No-one can deny that the Australian manufacturing industry has been allowed to languish in the doldrums for far too long. And then along came COVID – leading to an on-going global recession and challenges that governments around the world are struggling to respond to.
But could COVID have brought about the desperately-needed push necessary to stimulate our flailing manufacturing industry? The answer is, it seems – and perhaps somewhat surprisingly – yes…
From a Sad Demise to Re-emergence
In the 1960s, Australian manufacturing accounted for almost 25 per cent of the country’s trade. Today it accounts for a paltry six per cent. When COVID hit, the majority of industries were virtually stopped in their tracks. But for manufacturing, the situation brought about a rather unexpected bonus: some small signs of growth. Cue interest from the government, and the creation of the COVID-19 Coordination Commission, led by former Fortescue Metals CEO, Nev Power.
At last! An industry specialist who appreciates the need for investment into the manufacturing sector, and who has the know-how to put in place the necessary support -not simply for the here-and-now but to create long-term, workable strategies.
“It needs to be modern, efficient, high-tech and focused on the things we need. A lot of the manufacturing in Australia is very old fashioned, it hasn’t had new investment. The long-term [manufacturing capability] needs investment strategies. It needs to be appealing and attractive for large-scale investment,” Power told the Australian Finance Review.
Plan Initiatives for WA
This all sounds very positive, but what does it mean in reality for the industry? Well, it appears that these aren’t simply hollow words – indeed, very specific announcements regarding manufacturing and the support available are coming out on a regular basis.
- A $10 million package to support the manufacture of locally made PPE: For companies who currently manufacture PPE or those who realistically aspire to do so. Funding is available on a sliding scale of 50% – 90% of eligible costs, up to a maximum of $500,000
- An $18.3 million defence manufacturing workforce package: To help build a pipeline of skilled workers to support upcoming defence projects, including packages and incentives for shipbuilding companies to take on in-demand apprentices.
- A $13.2 million incentives program to make cathode active materials in lithium-ion batteries
- $35.6 million towards local concrete manufacturing and local waste processing capabilities
- $10 million to boost WA businesses impacted by COVID-19: To assist SMES that supply to priority industry sectors and have been adversely affected by the virus. Grant funding is for 75% of eligible costs (to a max of $100,000)
What Can These Grants Be Used For?
The money can go towards a variety of manufacturing aspects, including upgrading plants and equipment. It can also be used to upskill staff, engage specialists to help with various needs (including cyber security and online sales solutions) and improving business infrastructure.
The focus on manufacturing and available support will be hugely advantageous the industry, and for SMEs in particular. Applications are being accepted now for the 2020/2021 financial year and can be submitted via the SmartyGrants portal – https://lcf.smartygrants.com.au