Our research identified 111 enterprises that have an interest in carbon fibre across six states and the ACT. This includes companies that “make things”, companies that supply raw materials, and sometimes machinery, into the carbon fibre manufacturing economy as well as agencies that supply engineering, industrial design, research, development and innovation services.
It is evident that State and Federal investment in carbon fibre R&D through Universities, and carbon fibre capability development by way of grants directly to companies has largely been successful in priming the development of this state-of-the-art industrial sector.
Australian fabricators/manufacturers are largely reliant on imported raw material mainly from the United States, Japan, Europe, and China. Product is imported in a number of forms, including milled, chopped, tow and roll-goods. Investment in manufacturing carbon fibre inputs such as roll-goods will fortify the sector against trade disruptions thereby enabling further growth.
There are perceived opportunities to grow the carbon fibre composite sector through industrial sovereign capability in the Defence sector.
New mining ventures, such as lithium and rare earths are also likely to provide opportunities to grow the carbon fibre composites sector. So too in hydrogen energy and exotic materials linked to the growing aerospace industry.
A recent analysis of enrolment and completion numbers for composite trade qualifications shows an unsettling decline in numbers since 2008. Training in composite trades is also only being delivered by training organisations in Victoria, NSW and Queensland and to a lesser degree in WA – all of which is an ominous indication that the skills shortage is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. To that end, investment is required to develop learning materials to boost the trade skills shortage.