Space sector gets $14m in MMI funding round


Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Four Australian space companies will share in nearly $14 million as part of the first funding deployment from the federal government’s flagship $1.3 billion manufacturing initiative.

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) was opened for space-focused businesses looking to commercialise ideas or processes, or to integrate into global supply chains, in mid-February.

The first lot of funding from this round has now been announced, with four local companies receiving grants to expand into global supply chains and commercialise their products.

New South Wales-based quantum computing company Q-CTRL has received $4.5 million from the fund to expand manufacturing of its remote sensing payloads for space deployment.

Michael Biercuk
Q-CTRL chief executive Michael Biercuk

Q-CTRL chief executive Professor Michael Biercuk said the federal funding would help the company to launch a dedicated research prototyping facility to build out its space-focused technologies.

“It’s a great example of how we’re translating decades of science into a valuable business. In this space we’re focused on building the most advanced remote sensing technology in the world,” Professor Biercuk told InnovationAus.

“This project is building a new sensor for magnetic fields which is compatible with operation in space. Quantum can improve performance of the hardware, allowing us to detect weaker signals.”

Q-CTRL has developed quantum sensing and navigation technologies that can be applied to space exploration. The startup recently teamed up with Seven Sisters, the Australian consortium working on NASA’s Artemis program to send these technologies to space as part of an uncrewed mission to the Moon in 2023.

The quantum technology used by the company allows for improved precision navigation and timing, particularly for long-endurance missions with limited telemetry contact.

The MMI’s focus on the space sector is a significant boost for the industry, Professor Biercuk said.

“These kinds of government support are enormously important. I’ve spoken a lot about the value of government as a customer for advanced technologies early in the cycle, and this is an enormous influx of capital that supports our team to develop sovereign capability and high-value local jobs,” he said.

“This is a great example of value capture in modern manufacturing. The project is focused on building hardware, but that hardware continues to develop and deliver new jobs all the way up the value chain. We don’t want to just build and ship devices, we want to operate them and capture the value from the data and services.”

Other companies to receive a grant through the MMI round include Romar Engineering, which received the largest grant of the round. The Sydney-based firm netted $5.8 million to manufacture and deploy space fluid and motion control products for future space missions.

Victorian-based company Titomic will receive $2.3 million from the fund to commercialise the manufacture of its space vehicle and satellite parts which use green titanium.

Rocket engine manufacturer EffusionTech received the other grant, worth $1.2 million to develop and manufacture its low-cost, durable and high performance liquid-fuelled rocket engines for the growing local commercial launch market.

The funding round will help the burgeoning local space sector continue to grow, industry minister Christian Porter said.

“These grants will help bolster Australia’s reputation in the growing global civil space industry and build on the important work being led by our Australian Space Agency,” Mr Porter said.

“From satellites, to componentry in sensors and even rocket engines, Australian manufacturers are drawing on our existing advanced manufacturing expertise to launch into new exciting local and global markets.

“This funding is about creating more opportunities to grow our local space industry, unlocking further investment and delivering the skilled jobs we need now and for the future.”

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative is targeted at six areas of comparative advantage and strategic importance: space, resources technology and critical minerals processing, food and beverage, medical products and recycling and clean energy.

The first round of grants are open for each of those sectors, and the recipients are expected to be announced in the coming months.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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