A view of international innovation hubs

Earlier this month, our CEO Dr Cori Stewart visited advanced manufacturing hubs with university and industry collaborations similar to the ARM Hub in Germany and Belgium. In the following article she reflects on the tours as part of an Australian delegation to the region.

‘The ongoing work of catalysing Industry 4.0 digital transformation for individual businesses was a feature of these innovation hubs.

Flanders Make in Belgium is an impressive network of independent advanced manufacturing hubs that form a network of university and industry collaboration centres.

For a decade they have been tackling the requirements of Industry 4.0 digital transformation with local industry, creating solutions with individual businesses as well as creating a library of digital manufacturing tools for widespread use.

During our visit we saw teams creating augmented reality digital workstations with digital work instructions; robotic visions systems for quality control and picking and sorting in production-line processes; robotics stations designed for agile and flexible manufacturing production; and a semi-trailer full of tech demonstrations that goes to industry and events to educate and inspire. This network of hubs has ensured local manufacturing is relevant, connected, globally competitive and has access to the latest equipment, research and talent.

The Australian delegation spent several days with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institutes and local manufacturers in Stuttgart, the manufacturing heartland of the nation and home to Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Bosch, Festo, Trumpf were among the industrial companies and research institutions.

Fraunhofer had systematised Germany’s success at Industry 4.0 implementation into business assessment tools.

In 2016, Australia’s Innovative Manufacturing CRC collaborated with Fraunhofer to translate and share this work with Australian companies. Now the Fraunhofer are building on this work with added focus on advanced product development and green manufacturing.

This development is of interest to ARM Hub given it is relevant to our high-value bespoke or mass customised manufacturing, including robotics manufacture. If you are similarly interested and want to connect with ARM Hub and Fraunhofer around these capabilities please do reach out.

Our time in Germany culminated in the formal event, the Fraunhofer Science and Innovation Day Australia in Augsburg.

The day did result in new and expanded partnerships with the Fraunhofer Institutes and the message to share is that there are well established programmes and funding pathways for Australians and Germans researchers and companies to leverage investment for collaborative projects.

There is also a dedicated program for Queenslanders managed through the Queensland Investment and Trade office in Frankfurt.’

Meet our Technology Roadmap Female Founders

The ARM Hub has begun its Technology Accelerator Roadmap for Female Founders.

This exciting accelerator goes beyond exploring your business goals — it identifies the technology companies need to grow their business, expand revenue opportunities, and increase readiness for investment.

We are thrilled to have six fantastic women participating in this program.

Meet our female founders

Stephanie Bofinger, CEO and Founder of Fempro Armour
Fempro Armour is a cutting-edge, women-focused technology company that specializes in creating innovative and high-quality protective gear for women. Our mission is to provide protective gear for fall prevention, so we all can live in a world where people are safe when they fall. With a strong emphasis on research and development, Fempro Armour has developed a range of products that cater to the unique safety needs of women in impact sports, healthcare and high-risk frontline personnel.

Abby Walsh, Director at Stomping Elephants
At Stomping Elephants our passion is to help people to experience the joy of expressing their personality. We are the home of a huge range of fun, unique and affordable quality Australian made earrings which are available online and at markets/stores across Australia. All of our earrings are designed and manufactured in house by our amazing team at Stomping HQ in Mackay, Queensland. Our ever-changing range includes over 2,500 different styles, ensuring there is something for everyone. Our manufacturing process utilises multiple machines, predominantly UV printers and Laser cutter/engravers to produce the various styles, with the assembly being done by hand.

Umar Nguyen, Director at Platinum Provedore | The Fish Girl
My agency operates as a beacon of innovation and growth for Australian primary producers in the seafood sector. We specialise in sales and marketing, driving the creation of unique solutions and the development of new markets. Our strategy is distinctive – we engage directly with chefs nationwide, ensuring pull-through via enhanced brand awareness and education. With our extensive knowledge of market trends and our expansive network, we promote local and sustainable producers, offerings them a platform to shine and flourish.

Sheree Lamont, Business Manager at Minecorp Australia
Minecorp is an Australian manufacturer of automotive components and a modifier of fleet vehicles with complex requirements. Based in Acacia Ridge, Minecorp was founded in 2007 during a time where minesite compliance and vehicle safety engineering was a at the forefront driver protection. We manufacture steel and aluminum accessories such as trays, toolboxes, and supporting components as well as purpose built trailers for industry. Minecorp also support the defence industry with sovereign capability to produce build to print components. We modify vehicles that are required to withstand harsh environments and have significant site requirements such as mining, utilities, rental and government. We are very passionate about providing solutions for large corporate fleets where uptime and mobile work is critical to the success of clients. We are an agile business who understands our own capability and what we can deliver both internally or through partnerships with our suppliers. Our goal is to be the leader in the automotive fleet modification sector with technology driving efficiency and repeatability whilst delivering the best financial outcomes for our clients.

Rebecca McIntosh, Director and Co-Founder of CHRYSALIS PROJECTS
The core of my life’s work is connecting community through conversation and meaningful experiences. I am an artist and a creative entrepreneur and have founded three businesses LOVE TV, POPSART arts media and Chrysalis Project creative Place Makers which are all ultimately focused on making cities great! I believe in the power of art and creativity to do this by uniting communities, revitalising their public spaces, and helping us understand better who we are as people.

Melissa Nguyen, Co-Founder of Subarashii Seats
We use your existing seat base and modify it just for you and your riding preferences. Rest assured as your seat gets reupholstered with superior grade foam and with comfort in mind. Whether you’re a short person in need of a lower seat or a long distance rider in need of a supportive seat. Anything you need, we can modify to suit you.

The accelerator is a joint initiative between Advance Queensland and VenturePro.

Top factors for Australian manufacturing

ARM Hub CEO and Founder Dr Cori Stewart summarises her opening remarks for the Australian Governnment’s recent House Standing Committee inquiry in Brisbane this month.

I raised three factors critical to manufacturing in Australia at the House Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Resources for Developing Advanced Manufacturing in Australia.

1. Australia’s population decline

Our declining population demands we innovate to drive new productivity into manufacturing and make the most value out of our working population. Technology must be a force multiplier here.

Australia’s birth-rate is 1.6, and a nation needs 2.1 to maintain its population. It means we will have about 2.5 people in 2050 of working age (15-64) for every older Australian.

These statistics have Australia on a trajectory of hard-to-reverse population decline often described as the “Japan Dilemma”.

Australia needs a strong technology sector to do the jobs we don’t or cannot do. We need to use our human labour in more valuable and rewarding working roles if we want to secure a manufacturing workforce at all.

We need a strong robotics, automation and artificial intelligence capability. We know that robots creates jobs, they don’t take jobs.

Australia is 30th of all countries in its ratio of robotics to the human workforce, which is poor given at the same time we are globally recognised as leaders in robotics research and robotics innovation more widely. Australia also has the lowest manufacturing capability of all OECD countries.

Incremental change, uncoordinated policy efforts, and unstable or uncertain investment environments will hamper our ability to be a modern competitive manufacturing nation.

2. Australia is poor at scaling enterprises

This includes scaling manufacturing as well as the technology businesses like robotics that underpin our manufacturing ability.

Recently, the Tech Council of Australia released its Shots on Goal report saying:

‘Australia needs a lot more scale’up capital to match the United States on a per capita basis. While we do meet comparative investment environment to the US for Series A funding and we not too bad at Series B funding, for Series C and D – the scale-up stage characterised as when you employ a large workforce and export to the globe – Australia will need to increase funding by five times above BAU growth to match the United States by 2030 on a per capita basis. At our current rate Australia will face an expected gap in scaleup funding of $53b by 2030.’

The Australian Government’s National Reconstruction Fund and the Industry Growth Program are critically important in this space and will need to invest in ‘intangibles’ such as software, which is the smart part of manufacturing.

It is critical we scale-up manufacturing, which means accessible investment. It is the only way we can realise a net gain from cooperative trade policy settings with the U.S. (e.g. the Inflation Reduction Act, the proposed Defence Production Act, and the Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Transformation Compact).

3. Coordinated national approach to industry policy

We strongly believe a coordinated national approach to industry policy would coalease Australia’s efforts and resources, making us more competitive.

I would like to build on the idea of Australia’s network of Factories of the Future to facilitate open innovation and collaboration in manufacturing, which enables investment in key sovereign capabilities to be translated across industry sectors.

We also recommend further investment in strategic programs for industry:

• technology accelerators
• global supply chain innovation programs
• workforce development programs
• manufacturing precincts of global renown.

Australia needs to set the foundation for a coherent and successful industrial transformation strategy.

A strong network of Factories of the Future will tackle Australia’s narrow trade and industrial structure and create the industries and jobs of the future.

Only manufacturing can provide the foundations for national reconstruction because it will deliver the innovation, productivity and competitiveness and jobs we need to ensure greater sovereign capability and economic complexity, including diversification of our export mix.

Female Founder Technology Accelerator opens for business

The ARM Hub has opened a new technology accelerator for female founders of Queensland-based technology and manufacturing companies.

The ARM Hub Technology Roadmap Accelerator for Female Founders is designed to help female business owners or women leading companies to take their business to the next level.

ARM Hub CEO and founder Dr Cori Stewart opened the Expressions of Interest in the accelerator during a special event with Queensland Minister for Tourism, Innovation and Sport Stirling Hinchliffe at ARM Hub today.

“As a female founder myself, I’m thrilled to be able to offer this program to Queensland’s entrepreneurs and business leaders,” Dr Stewart said.

“The accelerator goes beyond refining your business objectives. We help you identify and plan the Industry 5.0 technologies you need to scale your business.

“These roadmaps are fit-for-purpose, designed with the help of leading Australian experts in the field of robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, and design-led manufacturing.

“This is a great opportunity for Queensland small-to-medium businesses and micro-businesses to tap into a wealth of knowledge and experience.

“Roadmaps are essential for growing your business and becoming more attractive to investors.”

The accelerator is open to women in Queensland who have founded a business, are in a business that is 50% female owned, or is led by a female (e.g., CEO, Director, Executive).

To gain the most benefit from the accelerator, we recommend applying if:

  • your business or product is underpinned by, or includes, a technology component, OR
  • your business or product requires manufacturing, OR
  • you business or product includes a technology component and requires manufacturing.

The ARM Hub Technology Accelerator Roadmap for Female Founders is a joint initiative with VenturePro and is supported by Advance Queensland Female Founders Accelerator Program.

The Hub technology accelerator is one of 11 recipients of the first round of grant funding under the Advance Queensland Female Founders Accelerator Program.

Expressions of Interest for the Hub accelerator close on 15 August 2023. The accelerator will run from August to November 2023.

For more information please review the eligibility criteria or contact Director Marketing and Memberships, Angela Reed.


The challenge of recycling lithium batteries

Did you know that only a small percentage of lithium batteries are recycled, with most ending up in landfill?

One of the main barriers is their casing, says Vaulta CEO and founder, Dominic Spooner.

Speaking at our Academic and Industry Engagement event this week, Dominic said the Brisbane company was overcoming this major industry challenge.

“The penny drop moment was finding out recycling of lithium batteries was near non-existent and the way they were packaged had a significant impact,” Dominic said.

“Without better battery casing, we’re going to have a real problem with longer-term aspects of how the industry works.

“Relying on batteries that end up in landfill is not a sustainable way to roll out renewables.

“People are going to become frustrated with battery manufacturers, just like they are now with the coal industry.

“We have the opportunity to get this right before the problem hits hard. We can solve this right now – and Vaulta is doing that.”

Vaulta, one of our newest Members, is manufacturing new batteries that can be dissembled for recycling and repair (in the field, if necessary).

“We are proud to champion locally made content. For us, being ‘local’ means more than just a label, it means manufacturing everything we can right here in Queensland.

“By encouraging local production, we not only support our community but also reduce reliance on offshore sources, promoting sustainable economic growth.”

Fast facts about lithium batteries

  • Queensland’s waste reduction targets for 2050 include 75% recycling rates across all waste types, and for 90% of waste to recovered instead of going to landfill. Currently, Australia’s battery recycling rate is 3%, and 9% worldwide.
  • The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2030, there would be 145 million electric cars on the roads, surging to a staggering 230 million if governments prioritise energy and climate goals.
  • Australia regularly follows EU regulations. The EU Battery Recycling Mandate states: “…Extended Producer Responsibility will start applying by mid-2025, with higher collection targets being introduced over time. For portable batteries, the targets will be 63% in 2027 and 73% in 2030, while for batteries with light means of transport, the target will be 51% in 2028 and 61% in 2031. All collected batteries have to be recycled and high levels of recovery have to be achieved, in particular of valuable materials such as copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel, and lead.

Academic and Industry Engagement events

These events are held quarterly at our facility and are designed to foster collaboration between academia and industry, and raise awareness of industry challenges.

Would you like to join the next one? Please email Samuel.jesuadian@armhub.com.au.

Collaboration paper wins award

Congratulations to ARM Hub industrial designer Anthony Franze on winning the 2023 Young CAADRIA Award (YCA)!

CAADRIA is the Association for Computer-Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia. The YCA is for PhD candidates who are lead authors of a submitted conference paper. It aims to encourage and promote early career researchers.

As a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) PhD student and the lead author, Anthony received the award for the paper, Informing User-Centred Approaches To Augmented Custom Manufacturing Practices.

“I am delighted that our paper has received recognition, underscoring our research topic’s national and international significance within the academic community,” Anthony said.

“Our paper also highlights the importance of collaboration between academia and industry to support small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses adopting emergent technologies, such as AR/MR. By doing so, improving their Industry 4.0 competitiveness, and enhancing the work lives of their valued fabrication staff.

“Winning the YCA award presents a unique opportunity to invite further discussions, research, and collaboration with manufacturers, academics, and industry professionals to progress the sector.”

The paper was submitted to the CAADRIA 2023 Human-Centric Conference at Cept University, India, from 18-24 March 2023.

Anthony’s co-authors were:

  • Associate Professor Glenda Caldwell
  • Dr Müge Belek Fialho Teixeira
  • Associate Professor Markus Rittenbruch.

The papers are judged on their merit, contribution, relevance to CAADRIA, and demonstrated the depth of research interest.

The paper is available here and the abstract is below.


This practice-based research presents insights into the potential and challenges for augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR) technology to enhance Australian small-to-medium (SME) custom manufacturers’ agility to overcome existing Industry 4.0 (I4.0) workforce productivity and efficiency challenges. Moreover, it seeks to understand the technology’s ability to support custom manufacturers and the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) sector transition to a more human-centric Industry 5.0 (I5.0) model, whereby the well-being of the fabricator is placed back at the centre of manufacturing processes. This qualitative study draws on interviews with eleven Australian custom manufacturing industry professionals to inform pertinent themes around fabricators’ current use and perceptions of mixed reality technology. Results indicate benefits for fabricators in reducing 2D drawing and task-related ambiguities in fabrication and assembly practices and reveal factors surrounding underutilisation. Synthesising insights and reflecting on Teixeira et al., (2021) ‘s XR-PACT framework, key research areas are identified for future AR/MR development centred on fabrication users’ distinct needs to improve accessibility, empower fabricators and ultimately assist the competitiveness of custom manufacturers and the AEC sector.

Welcoming Australia’s industry policy leaders to ARM Hub

Australian manufacturers took the opportunity to discuss their products and services with Australian Minister for Industry and Science, the Hon Ed Husic MP at ARM Hub in April.

During a tour of the Northgate facility, Minister Husic spoke to ARM Hub Member Orcon, and tenants Southern Green Gas, Bondi Labs, and Umbrella Solutions.

QUT Professor and ARM Hub Technical Director Professor Jonathan Roberts demonstrated the development of a mechanism developed by the Australian Cobotics Centre.

Minister Husic was joined by Australian Minister for Aged Care the Hon Anika Wells MP, who spoke to Umbrella Solutions about their technology for aged care organisations.

ARM Hub marks three years

ARM Hub has celebrated three years of helping Australian industry on its digital transformation journey.

The celebration on 18 April 2023 honoured the achievements of Queensland manufacturers and also marked the official unveiling of the ARM Hub’s updated office premises, which was built by Sonder and fitted out by Queensland-based Indigenous company, Nulla Office Supplies.

More than 120 guests took the opportunity to celebrate and tour the facility, viewing the latest in technology from the Australian Cobotics Centre, Southern Green Gas, Orcon, Bondi Labs, Industrial Automation Australia, Umbrella Solutions, and Wisk.

ARM Hub CEO Dr Cori Stewart said she was proud of ARM Hub’s scale and depth of collaboration, working across universities and industry at a local, national, and international level.

“For Queensland, the ARM Hub means jobs and investment. The ARM hub has created 187 jobs, attracted 26 international and interstate companies to invest in Queensland projects, and six international or interstate businesses to set up operations right here in Queensland,” Dr Stewart said.

“When the ARM Hub started, we had a goal of delivering $47 million of projects over our first four years of operations. We’ve delivered $54 million over two and half years, with many more projects in our forward pipeline.

“The new facilities will allow the ARM Hub to collaborate more with industry and accommodate our growing team of experts who require access to the makerspace and collaborative spaces to do their work.”

Thank-you to our guests

The special guest was Australian Assistant Minister for Manufacturing Senator the Hon Tim Ayres, who spoke to the value of the national manufacturing industry and the opportunities to be delivered in the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.

Senator Ayres said the Australian Government wanted to ‘make sure a lot of that [funding] is deployed in advanced manufacturing and robotics’.

He wants to see ARM Hub ‘part of a part of the government agenda to reindustrialise the Australian economy, to bring Australian manufacturing jobs to our outer suburbs and regions, and to do this in a way that changes the lives of Australians’.

ARM Hub Chair Emeritus Professor Roy Green led the amazing panel Shay Chalmers, Matt Tobin, Michelle Richards, and Professor Jonathan Roberts in discussing Australia’s role as an international manufacturing hub.

Congratulations were received from the Queensland Government, with Manufacturing Minister Glenn Butcher MP highlighting ARM Hub’s role in delivering the priorities of the Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan.

“In just three short years there have been so many success stories, thanks to the Palaszczuk Government-funded ARM Hub.

ARM Hub’s local Queensland representative, Leanne Linard MP, said she had ‘seen first-hand the power of local manufacturers collaborating with the Hub to bring their innovations to market’.

“To have a one-stop-shop like this, right here on Brisbane’s northside, is a real asset for Queensland’s advanced manufacturing sector.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what other advanced robotic and manufacturing minds create thanks to the support of the Palaszczuk Government.

“I will continue to encourage my local manufacturers to engage with the Hub so they too can benefit from the collaboration it encourages.”

Jobs Queensland launches Advanced Manufacturing case studies

Around 120 people attended the launch of Job Queensland’s Advancing Manufacturing: Exploring the human element of the journey key findings at ARM Hub today.

The report documents two Advanced Manufacturing case studies undertaken by the Australian Cobotics Centre to illustrate the opportunities and challenges faced by manufacturing organisations on their 4.0 journey and highlights the importance of manufacturers engaging their workforce to facilitate change and drive growth.

Case Study 1: Watkins Steel-Holovision is a Brisbane company specialising in structural steel and metalwork fabrication, which services multiple industry sectors. Since 2014, when the company commissioned its first line of robotics, the company has experienced growth averaging 20 per cent year on year.

Case Study 2: B&R Enclosures is a Brisbane-based, family-owned company that designs and manufactures stainless steel, steel and plastic enclosures and cabinet solutions used to house electrical and computer network equipment. Digitisation of business processes is a current focus of B&R’s journey toward Advanced Manufacturing, with the company actively moving from paper-based processes to technology-driven solutions for many aspects of their business.

Key findings from the two case studies were:

  • Technology investment

Investment in robotics, automation and digitisation is essential to remain globally competitive. Companies that are investing are expanding into new markets, new product lines or becoming more competitive in existing niche markets.

  • Investing in re-skilling

Automation is changing jobs. Continued investment in skilling the current workforce, however, ensures workers can be re-deployed and maintain a career in manufacturing. Such investment must happen both at the level of the organisation and sectorwide. More research is required to better support re-skilling and to address future challenges of digitisation in the workforce.

  • Expanding skill sets

Workers with a combination of qualifications (e.g. engineering) and ‘craft’ skills (e.g. welding or boilermaking) are most in demand. By supplementing university qualifications with trade knowledge and craft skills, designers and engineers are better able to understand problems, innovate and produce more practical solutions.

  • Training partnerships

Partnerships with educational institutions (e.g. schools, TAFEs and universities) and professional associations are essential to building the skills required in the future workforce. These partnerships are also critical to addressing labour shortages and attracting more diverse workers into manufacturing.

  • Re-branding manufacturing work

A communication and attraction strategy is needed to promote emerging career opportunities, driven by robotics, automation and digitisation, and to re-frame negative perceptions in the labour market about manufacturing jobs.

  • Diversity strategies require research

The number of women in manufacturing appears to be growing and the workforce is becoming more diverse (as noted by those working within it); however, increasing diversity seems to have largely occurred organically. There are few formal strategies to increase diversity and limited research on the barriers to creating a more diverse workforce. More research is required to support organisations and inform their future strategies, including attraction and retention strategies for under-represented groups such as women, workers with a disability, First Nations people and older workers.

  • Leader-driven organisational change

Senior leaders play a pivotal role in shaping organisational cultures in which technology has been embraced as a means by which the organisation can innovate. The behaviour and commitment of leaders drives the ‘mindset shift’ that is required for workers to embrace automation and digitisation not as a threat but as an opportunity to improve the way work is done.

  • Capabilities for managing the external environment

Manufacturing capability can be further strengthened by developing skills in dealing with the external environment of the business. For example, managing cash flow, accessing finance and investment, making timely adoption of technology, managing digital threats such as cyber attacks, negotiating or adapting to supply chain opportunities.

Mr Des Watkins, Managing Director, of Watkins Steel and Kimberley Davis, Group HR Manager of B&R Enclosures discussed the findings with ACC Research Program Co-Lead (Human-Robot Workforce program), Professor Greg Hearn. Des spoke of the importance of preparing the future workforce for flexibility and Kimberley called for multi-disciplinary teams, such as engineers, HR workers and others, to collaborate in implementing 4.0 solutions.

ARM Hub COO Mr Samuel Jesuadian presented on outcomes of Advanced Manufacturing projects at ARM Hub and led a small group on a tour of the ARM Hub factory.

The Advancing Manufacturing: Exploring the human element of the journey report also details progress against Priority Action Areas identified in JQ’s 2018 Advancing Manufacturing Skills: A Skills, Training and Workforce Development Strategy for the Manufacturing Industry in Queensland.