The inaugural virtual Defence Day by ICN drew an impressive attendance of over 300 attendees, including SME’s and Tier 2’s and Tier 3’s who attended briefings from major players in the Defence industry, tender writing experts BidWrite, and representatives from ICN and the Department of Defence.
The event provided valuable insights into current and future opportunities in the Defence sector and facilitated direct engagement with industry experts during interactive Q&A sessions.
Jane Wood, Assistant Secretary, Australian Industry Capability Delivery, Department of Defence, welcomed attendees delivered an inspiring keynote speech. “Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, Defence’s largest purchaser, currently has about 158 major projects and 118 sustainment products, with a budget of $15.6 billion in FY 22/23”, she said.
“The goal of the Australian Industry Capability Program is to expend as much of that as we can in Australia so that we can actually build and develop a very strong industrial base.” she said.
“It’s how we actually engage with Australian industry, and get primes to engage with Australian Industry to ensure as much of that $15.6 billion dollars is spent in this country and is spent on developing our sovereign capability.”
“What we ask for from our primes, particularly when bringing in technology from overseas, is how much of that can be done here in Australia, by Australian suppliers, so that we can actually enhance their abilities and bring technology into this country that they can use, not only to the project they are delivering today, but the project that we’re delivering in the future.
“It’s really about bringing as much into the country as we can so we can have a viable Defence Industry, today, tomorrow and into the next century.”
Jane also mentioned that this capability building meant that Australian companies have the opportunity to tap into international supply chains.
Also from Defence Australia, Judy Denison CSM, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Defence Industry Support (ODIS), shed light on the challenges of entering the Defence sector and outlined ODIS’s role in supporting Australian industry.
Judy acknowledged that Defence was a “notoriously” difficult to sector to get with stringent standards from Defence and emphasised the need for products and services to work flawlessly every time.
“We actually do have people right now who are at 25,000 feet or 30,000 feet in the air during some patrols. We have people on land who are out there doing exactly the same thing,” she said.
“It is absolutely imperative that anything that we have on board … works first time, every single time. So our standards are very, very high.”
Judy explained that Defence understood it was challenging for SMEs to break into Defence, which is where ODIS comes in. She said her office had Defence Advisors on the ground throughout Australia to support Australian industry.
In an afternoon session, the event also featured a presentation by Roger Manning from BidWrite, who shared valuable insights on the Four Factors to Success in Defence: ‘
- Be well-positioned to win
- Be compliant
- Be well priced
- Have a persuasive story.
Attendees also had the privilege of hearing from prominent Defence companies including ASC Pty Ltd, BAE Systems Australia, SAAB Australia and Varley Group.
Michael Smith, Australian Industry Capability Manager, ASC Pty Ltd, said ASC’s vision was to be “Australia’s sovereign submarine builder”. The company built the Collins Class Submarine in Adelaide, and now maintains the fleet.
Michael encouraged the audience to register for opportunities on ICN Gateway.
“Any work packages that we do have, that are going to be put out to industry will be advertised within the ICN Gateway portal. And we do use a lot of the mapping tools and capability that you put within your profile on ICN … to try and identify potential new suppliers that we can bring into our supply chain,” he said.
Jason Watts, BAE Systems’ Enterprise Category Manager spoke about the work that BAE is doing on the Hunter Class Frigates – the biggest surface shipbuilding project in Australia’s history – as well as the company’s focus on aerospace capabilities. BAE Systems has been a longstanding utiliser of ICN services for their major defence projects.
He spoke about BAE’s Global Access Program, which aims to be the “leading global supply chain prime in support the government’s Defence export ambitions and a major contributor to the ongoing development of Australian Defence industrial capability”.
Head of Industry Engagement and Strategic Events at SAAB Australia, David Ledger, spoke about the “long game” of supplying into Defence.
“The challenge for us is most programs take about a 10 -year cycle and from initial gestation to actually delivering that capability to service can take up to 10 years, so it’s a long game,” he said.
His advice was to map products and capabilities into the Defence environment, and to work with Federal and State politicians on both sides of politics.
Varley Defence and its subsidiary Norship delivered a combined presentation.
Jeff Phillips, CEO and Managing Director of Varley Group gave an overview of Varley products and services into the defence space. Victor Ugarte, CEO of Varley Defence, told the attendees about the range of Defence projects that Varley was working on, including amphibious vehicles.
“We will be looking to engage experienced suppliers to join the Varley supply chain,” he said.
Norship CEO Olav Groot said he understood the audience, as well as other suppliers, would be looking for opportunities to collaborate, and to develop their business through ICN.
“Norship have really been successfully looking at partnerships and teams that ultimately unlock value. I encourage anyone to reach out to us if you can see mutually beneficial opportunities for us to effectively collaborate,” he said.
The audience also heard from Amy Savage of Defence Jobs Queensland and Frank Harrington, President of the Australian Industry & Defence Network QLD; as well as a session from ICN’s own Bettina Venner about ICN Gateway and the work ICN Industry Specialists do to maximise opportunities for Australian suppliers.
ICN received positive feedback from attendees and presenters, with a representative from ASC commenting on the level of engagement and thanking ICN for organising such a well run event.
“It was one of the best events I have participated in to date”, said Chris Wheeler, West Coast Manager at Automation Engineers Australia who was one of the attendees.
“The inaugural virtual Defence Day by ICN was a resounding success,” ICN Executive Director Warren Jansen.
“Defence is a key sector for Australia – and for ICN – and we were thrilled to be able to welcome such a high calibre of presenters and see so many people take time out of their busy schedule to attend”.
“We plan on hosting more national events, so watch this ICN space!”