This road map focuses on growing manufacturing activities, capabilities and specialisations in the resources technology and critical minerals processing sector. To achieve the vision of Australia being the global centre of commercialising and manufacturing resources technologies, producing cutting-edge technology projects and having a strategic critical minerals processing industry, we have identified key actions that will be implemented as part of this road map.
The key actions have been informed by the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which is designed to unlock private sector investment for Australia’s manufacturing sectors across 3 targeted streams.
- Manufacturing Translation Stream that will help manufacturers translate good ideas into commercial outcomes. It will also encourage investment in non-R&D innovation.
- Manufacturing Integration Stream to help manufacturers integrate into local and international supply chains and markets
- Manufacturing Collaboration Stream that is designed to support business-to-business and business-to-research collaboration, to build economies of scale.
Actions to support greater commercialisation and translation
Investment that will assist resources technology manufacturers to partner with larger firms, research organisations and end-use customers (such as mid-tier resources companies) to:
demonstrate and commercialise products and associated services for the resources sector and critical mineral processing
adapt resources technology products and associated services for use in other sectors
break into international supply chains
This action will directly enable resources technology manufacturers to commercialise great innovations and scale-up. Companies will achieve this by collaborating with larger firms, research organisations and end-use customers to demonstrate and refine their technologies. This will enable companies to de-risk their products, show how they can integrate with end-customers’ existing operations, and support those customers to purchase them.
Commercialisation support could also assist resources technology manufacturers to adapt their technologies for application in other sectors such as defence, space and agriculture, and sell their products into international supply chains.
Enabling technology producers to sell their innovations to a larger market will enhance and build scale in resources technology companies. This will attract greater investor interest and reduce the risks of the resource sector’s economic cycles.
Investment could assist companies to access commercial technology demonstration facilities to enable resources technology manufacturers to demonstrate their products to customers and how products will integrate with customer processes
Australian resources technology manufacturers are currently lacking access to mines, offshore oil and gas sites, or testing facilities where they can demonstrate and test their technologies. This slows down the pathway to commercialisation and prevents companies from demonstrating the effectiveness of their technologies to a range of end customers.
Competitor countries such as Canada, Sweden and the United States have demonstration facilities. These enable their companies to develop, test, and demonstrate innovative and emerging technologies in an operating environment.
Co-funding these types of facilities will allow companies to:
- prove that their technologies are effective
- deliver the service the end customer is seeking
- secure contracts which enable them to access commercial finance and
- scale their manufacturing businesses.
By providing these test facilities, resources technology companies can quickly validate their business case and gain customer confidence. Industry feedback suggests that test facilities can reduce the development to commercialisation cycle from 10-15 years down to 12-18 months. With higher certainty on investment decisions this translates to a dramatically faster return on investment.
Actions that support critical minerals projects to demonstrate their processing capability and integrate with domestic and international supply chains
Investments targeted at helping manufacturers with advanced critical mineral processing projects to demonstrate scaling-up capability and undertake offtake qualification and product demonstration will create pathways to offtake agreements and securing project finance, and access to markets and supply chains.
This action will help Australian critical mineral processing projects to refine minerals and metals processing, chemical precursor or other advanced customised manufacturing processes to meet offtake customers’ specifications.
This scaling-up, offtake qualification and product demonstration process is an important step. It helps Australian projects prove their capability to end customers, lock in offtake agreements and secure project finance. This finance is the key to bringing new domestic processing projects online and building manufacturing scale in Australia. If this refinement step of the project occurs overseas, the scaled-up operations are also likely to be located overseas.
If Australia is to build capability to process critical minerals in Australia, working with businesses to enable these refinement activities is very important.
Attract investment through shared infrastructure precincts which supports collaboration
Co-investing in shared or common-user infrastructure and technology parks could assist the sector to attract investment from companies to base their advanced processing projects in Australia.
Co-investment in infrastructure precincts which co-locate services such as energy, water, waste and chemical reagent storage facilities can reduce capital and operating costs for project proponents.
Co-located facilities can support scale by reducing the cost of key inputs. This helps improve the economics of capital-intensive critical minerals processing projects. Centralised or common-user infrastructure will help support junior projects in particular by:
- lowering the capital requirements needed to establish large-scale processing operations in Australia
- providing access to science and technology capability and facilities
- providing access to common engineering and digital skills to support scale.
Providing shared or co-located infrastructure can also help minimise hazardous materials transport. It will incentivise ancillary service industries to establish operations near processing facilities, further reducing project operating costs. It could also support downstream manufacturing opportunities.
This will make Australia more attractive to potential investors, allow us to compete globally and encourage investors to locate processing projects here.
Ideally these investments are collaborations with state governments and industry. This leverages available funding and ensures they are complementary to state-based development strategies, the location of existing mineral deposits, and links to other important infrastructure and export facilities.
This will complement ongoing actions being undertaken through Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy by the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office, Geoscience Australia, CSIRO, ANSTO, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Austrade, and state and territory governments. The Strategy aims to promote investment into Australia’s critical minerals sector, and to explore downstream processing opportunities that can be built into new technology parks or industry precincts.