The Australian Defence Export Office (ADEO) and defence export advocate David Johnston have kick-started a year of advocacy for local defence companies to break into the export market.
Established on the back of the first ever Defence Export Strategy in January 2018, the ADEO builds on the framework outlined in the export strategy to help Australia's defence industry achieve greater export success to build a stronger, more sustainable and more globally competitive domestic defence industrial base, balancing the ADF's capability needs with a focus on export markets.
The Defence Export Strategy established a strategic goal for enhancing the capability and export opportunities of Australia's defence industry through the following five objectives:
- Strengthen the partnership between the Australian government and industry to pursue defence export opportunities;
- Sustain Australia's defence industrial capabilities across peaks and troughs in domestic demand;
- Enable greater innovation and productivity in Australia's defence industry to deliver world-leading Defence capabilities;
- Maintain the capability edge of the Australian Defence Force and leverage Defence capability development for export opportunities; and
- Grow Australia's defence industry to become a top 10 global defence exporter.
The ADEO combines a number of different mechanism designed to support the government's defence export agenda, while providing Australia's defence industry, particularly SMES, with the ability to co-ordinate export efforts, leveraging a number of key mechanisms, including collaboration with the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC), Austrade and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic), which supports direct financial support and exposure to foreign markets.
Each of these individual mechanisms supports the role of the Australian defence export advocate, who is responsible for a range of domestic and international engagements to represent and advocate on behalf of the Australian defence industry.
In this capacity, the defence export advocate leads Australian delegations on behalf of Team Defence Australia at key international trade shows and expos, including Euronaval and the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), directly supporting the engagement and exposure of Australia's growing defence SME ecosystem to international business opportunities.
"The key focus of the export office is to act as a focal point, we are state and territory, government agency and industry agnostic, our key focus is on maturing the ideas and concepts in the export strategy by engaging and building relationships with industry," Defence export advocate David Johnston told Defence Connect.
The Australian defence export advocate also chairs the Defence Export Forum. This forum brings together Commonwealth agencies, state and territory government and industry peak bodies to deliver a collaborative approach to export advocacy efforts across all levels of government and industry. To date, there have been three iterations of this forum.
Financial Support for Australian defence businesses
The Defence Export Facility is a key component of the government's defence export agenda. Supported by a US$3 billion fund, the first export facility provides a range of direct financial support for Australian defence businesses. An early example includes the $90 million loan for CEA Technologies to finance the construction of a new manufacturing facility in Canberra to expand its export opportunities and meet the growing ADF demand for phased-array radars.
This loan will support the development of 200 jobs and create additional high-tech, advanced manufacturing jobs in the company's Australian supply chain.
"Australia’s challenge is that we have a limited customer base, what we focus on is showcasing the capabilities of industry throughout the states and territories to our friends and allies in a highly controlled environment around the world," Mr Johnston added.
Australian SMEs can also benefit from these highly specialised financial grants through the Defence Global Competitiveness Grants program, which was launched in January 2019. The program will provide up to $4.1 million annually until 2029.
The grants are designed to support and enhance the export capability of SMEs by breaking down the barriers to achieving export success. Grants range from $15,000 to $150,000 and are available to fund a range of export focused activities, including international accreditation, procurement of capital items and engineering and design activities.
Breaking down export barriers and supporting SMEs
One of the key roles of both the ADEO and defence export advocate is to leverage the relationships and networks of both Defence and organisations like Austrade to identify and access defence export opportunities in key growth markets. Team Defence Australia (TDA) is one of the core components of delivering this capability and builds on the groundwork presented in the Australian Military Sales Catalogue.
TDA and the defence export advocate actively support Australian defence industry at expositions and trade shows to open the doors and break down potential barriers, while ADEO also maintains a continuity of presence in-country after the SME has made their pitch through the use of in-country Defence attachés.
"We will oversee the g-to-g transfer of technology and equipment to manage the transfer of sensitive equipment in very sensitive areas, to focus on supporting both ADF capability while also enhancing Australia’s DIB through export opportunities and our job is to bridge that gap," Johnston added.
SMEs can benefit immensely from these capabilities and the advocacy provided, however maximising the potential of these relationships and capabilities requires robust, effective and regular exchanges between the company and the ADEO.
Developing these relationships enable the ADEO to better understand the specific SME's capability and capacity in order to tailor support in accordance to their unique individual circumstances. Developing these relationships also enables SMEs to understand the range of support the ADEO offers to defence industry.
"Sometimes the barrier is a financial barrier, we have organisations like the export facility which enable companies access funding to build their own capacity or funding directly paid to the customer, which is then repaid to Efic," Johnston added.
"In other times it is about knowing who to speak to, through active advocacy combining the resources of the Defence Export Office and organisations we work with our industry partners and international partners we can help navigate the environment with a degree of trust, built and established by the government."
The ADEO wants to assist defence industry to access foreign markets where there is sound commercial thinking and advantage in such participation. There must be an enunciated strategy and commercial objective that looks to achieve realistic commercial outcomes.
In order to achieve this, the ADEO is also taking a strategic view of trade shows, related trade missions and other international opportunities to assist defence industry in identifying and accessing export opportunities. The office is looking to organise trade shows and mission attendance in a more deliberate and precise manner. This will include multi-year campaigns for priority markets and capabilities, and establishing a market intelligence function within the office.
More information about the Defence Export Strategy and the Australian Defence Export Office, its capabilities and opportunities it can provide for your business is available here.