Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Greentech innovation can help Australia stay competitive

It was great to see Atlassian, the collaboration software maker based in Sydney, represented on ABC's Lateline program last night, and the message from entrepreneurs is clear. This is one of the companies that are going to provide the jobs of the future, and we need them desperately to succeed. Making the business environment conducive to helping the growth of startups is essential if Australia is going to remain competitive. So I was glad to see the prime minister's assistant minister for innovation, Wyatt Roy, talking about how the government plans to contribute to the growth effort.

Within this context, I wanted to return to a blogpost I made in March 2013 about the carbon price, which at the time was slated to be introduced under a Labor government. Of course that plan was made largely obsolete after the Liberal-National coalition won the general election six months later. But now that Tony Abbott - who famously rolled Malcolm Turnbull in December 2009 largely over the very issue of the Coalition's climate change policy - is out of the picture, I thought it appropriate to revisit the matter of greentech innovation. Here's a lengthy grab from the end of that blogpost. It seems to me to be relevant now.
[G]iven the right signals, Australian companies can achieve supremacy in specific niche areas. The carbon price can act as that signal, and work to ensure thousands of highly-paid jobs for Australian workers making things that are not economical to make in other countries. 
Fuel-from-algae processing plants is one of these areas. Look at tiny, Perth-based Algae.Tec, for example. This little battler of a company has pushed the boundaries. Its modular processing units are purchased by companies that emit carbon, attached to the emissions point, and the algae converts the carbon into biomass which is then chemically converted into fuel. Without a carbon price it's very difficult for Algae-Tec to sell its units to emitters. The company is listed in Australia and in Europe, has established partnerships and joint ventures, and is building plants right now in a number of countries. This could become a major exporter for Australia, and employ hundreds or even more people in this country. Abbott wants to stop this happening. 
Another company that is making a mark in green high-tech manufacturing is Silex Systems, a solar power plant maker. It's another little battler of a company and is using patented technologies developed in Australia. Its first solar power plant is under construction in Mildura and it has the capacity in Melbourne to manufacture more plants, if given the opportunity. Hundreds, even thousands, of workers receiving top salaries could be employed by Silex to make the state-of-the-art power plants that the whole world needs and wants. It's a success story waiting to happen but Abbott wants to strangle the pipeline of jobs and slow down the company's growth. 
Big business just yawns when the carbon price comes up but there are many small, green, high-tech businesses waiting for the opportunity to grow, and they will be watching very closely to see if Abbott succeeds in repealing the carbon price. Very closely indeed.

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