Surprised? Australia is ‘patently’ good at manufacturing

IP AUSTRALIA’s latest report on patent activity has revealed Australia’s high global ranking in advanced manufacturing patent applications, commenting that it showed “healthy levels of innovation within the sector”.

The IP Australia report assessed patent activity to provide an insight into innovation in the advanced manufacturing sector, and benchmarked Australia against other nations. 

The majority of advanced manufacturing patents filed in Australia are in the ‘electrical technology’ category, a key driver for advanced manufacturing innovation.

The report found a 15 percent increase in advanced manufacturing patent applications between 2000 and 2013. This was largely driven by increases in patents for medical devices, up 46 percent, along with strong growth in chemical and mechanical engineering patents (33 percent and 29 percent respectively).

“Australia’s global position in advanced manufacturing patent applications is positive at 14th, outranking high performing countries such as Israel, Denmark, Austria and India,” Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos said.

“This is significant given Australia is ranked 53rd in population.”

IP Australia also found that Australia ranked 10th out of 36 countries for specialisation in medical device patents and is middle-ranked globally for chemical engineering patents.

Australia also demonstrated innovative expertise in transport, mechanical engineering and pharmaceuticals, areas of significant growth and global opportunity.

IP Australia pointed out that ‘advanced manufacturing’ was more challenging to define than conventional manufacturing, “as it involves not only new ways to manufacture existing products and the manufacture of new products from emerging advanced technologies, but also it denotes the process by which knowledge-intensive value is added in both the pre- and post‑production phase including R&D and distribution”.

The report showed research organisations such as CSIRO, universities and medical research institutes were the major applicants overall, accounting for 10 of the top 15.

“They were also prominent in six of the eight technology sectors, having less of a focus on mechanical engineering and transport,” the report said. “Major corporate applicants included medical technology companies Cochlear and ResMed, along with BlueScope Steel and Rio Tinto. They accounted for 10 of the top 15 Australian advanced manufacturing applicants and were prominent in six technology sectors. Research institutions had the highest application numbers.”

Senator Sinodinos said, “Notably, Australia has a higher number of applications spread across the other technology categories than other countries, demonstrating the diversity of our advanced manufacturing sector compared to many other nations. 

“The Australian Government is supporting capability growth and fostering industry and research collaboration through initiatives like the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre.”

AMGC has established innovation hubs to develop and drive the development and uptake of new technologies, including in the key technological breakthrough areas of 3D printing, carbon fibre and what it calls Industry 4.0.

“With Australia adding over 10,000 additional manufacturing jobs in the last 12 months to February 2017 — along with the Ai Group’s Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index indicating solid expansion at 57.5 points in March 2017, the sixth consecutive month of expansion — there is cause for optimism on our manufacturing future,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“The Australian Government, through its National Innovation Science Agenda and other measures, remains committed to ensuring that our manufacturing industry is internationally competitive, with high levels of innovation to keep us ahead of the pack globally.”

The research also examined collaboration in Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector and highlighted the disturbing trend of low engagement with small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs). The study used multiple applicants for patents as a proxy for collaboration.

“The proportion of applications involving collaborations varies with applicant type,” the report said.

“Across the advanced manufacturing technologies overall, 20 percent of applications from Australian research institutions are collaborative efforts, followed by large Australian firms at 15 percent and international entities at 13 percent.

“This proportion drops to less than five percent when SMEs are involved. The results for individual technology sectors were similar; where research institutions collaborated most in seven of the eight technology sectors, while SMEs collaborated least across all sectors.”

The report is available at:




Made in Queensland grants focus through CoreValue

MADE in Queensland grants are accelerating the development of manufacturers state-wide at many multiples of the dollar value spent – and that’s due to a program which helps guide the process, instigated by QMI Solutions.

QMI Solutions is working with the Department of State Development and applying its CoreValue business development toolset to assist applicants for Made in Queensland grants. The sophisticated combination is already generating powerful results within the $20 million grant program.

The CoreValue system has been introduced to Australia by QMI Solutions – originally known as the Queensland Manufacturing Institute, but now a national organisation – as a benchmarking tool which would also offer companies new pathways to growth, productivity and profitability. 

Initiated by the Department of State Development, the Made in Queensland grants range from $50,000 up to $2.5 million and are designed to help “show you the money,” according to QMI Solutions Managing Director and CEO Gary Christian.

“CoreValue can help to show you where the money really is in your business, and how you can translate that into real value for your business,” Mr Christian said. “We are working side by side with State Development to identify companies for the grants, but as part of the process we are dedicated to helping them find the real wealth in their businesses and assisting them in bringing that core value to the fore.” 

State Development also utilises a benchmarking tool called Probe for Manufacturing which can be applied to businesses requiring a ‘deep dive’ into productivity and manufacturing systems. CoreValue is a broader ‘whole-of-business’ analysis, measuring 18 value drivers across thousands of organisations worldwide.

“As the Australia/New Zealand licensee, we get to see the data that is highlighting problems and gaps where the most value can be created for Australian SMEs,” Mr Christian said.

The Made in Queensland initiative uses CoreValue to not only benchmark a company but also give them a report on what steps to take forward – and how much money may be required for that transition.

QMI senior consultant for innovation, Rob Geddes said any Queensland manufacturer can have the benchmarking done, simply by applying through the State Development website.

There are some pre-qualifiers for the grants, though, as they are part of the Queensland Government’s $1 billion plan to boost jobs in regional Queensland and this aligns with the $7.8 million Advance Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan. This plan aims to help businesses transition from traditional to advanced manufacturing.

“The applicant has to be a genuine Queensland manufacturer – not just a brand owner who manufactures offshore,” Mr Geddes said.

“Effectively, the Queensland Government is investing in your company,” he said. “CoreValue highlights where you need to invest in the company.”

While many manufacturers were looking directly at process and line improvements, for which the Probe for Manufacturing tool is ideal, others benefitted from the wider business approach of CoreValue. 

Core Value, Mr Geddes said, was a broader benchmarking and reporting system that worked at the higher levels of business development rather than manufacturing productivity.

“So if you have capability, but not enough sales, then CoreValue is the tool to use,” Mr Geddes said.

“The reason we picked up CoreValue is that we find companies here that are world class in performance and practices – but some were going out of business because they did not have their marketing sorted.

“Most of these companies are set up by people who are very good technically but their mind-set is focused on the engineering, design, and producing high quality products.

“These were generally business owners and leaders who were less market minded,” Mr Geddes said.

He said these kinds of businesses tended to fall down in areas like human resource (HR) processes, for example, which detracted from their longer term success.

“The grant will support improvement for companies in other areas, such as marketing, branding, accessing new markets and developing new products,” Mr Geddes said.

CoreValue can help such companies to more effectively shape their grant applications. It can be used to provide graphs and statistics on the company, which comes in handy for seeking grants.

Mr Geddes said using CoreValue to develop a report, for both the Queensland Government and the company, provided valuable recommendations on how much money may be required and where such investment would be best placed.

 “Clear insight comes out of the report and confirms, often, what the company knows but could not articulate,” Mr Geddes said.

“In CoreValue’s case, it gives the company a dashboard and a back end to work on the business.”

Astute company owners and leaders use CoreValue to develop scenarios.

“It’s also useful in the area of ‘what-if’ scenarios,” Mr Geddes said.  “For example, what if we improved market share? What if we improved our margins? You can see how the different numbers should play out.

“It’s like flying with radar instead of without it.”

So far, more than 200 Queensland companies have applied for the grants, which State Development Minister Anthony Lynham said would run for two years or until the $20 million fund is expended.





Australian 3D engine printer exports technology to France

THE Australian team which created the world-first 3D-printed jet engine has launched a new venture to manufacture components for a leading French aerospace company.

Melbourne-based start-up Amaero Engineering and partner Monash University have signed an agreement with global aerospace and defence company Safran to print turbojet components at its factory in Toulouse, France. Toulouse is a major European aviation aerospace hub and the headquarters and final assembly line for Airbus. 

Amaero’s 3D printing technology produces lighter and stronger aircraft components more easily and with greater speed than traditional manufacturing techniques.

“This is a great example of an Australian business with highly-specialised advanced manufacturing capability,” Australian Innovation, Industry and Science Minister Greg Hunt said.

“The company has collaborated with a leading university and made the leap from the lab to the heart of the global aerospace industry.”

The Australian Government supported the initial stage research and development of the 3D-printed jet engine components through the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre and Australian Research Council funding. CSIRO and Deakin University also participated in the original engine printing project.

Amaero was subsequently established as a spin-out company from Monash University to commercialise the technology using funding and expert advice from the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

Mr Hunt said, “Collaboration continues to be key to the company’s success, it works closely with the university’s Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing, combining world-leading research capability with business acumen and global industry connections.”

Amaero will establish a new additive manufacturing facility within Safran’s factory, including relocating two large laser melting machines customised for this precise manufacturing task.

Full production is expected to commence in early 2017 following testing and validation phases, and the components will be used in civil and military aircraft. 

“This exemplifies the kind of global success that the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda will help grow by providing support for innovation,” Mr Hunt said.

“This in turn creates high value, high wage jobs that help to secure Australia’s future economic prosperity.”




China corporation and Australian unis go hard on steel R&D

AUSTRALIA’s major steel research and development centre has received another commitment of $10 million from its major supporter, Shanghai-based Baosteel Group.

The Baosteel Group will also provide additional funds for specific research projects being conducted by the Baosteel-Australia Joint Research and Development Centre (BAJC), which combines the expertise of four Australian universities with the industrial strength of a global steel giant. 

Since 2011 Baosteel has provided about $16 million to BAJC, to support 40 research projects.

The centre has developed new products, including magnesium, aluminium and titanium alloys, and worked on advanced materials including high-performance lithium-sulphur battery cathodes, and graphene.

Baosteel’s investment in the BAJC since its formation in 2011 has been more than $26 million.

The collaborative centre is based at The University of Queensland and involves the University of New South Wales, Monash University and the University of Wollongong.

UQ president and vice-chancellor, Peter Høj, signed the renewal agreement with Baosteel Group Corporation president, Derong Chen in 2016.

Senior representatives of the partner universities also attended the signing, which cements funding for the next five years.

Mr Chen hailed the centre as “an important part of Baosteel’s technological innovation”.
Professor Høj said the reinvestment by Baosteel showed that global business valued the benefits which flow from working with Australian universities.

“It is a strong vote of confidence in Australian university R&D, reaffirming the quality of research available for genuine ground-breaking innovation in line with the National Innovation Statement for Australia,” Prof. Høj said.

“Crucially, the centre has given Australian researchers global industry experience, and in the next five years the focus on internships and international engagement will increase.”

BAJC is Baosteel’s first overseas R&D centre and it has registered 10 patents and attracted $6.2 million in funding from Australian Government research schemes. Universities’ in-kind contributions have totalled $21 million in its first five years.
BAJC director Victor Rudolph said researchers had published more than 150 scientific papers in high-impact publications in the past five years.

“More than 100 Australian professors, researchers and PhD students have visited Baosteel in China for academic exchanges and in 2015, a group of 15 researchers, scientists and engineers from Baosteel visited the BAJC member universities,” Prof. Rudolph said.

The centre holds annual conferences, each attracting more than 80 research fellows and higher-degree students.
“Baosteel has been able to deploy a number of capacity-enhancing and value-adding technologies, as a result of the centre’s work,” Prof. Rudolph said.

These included improvements in steel production processes, and quality control and alloy design in low-cost and high property light metals.

Prof. Rudolph said BAJC's research and development focused on metallurgic processes, metal manufacturing, light metals and energy materials.

The global competitiveness of Australian universities was reaffirmed in 2016 by the QS World University Rankings by Subject, in which Australia is one of the strongest nations. The stellar results for Australian institutions include a global ranking of 10 for UQ in mineral resources and mining engineering.