The $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Fund is now open for rare earth and critical minerals projects as the government looks to “hard-wire” Australia into the global supply chain of the crucial resource.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Industry Minister Karen Andrews on Thursday morning unveiled the national manufacturing roadmap for resources technology and critical minerals, and announced that applications to the federal government’s $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Fund were open for the sector.
The commodities are used to manufacture tech products such as smartphones, computer chips, solar panels, electric vehicles and a range of defence technologies.
The government has outlined six areas of manufacturing priority that its manufacturing fund will focus on, with space, medical product and resources tech and critical minerals processing projects now able to apply, and food and beverage, recycling and clean energy and defence to open in the coming weeks.
Businesses will be able to apply for funding to help commercialise ideas or processes, or to integrate into global supply chains.
The fund is the centrepiece of the Coalition’s $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, unveiled in October last year, and includes translation and integration streams.
Increasing Australia’s output of critical minerals and commercialise of ideas around them is a strategic priority for the government, Mr Morrison said.
“It’s not a new issue for us, for some time now our government has been working very closely, whether it’s with the US or Japan, about how we can fill in the supply chains around critical minerals and rare earths,” Mr Morrison told the media on Thursday.
“It is a sovereign and strategic priority for Australia to ensure we are hard-wired into this supply chain around the world, a supply chain that Australia and our partners can rely on. Rare earths and critical minerals is what pulls together the technology that we will be relying upon in the future.”
The fund will be looking to provide capital to organisations looking to add value to the resources extracted in Australia before they are sent around the world, Ms Andrews said.
“Australia has a very long history of being a resource rich nation where we have done extraordinarily well at digging that product out of the ground. The part that has been missing is the value add,” Ms Andrews said.
“We have been very good at digging it out of the ground but it’s sent overseas and processed and then we pay an extraordinary amount of money to but that back in Australia. We want to change that. We are already world-leading but there are significant opportunities for us to expand that even more.
“We have an abundance of critical minerals here in Australia, we have incredible stores of lithium. At the moment, we aren’t processing that to any great extent in Australia,” she said.
“Through the roadmap we want to set a pathway where Australia can recover the maximum amount of lithium and then look at how we can value-add to that, and how we can build the battery industry right here in Australia. This is an enormous opportunity.”
The opening of the fund for critical minerals was welcomed by the chief executive of industry growth centre METS Ignited, Adrian Beer, who said it and the accompanying roadmap “provides the Australian technology and innovation sector the opportunity to commercialise this capability within our local economy”.
“This announcement provides Australian technology innovators the opportunity to access funding that will enable them to productise and commercialise their solutions that serve our local economy,” Mr Beer said.
“By harnessing the skills and capabilities that drive the strength of our global resources sector, and converting this capability into products and services to benefit both our resources sector and our other priority sectors, we will realise the return on investment into our world leading research sector.
“We welcome this announcement from the Australian government as a turning point to drive economic value from the technology within our resources sector and creates valuable products for both local and export markets.”