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AAAA welcomes innovation agenda

New agenda: Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the National Innovation and Science Agenda last week.

Government urged to create Automotive Innovation Hub similar to the SEMA Garage

General News logo14 Dec 2015

By IAN PORTER

THE federal government has been urged to foster the development of an Automotive Innovation Hub as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda announced last week.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has proposed the creation of such a hub as a means of preserving some of the automotive engineering, development and production skills that have been built up in Australia since the first Holden 48-215 rolled off the assembly line at Fishermen’s Bend in 1949.

“There is serious and significant potential for Australia’s automotive aftermarket sector to be leveraged to help maintain employment and investment in both OEM (original equipment manufacturer) component and aftermarket parts and accessories manufacturing,” said AAAA chief executive Stuart Charity.

“There is huge export growth potential for these market segments,” he said, responding to the government’s NISA agenda.

For decades there has been a distinction between local manufacturers that supplied the car-makers with parts and those that sold direct to vehicle owners through aftermarket retail outlets.

The OEM suppliers were allowed to participate in the various government assistance programs that had been designed to support the car-makers.

The aftermarket operators did not participate in any government programs and had to rely solely on profits to fund research and development and re-equipment of their plants.

Now that the car-makers – Ford, GM Holden and Toyota – are set to leave by the end of 2017, the AAAA is seeking to bring the two parts sectors together in order to form a stronger voice when trying to influence government industry policy.

“We recognise that the way forward is through innovation seeded by research and industry co-operation,” Mr Charity said.

80 center imageLeft: AAAA chief executive Stuart Charity.

“The federal government NISA initiative creates openings that previously did not exist.”

The AAAA first proposed the creation of an Automotive Innovation Hub in its submission to the Senate Enquiry into the Future of the Australia’s Automotive Industry.

In that submission, the AAAA asked the government to fund a feasibility study and formulate a business model to fund the establishment an Automotive Innovation Hub along the lines of the SEMA Garage operated by the Specialty Equipment Market Association in the United States.

“The facility could include multiple testing options including noise and emissions or the service offerings can be limited to product development,” the submission reads.

“In our experience of working with the SEMA Garage, costs can be recovered from industry after an initial establishment time.

“For example, each purchased vehicle is sold after the examination time period has passed and the test facilities are open for industry bookings on a commercial rate.

“Our only reservation about this discussion is our strongly held view that the SEMA Garage works because it is an industry-led and industry-managed facility.

“We do not see this lab forming a part of an existing (passenger motor vehicle) co-operative research centre, nor would it be appropriate as a TAFE (Tertiary and Further Education) facility.

“The industry control ensures commercial viability and it also provides for commercial-in-confidence considerations,” the submission concluded.

Mr Charity said the SEMA Garage assists SEMA members to integrate their products onto production vehicles, create 3D printed prototypes, obtain CAD/CAM data and conduct emissions testing for engine-related parts, among other things.

“The SEMA Garage has helped bring many bright ideas successfully to market which, in turn, creates jobs,” Mr Charity said.

He added that the AAAA has already moved to harness the manufacturing and export knowledge of its members in order to make it available to all members“The AAAA has progressed its own growth policies and only recently launched its Australian Products Manufacturers and Exporters Council.

“The council’s aims are to advocate for sound, progressive Government policy and industry collaboration,” he said.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last week announced a $1.1 billion four-year innovation plan that includes funding for science, entrepreneurship, cyber-security and other areas.

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