufacturing in the mid-2010s. This in turn, potentially creating tens of thousands of highly-skilled, well paying manufacturing jobs.
Some companies are already showing that it can be done here in Australia. For example SEA Electric, a now-global e-mobility technology company creating its proprietary electric power-system technology (known as SEA-Drive) for the world’s urban delivery and distribution fleets. In 2021, SEA Electric launched Australia’s first volume produced range of all-electric trucks. There’s also Custom Denning Buses, who were recently awarded a contract to design, manufacture and assemble 79 new electric buses to serve in the NSW transport fleet following a $70million investment to transition the state’s bus fleet to zero emissions technology. The know-how, technology and resources exist in the country, it’s government support that is required to make it happen on a voluminous scale.
Emerging Industry 2: Space 2.0 Technologies
To capitalise on the breathe of knowledge we boast in Australia in the research and development of emerging technologies there needs to be wider recognition and support of our burgeoning ‘newspace’ or Space 2.0 industry.
Space 2.0 emphasises much more cost effective and responsive space launch capabilities, best epitomised by Elon Musk’s SpaceX that now regularly launches reusable rockets. It’s about innovation by new companies in opening up new uses of space, such as the ‘internet of things’, the establishment of mega-constellations of small satellites to support a global ‘broadband in the sky’ (making NBN obsolete in a few years), or new uses of commercial Earth observation to support rapidly developing economies.
Following the establishment of the Australian Space Agency in 2017, we have seen upwards of 30 ‘newspace’ startups emerge in Australia under the lower cost commercial space services banner. These companies are pioneering everything from lightweight, 3-D printed, miniaturised satellites to low-cost reusable launch systems. They are creating new solutions to the problems we face on Earth.
One such company experiencing success in this field is Gilmour Space Technologies. They are a manufacturer of launch vehicles for small payloads and developer of hybrid propulsion systems. Headquartered in Queensland, the company began work on it’s most exciting project to date last year – the Eris orbital rocket which will deliver a payload of up to 350kg into low Earth orbit. There is also Fleet Space, based in South Australia. Fleet Space made history by launching Australia’s first four commercial nanosatellites in November 2018, it’s fifth and sixth satellites in 2021 with more to come this year. Their nanosatellites can provide Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and communication serivces, at lowered cost and risk than existing technologies.
Emerging Industry 3: Agribusiness Technologies
There’s Industry 4.0, Space 2.0 and Web 3.0 – but don’t forget about Agriculture 4.0. Australia’s Government has invested more than A$600m a year in agricultural research and development, and supports a National Farmers’ Federation initiative to grow Australian agriculture to a A$100bn industry by 2030.
The idea has been to grow innovation in the agribusiness sector creating products, systems and services that will both improve the efficiency, safety and environmental impact of our local farming industry, and be demanded all over the world. This agriculture 4.0 sector is reportedly thriving, with over 300 start-ups producing innovative solutions to problems such as drought, plant disease and livestock management.
Given our strong and prosperous history in agriculture, Australia sits in an advantageous position to understand the technology and equipment needed to improve the outlook of food production across the world. Climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and digitisation is fuelling global demand for better sustainability, transparency, and cost-efficiency.
One such company manufacturing innovative solutions in agribusiness 4.0 is MPT AgTech. The Orange based business have developed a ‘Smart Seeder’ which integrates soil moisture sensing technology into a self-adjusting seeder to accurately manage seed placement. The technology mitigates the effects of climate change on soil conditions, and reduces fuel burn and fatique in equipment.
On the data side of the equation, we can look at The Yield Technology solutions. The Yield is a leading Australian IoT AgTech business that is transforming farming practices for irrigation intensive crops with scalable digital technology solutions. The company is developing its proprietary digital application to support critical production decisions for large commercial growers in the specialty crops industry.
Australia is well positioned to take advantage of the above mentioned emerging industries in the coming decade. Doing so will prove vital to the resurgence of manufacturing in Australia.
Read Next: Tritium Charges Ahead of the Competition