Industry Minister Karen Andrews has fast-tracked disbursement of the new $50 million Manufacturing Modernisation Fund to ensure local manufacturers are tooled-up and ready to embrace a post-COVID economic bounce.
Industry on Friday announced funding grants of $48.3 million through the MMF, virtually the entirety of the funds available, less than a year into the three-year program.
The 200 projects included a $1 million large-scale project grant to Adelaide-based chocolates icon Robern Menz for a re-tooling that will ensure the return of the Polly Waffle.
The Manufacturing Modernisation Fund was established in September last year 2019 as a three-year program.
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the Industry department has been working to accelerate grant agreements and payments to businesses so that they could commence individual projects as soon as possible.
While the number of grants was determined by the total available program funding, adjustments were made to the program funding profile across financial years to enable the maximum possible number of grants to be awarded immediately.
It is not immediately clear what this means for the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, and specifically whether the fund will be topped up for its second year and third year of operation.
The 2020 federal budget is to be handed down in October – delayed from its usual May date because of the crisis – and it is to be expected that Industry Minister Karen Andrews will seek to have the fund re-filled as part of what must be a very unusual budget process.
What is clear is that the manufacturing sector has enjoyed an unexpected funding hit, and that while the MMF had been established well before the coronavirus epidemic struck, it has proved a good time to have funding applications in the system.
The 200 projects announced alongside the Polly Waffle funding must surely be an Industry department record.
For Industry Minister Karen Andrews, the accelerated drive of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund was focused on jobs and capability. More than 2,600 new jobs are expected to be created by these successful projects, she said.
“We established the MMF before the coronavirus pandemic to help small and medium sized manufacturers invest in capital equipment and new technologies to transform and upgrade their manufacturing operations,” Mrs Andrews said.
“Now as we face the coronavirus pandemic and look to come out the other side stronger, this investment will be more critical than ever.
Mrs Andrews said she was committed to strengthening the Australian manufacturing sector. The current pandemic and its associated economic pinch gave Australia the opportunity “to reassess and commit to the values of Australia-made goods.”
These merit-based grants are divided between large- and small-scale projects and are the first to be allocated under the fund.
Grants totalling $35 million will go to 59 companies for large scale projects worth over $177 million. A further $13.3 million in grants will go to 141 small scale projects worth over $38 million.
We announced “multiple projects right across Australia that have been determined as eligible under the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, to receive support from the Australian Government to look at additional equipment to allow them to scale up, or to look at training their workforce, or a combination of both,” Mrs Andrews told media on the Gold Coast n Friday.
“There are approximately 200 projects right across Australia. They will have a combined injection into our economy of about $215 million, and over the course of the projects they will bring in employment of about 2,600 people – and this is right across Australia.”
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