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New manufacturing hub hopes to grow sports tech exports

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Australia could be doing more to help its sports technology innovators team up and attack export markets, according to those involved in a collaborative hub to be launched today. Brent Balinski reports.

According to those behind a new partnership aimed at boosting the country’s contribution to the world’s sports technologies, there are huge opportunities for Australian manufacturers.

The Australian Sports Technologies Network, an initiative of the former government and launched in 2012, claims the market is worth $300 billion. The ASTN believes local companies aren’t playing a big enough part in a market dominated by US firms (who account for 41 per cent of it).

“We’ve very good competitive advantages in wearable devices, smart apparel, equipment, medical and health products, but we’ve [also] really got a big advantage in sport as a country,” chairman of Australian Sports Technology Network James Demetriou told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

Demetriou’s organisation – which links 160 members, including 45 who make equipment – is launching a partnership with META in an Australian Sports Advanced Manufacturing Hub.

The hub, led by the ASTN, is part of an effort to correct a situation that sees the country import $2 billion in manufactured sporting goods annually while exporting a mere $268 million.

The collaboration hub – which aims to foster links between SMEs, specialist researchers, larger firms and investors – is the second META has announced, after its Carbon Fibre Hub in May.

“From my point of view, sports equipment manufacturers are not different from a lot of other manufacturers,” Albert Goller, managing director of META, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

The challenges faced are familiar with the broader industry. And, as with the rest of the manufacturing industry, META believes that a future in exports could be made brighter through networks of collaboration.

“The companies are competing on a company level, and they are doing very good things, but today and more in the future, networks are really competing, and not single companies,” explained Goller.

“You have a lot of colleagues in your country that you should collaborate with and go collectively in addressing markets. That would be the biggest challenge we have in Australia. Excellent companies but they go on their own.”

According to Demetriou, there were also supply chain advantages for companies they might be aware of through networking.

“A classic case would be where a company has been manufacturing, say, protective equipment and in the old days would go to China to get the protective equipment done, not realising there’s one or two or three Australian companies that can manufacture at high quality with an equal cost,” he said.

“That’s a very genuine case example, which is happening right now.”

The hub, which will be officially launched at the Melbourne Cricket Ground at 1 pm today, has identified “two or three” potential collaborative projects that it hopes to have underway over the next six months to a year.

The partnership is part of META’s effort to drive Australia’s manufacturing competitiveness through collaboration and growth through exports. Part of its plans will include more than 10 collaboration networks being launched this year.

Some might call it a bold claim, but Goller believes that, with the right strategy and attitude, a manufacturing boom following the resources boom is achievable.

“It’s only our own belief and we are talking ourselves down and saying ‘we can’t do that’,” he offered.

“When you listen to the successful manufacturers, and when you encourage them to work together, we can really build a new powerhouse in manufacturing.”

For more information on META, visit http://meta.org.au/

For more information on the ASTN, visit http://astn.com.au/

Image: numrush.com 

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