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What is the National Reconstruction Fund?
The National Reconstruction Fund is a funding opportunity that aims to boost investment in manufacturing, create jobs, grow local capacity and rebuild Australia’s industrial base.
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The National Reconstruction Fund is the first step in Labor’s plan to rebuild Australia’s industrial base. It provides a crucial financing vehicle to specifically drive investment in projects that will build prosperity across the country, broadening our industrial base and boosting regional economic development.
The National Reconstruction Fund would concentrate on a range of strategic industries. These would include resources value adding; food and beverage processing; transport; medical science; renewables and low emission technologies; defence capability, and enabling capabilities across engineering, data science and software development.
The main reasons for the funding are:
- Security – businesses find it difficult to obtain finance other than on a secured basis – typically, against real estate.
- Additional Funding – small businesses that have already obtained finance secured against real estate, but wish to continue to grow, also find it difficult to access additional funding.
- Funding Costs – even when small businesses can access finance, funding costs are higher than they need to be
- Control – Many small businesses find it difficult to attract passive equity investment which enables them to grow without taking on additional debt or giving up control of their business.
The National Reconstruction Fund has the objectives to increase the availability of patient equity capital for local SMEs, to increase the level of investment in these companies, facilitate interstate and overseas trade and commerce, and support job creation and economic growth as part of the COVID-19 recovery.
The $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund is expected to provide loans, guarantees and equity to support projects that create secure well-paid jobs, drive regional development, and invest in capability, broadening and diversifying Australia’s economy.
Bulletpoint has worked with a number of early-stage companies to assist them to obtain funding for growth.
Bulletpoint assisted Ovira to secure $400,000.
Ovira was founded by Alice Williams, a 27-year old endometriosis sufferer who was inspired to create the new device after years of searching for a pain-management option for her own endometriosis. When she couldn’t find a solution that was drug-free or didn’t involve invasive procedures, she looked for an alternative.
Her fledgling company Ovira has just raised $1.5 million from Blackbird Ventures, to help establish its small egg-shaped electrotherapy device in the market, after promising early sales.
Bulletpoint assisted Airrobe to secure $396,050.
AirRobe’s Circular Wardrobe is solving the problem of textile waste by allowing fashion brands to offer their customers a simple way to repurpose their items. The project is building a unique application which captures product data (images, sizing and descriptions) at the time that consumers make a brand new purchase. This enables consumers to return to the application at any time and re-sell, recycle or upcycle their used-fashion in one-click.
Bulletpoinst assisted PolyNovo to secure $500,000.
PolyNovo plans to use the funding to support the purchase of new equipment and the upgrading of existing equipment used for manufacturing our NovoSorb SynPath product, used for amongst other things diabetic foot ulcers (DFU).
Bulletpoint assisted Thomas Global Systems to secure $2 million.
The company will develop and qualify two new flight-critical avionics products – an Enhanced Upfront Display Unit and a Keyboard Unit for Boeing AH-64 Apache Helicopter, a significant US military airborne program.
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Through the National Reconstruction Fund, Labor will partner with businesses to unlock further potential private investment of more than $30 billion.
This investment will play to our strengths by supporting new and emerging industries, transitioning existing industries to net zero emissions and making it easier to commercialise innovation and technology.
The National Reconstruction Fund will be administered by an independent board with the government setting its mandate to drive investment in key sectors focusing on value-adding and capability development to leverage Australia’s natural and competitive strengths.
Core Focus Areas
The main areas of focus will be:
- Value add in resources: Expand our mining science technology, ensure a greater share of the raw materials we extract are processed here, for example, high purity alumina from red mud in bauxite processing or lithium processing for batteries.
- Value add in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors: Ensure we unlock potential and value add to our raw materials in sectors like food processing, and textiles, clothing and footwear manufacturing.
- Transport: Develop our capabilities in transport manufacturing and supply chains including for cars, trains and shipbuilding.
- Medical science: Fulfil our potential, given our world leading research, in providing essential supplies such as medical devices, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medicines and vaccines.
- Renewables and low emission technologies: Pursue commercial opportunities including from; components for wind turbines; production of batteries and solar panels; new livestock feed to reducing methane emissions; modernising steel and aluminium; hydrogen electrolysers, and innovative packaging solutions for waste reduction.
- Defence capability: Maximise our requirements being sourced from Australian suppliers employing Australian workers, whether they be technology, infrastructure or skills, complimenting Labor’s Defence Industry Development Strategy.
- Enabling capabilities: Support key enabling capabilities across engineering, data science, software development including FinTech, EdTech, AI and robotics.
Allocation of Funding
The $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund has committed funding for investments in:
- Powering Australia ($3 Billion): invest in green metals (steel, alumina and aluminium); clean energy component manufacturing; hydrogen electrolysers and fuel switching; agricultural methane reduction and waste reduction.
- Medical Manufacturing ($1.5 Billion): a dedicated Medical Manufacturing Fund, to work with industry to identify ways that government purchasing strategies can help build local medical manufacturing capability to create secure well-paid jobs.
- Value Adding in Resources ($1 Billion): expand Australia’s mining science technology capability, create jobs and ensure a greater share of our raw materials are processed in Australia, through the Value Adding in Resources Fund.
- Critical Technologies ($1 Billion): expand Australia’s critical technology capability, in areas like Artificial Intelligence, robotics and quantum computing by setting up a Critical Technologies Fund to deliver investment support through loans, equity and guarantees for businesses in critical technologies.
- Advanced Manufacturing ($1 Billion): invest in advanced manufacturing to rebuild our industrial base creating new capabilities and opportunities to innovate in transport, defence, resources, agricultural and food processing, medical science, renewables and low emission technologies manufacturing.
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Food and Fiber ($500 Million): encourage investment in value-adding and growing exports, help diversify the sector and open up new possibilities for trade.
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Will the National Reconstruction Fund provide grants?
The National Reconstruction Fund will provide a range of finance options including:
- equity investment
But it will not provide grants.
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The National Reconstruction Fund is expected to follow similar international precedents.
By way of example, since its establishment in 2011, the United Kingdom’s Business Growth Fund has invested some $2.7 billion in a range of sectors across the economy.
A similar fund has not emerged in Australia, in part, as a result of the unfavourable treatment of equity for regulatory capital purposes.
While the exact detail has not been announced, Bulletpoint has provided an indication below.
What sort of companies would they invest in?
Here are some examples of companies that a similar overseas model invested in:
- Zzoomm – a software provider that offers ultrafast fiber broadband to homes and businesses in the UK.
- OnBuy – an e-commerce platform that provides an alternative to Amazon and eBay, offering lower fees and more seller support.
- Titania – a cybersecurity firm that provides automated security testing and compliance tools to businesses.
- Cennox – a provider of end-to-end services for the banking and retail sectors, including ATM installations, security solutions, and cash management.
- Chonais River Hydro – a hydroelectric power generator that provides renewable energy to homes and businesses in the Scottish Highlands.
- Idox – a software solutions provider that helps public sector organizations with digital transformation, compliance, and data management.
- Swift Dental Group – a dental laboratory that provides a wide range of products and services to dental professionals across the UK.
- Juniper Education – a provider of software and services to schools and education authorities, helping to improve student outcomes and administrative efficiency.
- Planixs – a fintech company that provides real-time treasury and collateral management solutions to banks and financial institutions.
- Learnosity – a provider of assessment tools and educational technology to K-12 and higher education institutions worldwide.
The National Reconstruction Fund views investments as partnerships. As a minority equity investor, the teams that this funidng invests in and the relationships they build with them are fundamental to the fund’s collective success.
When the fund invests, they take a long-term view and treat the relationship seriously from day one. The National Reconstruction Fund are diligent and methodical, but strive to be pragmatic and collaborative to keep companies focused on their operations.
Australian businesses will be eligible to apply for long-term equity capital investments between $5 million and $15 million, where they have generated annual revenue between $2 million and $100 million and can demonstrate three years of revenue growth and profitability, allowing for the impact of COVID-19 on recent business performance.
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Established Australian businesses will be eligible for long-term equity capital investments of between $5 million and $15 million, where they have generated annual revenue between $10 million and $100 million and can demonstrate three years of revenue growth and profitability.
The National Reconstruction Fund’s investment stake will be between 10 and 40 per cent, allowing small-business owners to maintain control while also allowing the National Reconstruction Fund to offer the kind of financial support to drive business growth. The National Reconstruction Fund also proposes to offer non-financial support, for example, through the provision of strategic advice, mentoring, talent management and network referrals for small and medium businesses to access.
The National Reconstruction Fund targets growing companies across industries based on the following criteria:
- Revenue – $10 to $100 Million
- Equity – 10% to 40%
- Management – Entrepreneurial focus
- Investment – $5 to $15 Million
- Location – Based in Australia
- Growth – Significant expansion opportunity
- Leverage – Less than 50%
- Business type – Post-start-ups and proven business models
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The benefits of the National Reconstruction Fund are:
- Structure – the fund structure allows them to take a long-term and patient approach with their investments. They can provide follow-on capital as needed and seek to exit at the right time for all shareholders.
- Control – the fund focuses exclusively on minority positions, and their approach provides entrepreneurs with a collaborative, value-added partner – not a controlling shareholder.
- Network – With support from Australia’s leading financial institutions, The fund offers access to a powerful knowledge network, mentorship from our talent network, and a unique opportunity to collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs within the fund’s portfolio.
- Responsiveness – The investment team moves quickly to provide a clear indication of their interest in pursuing a potential investment. Their term sheets provide clarity on value, terms, and timing.
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Loan Application Process
The loan application process for The National Reconstruction Fund is expected to follow several steps:
Eligibility: Businesses will be required to meet specific eligibility criteria, including being an Australian-based small or medium-sized business, having a proven track record of success, and demonstrating the potential for growth.
Application: Eligible businesses will be required to submit a detailed loan application, which will include information about their business, financial statements, business plan, and growth strategy.
Assessment: An independent team of experts will assess each loan application and make recommendations on which businesses should receive funding. The assessment process will consider a range of factors, including the potential for growth, financial viability, and the overall benefit to the Australian economy.
Investment: If a loan application is approved, The National Reconstruction Fund will provide the business with long-term equity funding to support their growth and recovery. The funds will be provided as patient capital, meaning that businesses will not be required to repay the loan for a set period, providing time for them to invest in growth opportunities.
Ongoing support: The National Reconstruction Fund will provide ongoing support to the businesses they invest in, including strategic advice and mentoring. This support will be designed to help businesses achieve their growth potential and create jobs.
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How will the government decide who to back for investment?
The National Reconstruction Fund will determine eligibility for equity investment based on specific criteria to ensure that the investment aligns with its mission of supporting the growth and recovery of small and medium-sized businesses in Australia. The eligibility criteria may include:
Australian-based small or medium-sized businesses: The fund may focus on supporting businesses that are based in Australia and have a local impact on the economy.
Financial viability: The fund will assess the financial viability of a business, including its revenue, cash flow, and profitability, to determine whether it has the potential to grow and generate a return on investment.
Proven track record of success: The fund may require businesses to demonstrate a proven track record of success, including a history of revenue growth and profitability.
Growth potential: The fund will prioritize businesses that have a strong growth potential, including those operating in high-growth sectors or those with unique and innovative business models.
Job creation: The fund may prioritize businesses that have the potential to create jobs, particularly in regions that have been hit hard by economic challenges.
Sustainability: The fund may consider businesses that have a strong focus on sustainability and are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Social impact: The fund may prioritize businesses that have a positive social impact, such as those that support local communities or address social and environmental issues.
Once a business meets the eligibility criteria, it will be required to submit a detailed loan application that provides information on the business’s financial performance, growth potential, and impact on the economy. The National Reconstruction Fund will then conduct a thorough assessment of the loan application and make a decision on whether to provide equity investment to the business.
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Frequently Asked Questions
The National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill has passed through the Parliament.
This legislation establishes the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation, which operates as a corporate Commonwealth entity. The National Reconstruction Fund Corporation is structured similarly to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
As a financial institution, the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation will offer debt and equity financing for projects in priority sectors. The aim is to foster diversification and transformation within Australia’s industry and economy. The corporation will be governed by a board that exercises independent decision-making on investments based on an investment mandate.
Through National Reconstruction Fund investments, there will be support for the growth of Australia’s industrial capabilities, enhanced opportunities for value-adding manufacturing, and the creation of secure employment opportunities.
The National Reconstruction Fund aims to address several key reasons for funding challenges faced by businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These reasons include:
- Security: Many businesses struggle to secure financing without offering collateral, typically in the form of real estate. This requirement poses difficulties for those without such assets.
- Additional Funding: Small businesses that have already secured finance against real estate often encounter obstacles when seeking additional funding to support their growth plans.
- Funding Costs: Even when access to finance is available, the associated costs are often higher than necessary, adding to the financial burden on small businesses.
- Control: Small businesses may find it challenging to attract passive equity investments, which would enable them to expand without taking on more debt or relinquishing control of their business.
To address these issues, the National Reconstruction Fund focuses on achieving the following objectives:
- Increased Availability of Patient Equity Capital: The fund aims to enhance the availability of patient equity capital, specifically targeting local SMEs. This type of long-term investment can provide stability and support sustainable growth.
- Increased Investment in SMEs: By facilitating access to funding, the fund strives to encourage higher levels of investment in small and medium-sized enterprises. This can contribute to their development and expansion.
- Facilitate Interstate and Overseas Trade and Commerce: The National Reconstruction Fund aims to support businesses in expanding their operations beyond local boundaries. This can involve fostering interstate and international trade and commerce, boosting economic activity and diversification.
- Job Creation and Economic Growth: As part of the COVID-19 recovery efforts, the fund aims to stimulate job creation and overall economic growth. By providing financial resources and support to SMEs, it seeks to contribute to a stronger and more resilient economy.
These objectives reflect the fund’s broader mission to address funding challenges, promote investment, and support SMEs in their growth and recovery during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister of the National Reconstruction Fund is Hon Ed Husic MP.
The National Reconstruction Fund Act 2023 is legislation that facilitates the establishment of the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) Corporation.
The National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill was recently passed in Parliament, leading to the formation of the NRF Corporation. This corporate Commonwealth entity draws its blueprint from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation model.
The National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) is an initiative aimed at diversifying and transforming Australia’s industry and economy.
The Australian government established the NRF with the goal of securing Australia’s future prosperity and driving sustainable economic growth. This fund is designed to financially support projects that leverage Australia’s natural and competitive strengths, thereby diversifying and transforming the nation’s industry and economy.
The National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) operates by financing projects in its priority areas through various financial instruments. The NRF works by allocating financial resources to projects that align with its priority areas. This financial support can take several forms, including loans, equity investments, and guarantees. By offering these different finance options, the NRF provides flexibility in addressing the diverse financial needs of the various projects it supports.
The NRF seeks to enhance productivity, promote a net zero economy, and address supply chain vulnerabilities.
The ultimate aim of the NRF is to help Australian industry move up the value chain. This is achieved by enhancing productivity, enabling the nation to take advantage of opportunities in a net zero economy, and addressing supply chain vulnerabilities.
The central objective of the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) is to support, diversify, and transform Australia’s industry and economy.
According to the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum, the NRF aims to secure future prosperity and drive sustainable economic growth in Australia. This is to be achieved by diversifying and transforming the nation’s industry and economy through strategic investments in key sectors.
In the pursuit of boosting Australia’s global manufacturing standing, insights from RSM Australia highlight the urgent need for increased government support. Acknowledging the role of the National Reconstruction Fund, these insights recommend additional measures for sustained growth.
The suggestions include diversifying funding to critical industries, strategically allocating resources, and implementing Australia-first supply chain requirements. These steps aim to fortify local manufacturers and enhance overall supply chain resilience.
Furthermore, the proposal advocates for the reinstatement of instant asset tax write-offs to encourage the adoption of modernisation in manufacturing processes, fostering decarbonisation and productivity.
Jessica Olivier, RSM Australia’s national leader in manufacturing services, urges mirroring the US approach by investing in local manufacturing and green technologies. She emphasises the impact of such initiatives on job creation and climate change efforts.
The insights also underscore a funding gap compared to major economies like the US and EU, urging targeted investments in key sectors like medtech, defence, aerospace, clean energy, and food and agriculture.
In the midst of ongoing parliamentary discussions on Advanced Manufacturing in Australia, these insights offer valuable contributions, emphasising the need for strategic funding to secure Australia’s manufacturing future.
The University of Queensland (UQ) has teamed up to create Analog Quantum Circuits (AQC), Australia’s first superconducting quantum hardware startup. AQC focuses on making tiny microwave circulators for quantum computers and more. They got a $3 million investment from Uniseed. Professors Tom Stace and Arkady Federov co-founded AQC after ten years of research on quantum systems.
AQC’s main job is to make microwave circulators 1000 times smaller. Professor Stace says they’re as small as a human hair. These circulators are vital to protect quantum hardware from noise, and they work in super-cold conditions, about -273 degrees, in special fridges. These circulators help link the outside world with the quantum computer and keep the right temperature.
AQC’s tech can be used not just in quantum computing but also in radar, mobile phones, and more. They aim to add their tech to quantum computers with lots of ‘qubits’ (the building blocks) – like 100,000 to 1 million.
This is part of a bigger plan in Australia, supported by the National Reconstruction Fund, to invest in quantum tech. The government put $1 billion into the fund for tech like this. More money comes from the budget, the Queensland government, and private investors.
Full quantum computers are still about ten years away, but Professor Stace says getting into this early is important because it’s big for national security, computing, and communication. AQC is set to be a leader in this in Australia.
In a recent speech at the annual Australian Steel Institute (ASI) convention, Federal Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic discussed the potential for renewable energy to create new opportunities for steel production in Australia. He emphasised that steel would play a significant role in advancing manufacturing, supporting renewable energy, and reducing emissions, particularly in the production of items like wind turbines.
Husic stated, “We aim for Australia to be a nation that manufactures goods. Australian-made steel will play a crucial role in achieving that vision, leading to better employment opportunities and increased prosperity for Australians.”
Husic highlighted the importance of the steel industry to the national economy, employing 140,000 individuals and generating $30 billion in annual revenue. Drawing from his personal experience with a family member working in the metal industry, Husic emphasised that the industry could have an even greater impact in the future.
Additionally, Husic noted that the Albanese Government’s National Reconstruction Fund, with $15 billion in funding, is expected to bolster local steel employment, aligning with the nation’s transition towards renewable energy initiatives.
Australia’s Business Council (BCA) is advocating for a revamp of the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) to centre on critical technologies rather than a broad spectrum of industries. The BCA proposes narrowing the focus to about five areas of vital sovereign capability or global supply chains, highlighting semiconductors, space, additive manufacturing, and quantum technologies as prime targets for co-investment. While the Albanese government has allocated funds for various sub-funds under the NRF, such as critical technologies, advanced manufacturing, and value-adding in resources, the BCA contends that the NRF’s focus should be on a few pivotal national capabilities within priority industries.
The BCA emphasises the need for a holistic approach involving coordinated efforts across government initiatives, grants, and investment, along with the creation of an independent industry development council reporting to the National Cabinet. The report asserts that this strategy, combined with existing policies like the R&D tax incentive, could potentially boost each Australian’s income by $7,000 annually within a decade. The BCA underlines the significance of developing enduring industry policies and priorities, pointing out that the previous 20 years lacked consistent direction. The council advocates for the establishment of 10 to 15 strategic precincts, fostering collaboration among universities, government, and industry to drive innovation and economic security in areas such as defence, quantum computing, hydrogen, and advanced manufacturing.
Industry stakeholders also called for increased NRF investment, especially in response to the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), during a recent panel discussion hosted by InnovationAus.com. The BCA’s proposal seeks to steer the NRF towards targeted investments in critical technologies, fostering economic resilience, innovation, and industry growth to enhance Australia’s global competitiveness.
Australia’s success in meeting its ambitious decarbonisation commitments relies on developing a collaborative hydrogen ecosystem that transcends monopolies and embraces international expertise. The National Reconstruction Fund’s initial investment is a step in the right direction, but more substantial funding is required to match global ambitions. Through strategic collaboration and diversified investments, Australia can navigate the uncertainties of the energy landscape and achieve a sustainable and net-zero future.
The Federal Government has introduced the Board of the National Reconstruction Fund, a substantial $15 billion investment in Australia’s manufacturing capacity, initially revealed in October of the previous year. The Board, composed of experts from different corners of the country, is tasked with steering the NRF toward a comprehensive nationwide approach. It’ll make independent investment choices and offer top-notch guidance for this significant investment.
The Board’s expertise stretches across the NRF’s seven priority investment areas, covering Renewables and low emissions technologies, Medical science, Transport, Value-adding in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors, Value-adding in resources, Defence capability, and Enabling capabilities.
Martijn Wilder AM has been appointed as the chair of the independent NRF Board.
As per Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher, “These appointments mark a pivotal step in executing the Albanese Government’s Future Made in Australia strategy. The Board members announced today will play a vital role in guiding our nation to seize the upcoming prospects for diversifying and revitalizing the Aussie economy.”
Minister for Industry and Science, Minister Ed Husic, stated, “The appointments signify the beginning of the NRF’s momentum. The collective experience of the Board embodies the autonomy and industry insight that taxpayers, project proponents, and co-investors expect from this crucial national endeavor. This is a diverse Board, united in its commitment to the NRF’s mission of investing in exceptional Aussie expertise to rejuvenate our industrial capabilities.”
Australia is focusing on re-industrialisation and preparing significant investment for deployment. The $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and realigned Industry Growth Program are crucial policies. Defence innovation programs and AUKUS Pillar Two receive substantial funding. Identifying Australian capabilities in emerging technologies is a priority, including quantum technology, artificial intelligence, and more. The Capability Papers project by InnovationAus.com showcases companies and capabilities in the innovation funding system.
The Parliament House showcase on 3rd August highlights remarkable Australian technology companies and discusses pathways to commercialisation for dual-use ventures. The event addresses funding challenges and policy gaps. The Capability Papers compendium will be launched in October. The showcase brings together public service leaders and CEOs to discuss defence procurement improvements.
The Australian government’s plan to revive the manufacturing industry is yielding positive results in advanced manufacturing, a significant sector with growing exports. Industry stakeholders are optimistic about the future.
Green shoots are evident, particularly in advanced manufacturing.
The National Reconstruction Fund, part of the government’s “A Future Made in Australia” policy, will soon provide financial support in priority areas like advanced manufacturing. Initiatives like the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre and investments in quantum science and technology are driving industry revitalization. Australia’s research capabilities in quantum technology position it for growth and job creation. International collaborations, including the Quad agreement, will accelerate quantum investment.
The government is committed to critical technologies like AI, robotics, and clean energy, recognizing the economic opportunities they offer. Australia’s strengths in mining and mineral processing will help develop clean energy industries for export. A Critical Technologies Statement will provide a national strategy for key technology fields. The government supports the digital technology revolution and aims to enable emerging businesses through the Industry Growth Program. These efforts contribute to a thriving advanced manufacturing sector and overall economic prosperity for Australians.
The National Reconstruction Fund is urged to lead Australia’s critical minerals strategy, particularly in nickel projects for electric car batteries. While the US, Japan, and Canada recognise nickel as a critical mineral, Australia hasn’t included it officially. Andrew Penkethman, CEO of Ardea Resources, believes Australia should do the same, highlighting nickel’s importance in battery minerals across industries. Ardea Resources’ Kalgoorlie Nickel Project in Western Australia has a significant global nickel resource. Penkethman calls on the federal government to support similar projects through tax incentives, affordable long-term debt, and streamlined approval processes. Shared infrastructure and financial models considering mine lifespan are also vital.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggests refining the critical minerals list to align with strategic concerns, not just commercial factors. Australia, with partnerships like AUKUS, should counter China’s dominance in purified critical minerals. The report emphasises their significance in weapons systems, wind turbines, and batteries. Australia has extensive reserves of battery minerals, surpassing others, but China leads in manufacturing. Northern and Western Australia play a key role with substantial reserves and mining expertise. Australia should gain more economic and strategic benefits from critical minerals, not just export raw materials.
Despite unveiling the critical minerals strategy, Australia hasn’t allocated new funding for a sovereign capability in supporting locally-made batteries for global electric vehicle markets. The strategy promises an updated critical minerals list through analysis and stakeholder consultation, reflecting the changing economy and providing investor certainty.
The Albanese govt’s Defence Strategic Review and National Reconstruction Fund are seen as significant shifts in Australia’s response to global challenges and opportunities. However, the true potential of these initiatives may not be fully understood. Institutional lethargy, poor leadership, and a lack of mandate have hindered effective policy implementation in the past. The Defence Strategic Review and National Reconstruction Fund stand out for having a mandate from the Aussie people, empowering the govt to pursue ambitious policies and create genuine change. These initiatives address the realities of renewed great power competition and the shortcomings of the Western world’s approach to globalisation. The emergence of parallel multilateral organisations and the rise of authoritarian powers have contributed to a multipolar world and heightened tensions between major powers like the US and China. Great power competition is visible globally, including conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific region. The rise of “grey zone” or hybrid warfare further complicates the geopolitical landscape. While Aus’ individualistic nature contrasts with the central planning of authoritarian nations, embracing a whole-of-nation response can help tip the scales in favour of Aus. The Defence Strategic Review and National Reconstruction Fund play a role in preparing the nation for economic, political, and geostrategic challenges. However, a coherent and detailed national plan is still lacking, and the current platforms appear light on specifics and heavy on optimism. The Defence Strategic Review emphasises the need for coordinated statecraft, diplomacy, military preparedness, economic stewardship, technological prowess, climate action, and domestic resilience. The National Reconstruction Fund aims to finance projects that diversify and transform Aus’ industry and economy.
Local industry leaders from the Geelong region recently came together to discuss the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF). Organized by Minister for Innovation and Science Ed Husic and Corangamite federal member Libby Coker, the roundtable took place at Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus.
The National Reconstruction Fund, with a $15 billion budget, aims to provide financial support through loans, equity investment, and guarantees to projects in key areas such as renewables, medical science, transport, agriculture, resources, defense capability, and enabling capabilities. During the event, industry leaders had the opportunity to showcase their visions and ambitions and explore how the National Reconstruction Fund can fuel the growth of innovative industries in the region. The roundtable also included visits to potential sites for Recharge Industries’ future “gigafactory” and tours of Flaim and Universal Motion Simulation (UMS) facilities at Deakin University. The NRF’s objective is to enhance Australia’s advanced manufacturing capabilities and establish the Geelong region as a hub for production and innovation.
Gilmour Space Technologies unveiled Australia’s first orbital launch vehicle, the Eris rocket, during Prime Minister Albanese’s visit. The rocket’s hybrid engine technology and domestic production mark significant achievements. Once launched, the Eris rocket will carry 300 companies into space, making Australia the 12th country to access this technology. The National Reconstruction Fund supports Gilmour Space’s innovation, promoting Australian science and manufacturing. The company’s CEO emphasized the need for sovereign launch and satellite technologies. The first test launch is scheduled for later this year, aiming to establish a dual-use capability for Australia.
The Australian government has recently updated its List of Critical Technologies, recognising the significant role they play in securing the country’s future. These critical technologies are fundamental to various aspects of our daily lives, and the updated list focuses on key enabling technology fields that will have a high impact on Australia’s national interest. The updated List of Critical Technologies comprises seven key technology fields that have been identified as crucial for Australia’s future:
- Advanced manufacturing and materials technologies.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
- Advanced information and communication technologies.
- Quantum technologies.
- Autonomous systems, robotics, positioning, timing, and sensing.
- Clean energy generation and storage technologies.
Australia’s updated List of Critical Technologies highlights the government’s commitment to securing the nation’s future by harnessing the potential of emerging technologies. By prioritising these technologies, the government aims to drive economic growth, create well-paying jobs, and improve the lives of Australians. Through the National Reconstruction Fund and complementary strategies, the government is actively supporting critical technology sectors, including quantum technologies, to position Australia at the forefront of global innovation and ensure long-term prosperity.
Australia’s journey towards becoming a renewable energy superpower hinges on the pivotal role of locally developed and manufactured technologies. Recognizing this, the Albanese government is investing $14 million to establish a dedicated hub for emerging Australian-made solutions that address our energy and emissions challenges.
With the establishment of the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre, the government fulfills its commitment to an industry-led approach in bolstering the renewable energy sector. This initiative aligns with the National Reconstruction Fund’s priority investment areas, channeling $3 billion towards renewable and low-emissions technologies.
The Industry Growth Centre builds upon the government’s comprehensive support for these industries, encompassing initiatives like the Australia Made Battery Plan, Powering Australia, Rewiring the Nation, and a Future Made in Australia. The centre will provide businesses with cutting-edge technology and essential skills required for local manufacturing of renewable energy technologies. Services offered include assistance in commercializing locally developed renewable energy solutions, fostering connections between critical minerals producers and renewable technology manufacturers, and offering business management support through a dedicated First Nations Advisor. Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, emphasizes the government’s dedication to an agile, industry-led approach in driving the growth of the renewable technology industry.
By leveraging the proven success of Industry Growth Centres, timely and targeted support will be delivered to address the needs of renewable business leaders. With $3 billion allocated in the National Reconstruction Fund for the renewable and low-emissions energy industries, the government’s latest announcement aims to maximize the impact of this substantial investment.
The Australian Federal Government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) has garnered positive responses from business leaders across industries, particularly the local manufacturing sector. The funding includes $1 billion for advanced manufacturing, $1.5 billion for medical manufacturing, and $1 billion for critical technologies like Artificial Intelligence and robotics. The investment aims to maintain Australia’s innovation and manufacturing leadership.
Marie Kinsella, CEO of the International Exhibition & Conference Group, highlights the significance of the NRF in accelerating the transition to advanced manufacturing by providing funding for technology adoption and upskilling.
The Modern Manufacturing Expo, scheduled for September 2023, brings together industry decision-makers and suppliers to strategize and share ideas. The NRF’s focus on priority areas aligns with Australia’s economic growth goals, enhancing productivity, stimulating innovation, creating high-skilled jobs, reducing reliance on imports, and supporting sustainable growth. The Modern Manufacturing Expo offers a platform for manufacturers to explore government support and resources while showcasing Australia’s potential as a global hub for advanced manufacturing.
Australia is at a pivotal moment, and the concept of national reconstruction is gaining attention with Labor’s proposed Reconstruction Fund. The fund aims to drive economic recovery and sustainable development by targeting critical sectors. However, concerns about funding sources, budget impact, and effective resource management have been raised. Transparency and careful planning are essential, and the proposal should undergo thorough analysis and public scrutiny. National reconstruction requires a balance between immediate needs and long-term planning, emphasizing collaboration and a clear roadmap for success. Australians are encouraged to stay informed and engage in the national conversation for a better future.
The Federal government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund presents a significant challenge in terms of strategic and management dilemmas. To ensure its success, some lessons from the past need to be learned and applied to the fund’s design. One critical issue is governance.
The fund should have an accountable board composed of experienced and wise individuals from outside vested interests. The board should be committed to moving Australia up various “industrial complexity” scorecards, and the NRF must be separated from the bureaucracy and run its management processes with multi-year grant budgets. A company limited by guarantee is a useful structure that does not compromise accountability for financial governance. Shareholders would likely be the federal government, CSIRO, and a credible business association with a cross-industry membership.
The board would be chaired by a credible figure and have several non-aligned members familiar with the areas of strategic focus. The board’s first job should be to define the strategic priorities of the business, a priority list of industry sectors eligible for funding.
Some discretion is necessary within this pathway, but the parameters of “deserve support” should be widely agreed. Staffing and budgeting must be outside the bureaucracy, with bureaucratic rules and conventions taken only selectively when they add value. Collaborative bureaucracies should be required to cooperate with the business. Non-profit, research institutes, and quangos are not eligible for funding unless collaborating with a viable commercial operator.
The business must be seen as a neutral player compounding public resources and cross-departmental. $15 billion is a significant amount, but this approach should have been implemented 30 years ago.
The Senate Economic Legislative Committee has recommended that investments into space industry projects should be eligible under the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, given the sector’s “complementarity” to seven priority areas identified by government. It also wants the creation of secure well-paid jobs to be a specific objective and responsibility of the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation board, rather than as a by-product of the broader aims to rebuilding and transforming Australian industry.
The committee chair, Victorian senator Jess Walsh, has recommended that the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) be passed, citing the potential role of the fund in investing in technology development to support net-zero. This is in contrast to the dissenting view of Coalition members of the committee, who said the bill was “riddled with ministerial discretion”, lacked transparency and would contribute to inflation.
Senator Walsh highlighted the importance of the National Reconstruction Fund in achieving a net zero economy by investing in renewable and low emissions technologies. The committee noted the “complementarity” of the space sector to priority areas like robotics, defence capability and enabling capabilities, and encouraged government to ensure these investments were eligible under the National Reconstruction Fund.
The space industry argued that National Reconstruction Fund investments in the sector would deliver “outsized” returns to the government and build sovereign capability, and asked for $500 million from the fund to be set aside for space project. The committee recommended that the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation must specifically consider the objective of creating secure, well-paid jobs as part of its key functions. However, the Coalition senators argued that the Bill is riddled with ministerial discretion and will allow the Minister to appoint board members who do not have the required, relevant expertise.
The National Reconstruction Fund Bill has indeed passed the lower house in Australia. The bill aims to establish a $1 billion fund to support local manufacturing, research and development, and regional development, among other initiatives. The bill will now move to the Senate for further review and approval before becoming law.
The Albanese government’s $15 billion industrialisation investment should be used to build a handful of “internationally significant precincts” in strategic locations around the country, according to Australia’s key business lobby group. The Business Council of Australia (BCA) wants the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) investment mandate to include “a clear expectation that part of its funding will be directed towards the development of a small number of internationally significant precincts” and to focus the work of businesses, government, and the education system to bring together common activities into a single region.
Investment mandates and an NRF board are yet to be established, but the bill is expected to be debated after a Senate Committee report in March and a public consultation is underway. The BCA argues that some of the NRF’s $15 billion will go to areas built around ports and airports to understand its importance in the global context. This means showing export potential, through access to a strategic port or airport, years of investment behind them, or demonstrated success and agglomeration. All parts of government should back in the priorities set out under the NRF.
The $15 billion NRF will provide loans, equity investments and guarantees to projects in priority areas, with sub funds for areas like renewables, transport, value-add resources and enabling capabilities already carved out.
The Albanese government wants it operating like the Clean Energy Financing Corporation set up by the Gillard government in 2012.
AusBiotech is inviting member feedback on its draft submission to the Australian Government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF). The design of the Fund will be critical to successfully delivering on its purpose. The draft submission responds to the 21 consultation questions presented, including how to best define and measure ‘medical science’.
The National Reserve Fund (NRF) is a key initiative of the Australian Government’s A Future Made in Australia policy, that was announced in October’s Federal Budget and passed through Parliament in November 2022. The $15 billion fund will co-invest in projects that drive economic growth across seven priority areas and over seven years. It will provide finance (including loans, guarantees and equity) to drive investments that add value and develop capability.