Technology | Innovation

SON 2017: Opportunities aplenty in our future industries

Australia is a world leader in some areas of defence technology, and that’s where we should focus, not building whole ships or submarines for export, Federal Department of Defence Chief Defence Scientist and Head, Defence Science and Technology Group, Dr Alex Zelinsky has told CEDA’s State of Nation conference in Canberra.

Speaking on a panel asking Australia: Leader or laggard in the race to secure our future industries? Dr Zelinsky said you can’t catergorise Australia as either a leader or a laggard, in some sectors we lead and in some areas we are laggards.

Speaking on defence, Dr Zelinsky said people need to understand Australia won’t be building and exporting submarines or ships.

Dr Zelinsky said the opportunity for Australia was in component technologies.

“It is not the big ship that we will be exporting, we will build them for ourselves but there will be component technologies that can be exported and lock us into global supply chains,” he said.

“Bending metal is actually the low end technology in ship building, the high end is actually in the combat systems, radar systems and Australia is a world leader in some of these areas.”

Data61 CEO and Cyber Security Growth Centre Co-Chair, Adrian Turner said cyber was critical right now and had huge growth potential in Australia.

“To plug into global value chains there is going to be a higher bar around security. Our companies are going to have to think about information and data supply chains in the same way they have thought about physical supply chains in the past,” he said.

“Statistically today if a small business gets hit, 60 per cent of them are gone inside of six months. It sounds doom and gloom but the flip side is that it is going to be an enormous market, it is going to be a $220 billion global market and we actually have the raw ingredients to go after it.”

Mr Turner said new industries are going to be underpinned by science and technology but they will likely have an engineering breakthrough.

“If you think what Tesla has done around renewable energy it’s the engineering breakthrough around batteries, if you look at what Musk is doing with SpaceX it is the autonomous software to land the rocket that takes 99 per cent of the cost out of putting something up into space.”


Gekko Systems Chair and Managing Director, and METS Ignited Chair, Elizabeth Lewis-Gray said energy and mining shouldn’t be forgotten in the future industries discussion as the sector already has substantial competitive advantage and can continue to grow.

Ms Lewis-Gray said around 60 per cent of new jobs are developed from new industries, so developing new businesses is really important.

However, “it is one of the reasons some people say we don’t need to worry about the mining industry, it’s an old industry, it is no longer going to be providing new jobs or new opportunities,” she said.

“In addition to the mining industry itself in Australia, the mining equipment technology and services sector in its own right is an $86 billion industry and that has grown over the last decade…from a $44 billion industry…it has doubled over the last decade.

“It is not an industry of old technologies, it is an industry of brand new technologies and it is an industry where Australia is world’s best, among the top four nations in the world in terms of innovation leadership.

“Let’s focus on where we have a global competitive advantage, invest in our capability, this is a sector where we can continue to grow, where we have substantial comparative advantage.

“Having said that we have got some areas we need to address.

“We have increased competition from overseas, we’ve got digitialisation, we’ve got a culture that is, within the mining ecosystem, transactional not transformative. These are all opportunities, it is a challenging sector but it is a really exciting sector for Australia for us to work on and develop and grow substantially.”

State of the Nation: catch up here

On the blog: Australia leader or laggard in the race to secure our future industries | Siemens Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Connolly

Catch all of the State of the Nation 2017 discussion and highlights here