Push for national focus on Cluster

Quickstep wants to see national promotion of the Geelong-based cluster

Source: David Cairns, Geelong Advertiser, September 30, 2019

Carbon fibre parts maker Quickstep wants to see national promotion of the Geelong-based cluster of companies and organisations working together to grow manufacturing and innovation in advanced fibre and composite materials.

Moving its research and development centre from Germany to Deakin University in 2015, Quickstep is a founding member of the Advanced Fibre Cluster Geelong.

Chief executive and managing director Mark Burgess (pictured above) said the cluster, which appointed its first chief executive in May, could put the region at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing.

“In our industry a lot of the best technological development comes out of those kinds of clusters in the northwest of England, southwest of England, the Ruhr Valley in Germany, and around Madrid,” Mr Burgess said.

“In most countries you get that clustering effect and it drives an awful lot of development within the industry. And Geelong is about the closest we’ve gotten to it. We’re really keen to see that develop and grow.”

He said he would like to see the Geelong cluster promoted at a national level to “avoid any unnecessary duplication” of clusters and to send the message, “this is a nationally meaningful capability and globally relevant”.

Ahead of a visit to Geelong this week, Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said advanced manufacturing was critical to the growth and productivity for all Australians.

“The nation is well-placed because of its high-skilled workforce and political and economic stability,” Ms Westacott said.

“But we need to address the challenges of high production costs and complex regulatory frameworks.”

Advanced Fibre Cluster Geelong chief executive Jennifer Conley said Geelong’s capability in carbon fibre and composites research and manufacturing was unique in Australia and in a number of ways unique in the world.

“Our researchers and our innovative manufacturers, like Quickstep, Sykes Racing and Carbon Revolution — all founding members of the cluster — are solving some of the grand challenges of composite manufacture and making step changes in process improvement,” Ms Conley said.

The cluster now includes 13 members from around the region.

“These are companies that understand the value of collaboration, of sharing knowledge, resources and opportunities. The effects so far are proving to be profound,” she said.

The cluster last week launched its website at advancedfibrecluster.org.au