Three sides of a coin: fresh perspectives for 2021 from Germany, Ireland and Australia, Online, January 2021

On Wednesday, the 13th of January, the German Australian Business Council and the Irish Business Network (IBN) Germany welcomed almost 70 participants for our first joint event of 2021 “Three Sides of a Coin: fresh perspectives for 2021 from Germany, Ireland and Australia”. The event featured speakers John Lynam, Consul General of Ireland, Frankfurt; Simon Clayton, Deputy Head of Mission, Australian Embassy- Berlin; Volkmar Klein, MdB, Member of German Parliament and was moderated by Eric Menges, Managing Director, FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH.

John shared the positive benefits of BREXIT for Ireland, such as accelerated plans to open 25 new missions globally by 2025 and strong investment in key sectors like life sciences and clean tech. Germany is also Ireland’s largest trading partner in the EU and a closer trading relationship and volume is expected once the initial teething issues are sorted.

Simon spoke about new business perspectives particularly in hydrogen. He also highlighted advantages of the AU-EU FTA which is currently being negotiated and which would ideally lead to more EU investment in Australia with positive implications for the global supply chain and logistics.

Volkmar rounded off the discussion highlighting Germany’s three pillars of COVID response around supporting businesses, stabilizing the economy and investing in the future (specifically in industries such as green steel and in developing countries which will be impacted disproportionately by this crisis).

A lively Q&A punctuated by bits of humour and positivity rounded off the rest of the evening’s discussion.

We thank IBN Germany for their cooperation and John, Simon, Volkmar and Eric for a very engaging and insightful evening.

Please kindly contact our office for access to the recording.

Christmas Drinks with H.E. Philip Green, Australian Ambassador to Germany, Online Event, December 2020

On Friday, the 11th of December, the German Australian Business Council, together with 50 members and friends, welcomed H.E. Ambassador Philip Green to Germany over an online Christmas drinks event. Over a glass of Alpha Box & Dice Wightmare Chardonnay from South Australia, the Ambassador gave an overview of Australia’s industry focus on advanced manufacturing and renewables, bilateral relations between Australia and Germany, and his priorities for his term, including the hydrogen supply chain and the AU-EU FTA. He also highlighted his interest in promoting Australian arts and culture as well as adopting a Team Australia approach for his term. The evening ended with the Ambassador sharing a series of Christmas dad jokes ahead of a lively interactive Q&A.

We look forward to working closely with Ambassador Green throughout his term in Germany. As we head into the holidays, we would also like to thank all members and friends for their support this year and wish all a “Guten Rutsch!”


BellaSeno MedTech Online Event, November 2020

On Wednesday 4 November, we had the pleasure of hosting an online event with our member Dr Mohit Chhaya, co-founder and CEO of BellaSeno GmbH. BellaSeno is an award- winning ISO 13485-certified clinical-stage MedTech company developing innovative 3D-printed, resorbable implants for soft tissue reconstruction, with a particular emphasis on breast reconstruction.

Dr Chhaya shared his journey starting with his PhD research on tissue engineering in Australia back in 2011 where Australia’s interdisciplinary research approach and its core research facilities concept were integral in fast-tracking his research development. The PhD followed with a 2014 Fellow Scholarship sponsored by the Universities Australia and German Academic Exchange Service (or DAAD), which allowed Dr Chhaya to establish a direct collaboration with plastic surgeons at the University Hospital in Munich. This experience allowed him to assess the practical application of his research which led him to pivot to a new clinical technique.

With proof of concept and commercial feasibility, Dr Chhaya was then able to exclusively license the technology from QUT in Australia and TU Munich in Germany to start the company, With support from German angel investor and bioentrepreneur Dr Herbert Stadler and the State Development Bank of Saxony, BellaSeno was founded in Leipzig in 2017.

Since then, BellaSeno has gone on to further finetune their scaffold for surgical practicality, develop their medical addictive and device manufacturing capabilities in Germany for certification and more recently, conduct their first human clinical study in Brisbane. Looking ahead, Dr Chhaya shared that BellaSeno will be expanding its clinical trials over the next two years before going-to-market in 2024/2025.

For those that missed the session, a recording is available here (Password f66+20L?).

Ambassador’s Farewell Dinner, September 2020, Frankfurt

On Tuesday, 15 September 2020, the German Australian Business Council hosted our first in-person event since the lockdown in honour of Ambassador H.E. Lynette Wood who will be returning to Australia later this year.

In splendid weather conditions, the outdoor networking reception with lively conversation set the stage for a wonderful evening at MainNizza in Frankfurt. Dinner started officially with a welcome by Business Council Chair, Dr Sabine Pittrof, introducing the evening’s “Future-Focused” theme.

Ender Tanar, ANZ Germany Managing Director, and Evangelos Kotsopoulos, Sonic Healthcare CEO Germany, then shared their views on German-Australian relations. While Mr. Tanar focused on the digitalization brought by the pandemic, Mr. Kotsopoulus focused on the work in the testing labs, thanking his employees who have been working 24/7 continuously for the past few months.

Engrossing discussions at the tables over the main course were followed by the Ambassador’s keynote address. H. E. Lynette Wood looked back on four years of successful partnership to then give a positive outlook into the future, reflecting on the shared values between Australia and Germany.

Dr. Toralf Haag, VOITH CEO and Chairman of the Corporate Board of Management rounded off the evening by sharing his and VOITH’s view on future developments and reporting on VOITH’s role in achieving Australia’s renewables target.

The evening concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr Pittrof and an official farewell to the Ambassador by the board of the Business Council.

The German Australian Business Council would like to warmly thank our sponsors Sonic Healthcare, ANZ and VOITH as well as our members and friends for their support, without which the event would have not been such a success.

Future-Focused: how 3D avatars are helping to (re)shape the New Normal & Digital Economy- a virtual tour with Dr Tania Peitzker and her AI bot hologram, September 2020, Online

On Tuesday September, 29 2020, we had the pleasure of hosting an online event with our member Dr. Tania Peitzker and her AI Bot hologram “Birgit am Bodensee / Kylie from Sydney” who were attending live from Lindau.

Tania gave us exceptional insights into the world of artificial intelligence, specifically bots and holograms and their different application areas ranging from governments and public services to retailers, manufacturers, city wayfinding, touchless banking and vending services.

Tania touched on the technology and guiding principles behind the holograms’ development and learning. She also highlighted the importance of engaging the community and educating users on how best to interact with the holograms.

Tania predicts that voice-driven and touchless interfaces will become the norm in our new digital economies and cities of the future as we will see more of these cognitive interfaces and avatars being ever-present in our daily lives.

As a special feature on the lively Q&A session, participants also got a chance to see Birgit and Kylie interacting live with Tania.

For those who missed the session, the full video recording can be accessed here and a link to Tania’s presentation is available here.

For those interested in interacting with her (2D) bots live, please visit her website.

Thank you to all participants for joining us!


Battery Value Chain Webinar, September 2020

On 3 September 2020, we were pleased to present an online event with the Government of Western Australia European Office and the Australian Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) on the battery value chain from Australia to Germany.

Elisabeth Opie, Deputy Board Chair, German Australian Business Council welcomed all participants and Mike Deeks, Western Australian Agent General UK, Europe and Israel set the context with an overview of the Western Australian critical raw minerals ecosystem and the government’s strategy and support for businesses looking to invest and trade with Western Australia. This was followed by four leading Australian and European speakers across research and industry providing different perspectives across the battery value chain.

Dr Jacques Eksteen, FBICRC Chief Operating Officer and Research Director kicked off with an overview of Western Australia’s battery minerals industry which has been rapidly transitioning from an exporter of mineral concentrates to a producer of battery chemicals such as lithium hydroxide and nickel sulphate. The FBICRC has also been establishing research relationships with German research institutes such as the Fraunhofer and Helmholtz.

Dr Jeffrey Wilson, Perth USAsia Centre Research Director then spoke about the governance of the extremely complex battery value chain, which is insecure and faces major challenges for social and environmental sustainability. Australia is well placed as a secure and sustainable battery partner though it needs to move along the value chain towards mid-stream activities and build greater resilience by focusing on processing technologies and connecting with broader energy transition plans and international partners.

Our first industry speaker, Samantha McGahan, Australian Vanadium (AVL)/VSUN Energy Business Development Manager shared about AVL’s Gabanintha project, which has been awarded Major Project Status by the Australian Federal Government and Lead Agency Status by the Western Australian State Government and its proven capability to produce high-purity V2O5 for vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) and production of electrolytes. Its dedicated subsidiary VSUN Energy was set up in 2016 to grow the VRFB market in Australia.

Benoit Lemaignan, Verkor Co-Founder and CEO then introduced Verkor’s first Gigafactory, supported by EIT InnoEnergy, Schneider Electric, and GROUPE IDEC, which is scheduled to begin in 2023 with a capacity of 16GWh of battery cells and set to increase to 50GWh.

Thank you to all partners, speakers and participants for joining us.

For those who missed the session, the full video recording can be accessed Here

Recording access code: P6CVB=$q

ABIE Business Leaders Forum, June 2020

It made for fascinating listening. Four top business leaders from four hugely successful global companies, all sharing their very different stories of navigating the unprecedented COVID 19 crisis.

Two saw their businesses expand. Two saw their businesses severely impacted, and see their struggle continuing. Two are based in Australia. Two are based in Europe. All are members of the ABIE Network.

It was ABIE’S first Business Leaders Roundtable, held on Wednesday June 24, 2020. Titled ‘Unlocking European-Australian Potential’, the speakers shared their insights gleaned from the crisis and how they managed the challenges of doing business over the past months.
It was a Zoom webinar which attracted 100 participants from companies in Europe and Australia across a wide range of sectors and included representatives from the Embassies, Austrade and bi-lateral Chambers of Commerce.

Sharing their experiences were Bernard Tabary, ABIE France President, and CEO International of Keolis; Jon Acarregui Bilbao, Country Manager, Nufarm, Spain; Kjell Kloosterziel, Director, Schiphol International in the Netherlands; and Evangelos Kotsopoulos, CEO, Sonic Healthcare, Germany and Continental Europe and GABC Board member.

Jason Collins, CEO of the European Australian Business Council, and part of the ABIE Group network, joined from Canberra to moderate the round table. “Now more than ever governments and businesses need to be working intensively to manage the pandemic and to identify the enablers for our economies to move forward again. The roundtable session has brought together leading Australian and European companies who are each confronting the challenges of mobility in different ways – in the healthcare, aviation, public transport, and agrifood sectors.

Evangelos Kosopoulos opened by describing Australia-based Sonic Healthcare as a medical diagnostics company which runs large laboratories in 8 countries, employing 37 000. He explained that the company was the first laboratory in Europe to test for the virus in late January. Capacity was then ramped up fast as the world struggled to find COVID 19 tests. He said that by late February the company was “in the eye of the storm”. To date the company has tested many millions of people around the world. The group was the first in Europe to set up testing through nasal swabs, followed by molecular diagnosis. “It was an avalanche of testing”, said Evangelos. “We had a large part of our staff working around the clock.’ “On a lighter note, our testing helped Germany’s soccer league, Bundesliga, to go back to competitive play as the first professional sports league in the world”.

It has been an inverse experience for Kjell Kloosterziel whose company runs airports around the world including in Brisbane and Tasmania. Speaking from the Netherlands, he said air travel had been hit very hard. Despite this, most airports were kept open. The main challenge
was cash management with cash being generated through bond issues. “It was very hard on our staff”, he said. So far the company has not been forced to let anyone go. An optimist, he thought he could see the first signs of recovery. “This is a marathon – not a sprint though”, he warned. ‘It will be 3 to 5 years before we reach the level of pre-Covid. But we must focus on recovery.”

Keolis, a public transport and mobility solutions company with a global reach, had a 6.5 billion euro turnover last year, and carried 3.4 billion passengers a year. Then, with lock down, public transport ground to a halt. Bernard Tabary pointed out three lessons could be drawn from the crisis.

Humility. “We had nine deaths, and had to lay off and furlough staff”.
Vigilance. “New spikes show that the crisis is far from over.”
Agility. Learn how to plan with the unpredictable “It is not so much planning, as agility that we need.”

The next step for Keolis? “Making public transport acceptable”.

Bernard praised the Australian Government’s handling of the pandemic. “What I’ve seen in Australia has been excellent preparation and solid governance, a coming together of State and Federal Governments in a positive way.”

The crisis saw business soaring for Nufarm, an Australian giant in the agricultural business operating in 100 countries. Demand grew by 100% a day. “Not one part of our business was hit by COVID 19”, said Jon Acarregui Bilbao. “Demand kept coming, but for different products, mirroring the consumers’ changing eating habits because of the virus. “We had huge demand for everything containing Vitamin C – oranges, lemons, strawberries and fresh fruit and vegetables. We had complete freedom to supply throughout the EU, despite the lockdown.
“Our biggest challenge was to set up home working.”

The exchange ended with valuable insights into COVID from Evangelos, who explained that uncertainty in testing was typically not the result of the test itself, but often of the way the swab was taken. He said it was an unpleasant test and had to be correctly done by well trained
staff. Another problem was that the viral load changed, so timing of the test was critical. Testing too early, or testing too late gave a misleading result.” He warned against quick home tests being sold on the internet, saying their quality was appalling. Describing “antibody passports” as nonsense, he explained that scientists were not sure yet that having COVID 19 anti-bodies gave immunity.

Summing up the wide-ranging discussion, while some could be seen as winners in this crisis, and others losers, all agreed that managing cash in troubled times was vital to the viability of their business.

In her closing remarks and vote of thanks, Maya Joshi, the current Chair of the ABIE Group, which comprises 16 organisations in Europe and Australia, noted how the sudden confinement had forced the group to come up with innovative solutions to keep in contact with its members through a series of webinars. These have opened up the network and facilitated interaction with a wide range of people and companies. Today’s Business Leaders Roundtable will hopefully be the first of a series.

A Diplomatic Perspective of 2020 to Date and Looking Ahead for Australian-German Business Relations, H.E. Lynette Wood, Australian Ambassador to Germany- Online Event, June 2020

On the 18th of June, the Australian Ambassador to Germany H.E. Lynette Wood gave an update on the diplomatic relations between Germany and Australia, highlighting the importance of both countries to work together to overcome the economic challenges arising from COVID-19 in the next 12 to 18 months.

While physical borders remain shut, the Australian and German business communities are communicating more and collaborating across an even broader range of issues. Key areas of cooperation between Australia and Germany include the ongoing AU-EU FTA negotiations, advocating for global trade and rules-based international organizations like WTO and WHO, skills and vocational training, research cooperation, and economic collaboration in sectors like MedTech, clean energy, AgTech.

We thank Ambassador Wood for her update and the lively Q&A session with our members and friends.

GABC Webinar with Squire Patton Boggs: COVID-19 Australian Visa update for Employers and Applicants

On 29 April, the German Australian Business Council was pleased to present its third webinar of the year with corporate member Squire Patton Boggs.

Registered Migration Agents Rachel Barnett (MARN 1800 448) and Madeleine Smith (MARN 1912 154) covered the latest updates and information relating to visa applicants and employers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Current processing of visa applications and travel restrictions  – What is the impact?
  • Compliance considerations for visa holders and employers both in and outside Australia, with answers to some frequently asked questions
  • Strategic considerations for ongoing employer sponsored applications currently on foot
  • Compliance issues for employers to consider where a business has shut down or work is limited
  • Strategies to manage employees during and out of the crisis
  • Safety obligations in managing a workforce – now and as restrictions ease

Members and friends are advised to refer to the following sites for the most updated information:

Squire Patton Boggs has also put together a CV19 Disruption: Global Migration Tracker which provides easy access to reliable sources of information in the form of links to relevant web pages of governments, national immigration departments and official visa application centres around the world. It also provides access to more detailed guidance and analysis on recent developments and COVID-19-related changes in immigration law in specific countries. Please email providing your name, organisation and email address to gain access to this tracker.

For specific queries, members and friends are welcome to contact Rachel Barnett and Madeleine Smith directly.

A recording of the webinar can be viewed HERE

GABC & ABIE France webinar with Mr John W.H. Denton OA, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, April 2020

The Covid 19 crisis may stop people gathering, but it hasn’t stopped ABIE from holding events. The German Australian Business Council  (GABC) and ABIE France teamed up on Tuesday, April 21, to organize a webinar with guest speaker, Mr John W.H. Denton AO, the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.

The theme, of course, had the coronavirus as its core :

The ICC’S Global Engagement to Mobilise Business in the Fight Against Covid-19.

Sabine Pittrof, Chair of the GABC, welcomed the participants.

“We are very excited about this webinar today. Not only because we have a very eminent Australian speaker, but also as this is our first joint event with our sister organization ABIE France!”

Co-host Bernard Tabary, President of ABIE France, echoed her sentiment.  We are delighted to have this opportunity to work together”, he said, noting that the large number of French members registered for the event, together with those from other ABIE organisations, indicating the high level of interest in the topic and the Guest Speaker.  “We are privileged to have such an impressive global business and international policy advisor as our guest”.

It was a dense and wide-ranging presentation in which John Denton called on businesses to collaborate globally in addressing the human, economic and societal impact of COVID-19.  Topics ranged through the early absence of government engagement with the private sector as a trusted partner, plunging global trade, lives versus livelihoods, climate change, the future of work practices, the future of our health services….

Describing the current crisis as “a global problem requiring a global solution”, John Denton said he reached out to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom in the early days of the crisis to see how the two organisations might work together.  The result was a first-ever agreement signed on the 16th March between the ICC and the WHO to mobilise business in the fight against Covid 19.

The joint ICC-WHO statement calls on national governments to adopt a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and underscores the urgency for Heads of State and Government to make preventing the spread of the virus a top priority.

The statement followed an ICC call for G20 countries to urgently agree on a comprehensive global action plan to address the pandemic and help restore confidence and stability in the global economy.

“The world has taken a $5 trillion hit, which is the size of the entire Japanese economy.  Global trade has been slashed by one third. Where governments are struggling, ICC must help.”

One of the ICC’s first actions was to launch a global campaign, #SaveOurSMEs, to help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another move has been to launch an ICC Carbon Council in Singapore, with John emphasising that the ICC was keeping climate at the forefront of its thinking. “It is not a trade off with the health crisis,” he said.  “Had we been further advanced with the goals of sustainable development, we would be better off during this crisis.”

John also said the ICC was addressing people’s legitimate concerns about protecting their health as they emerge from confinement. To complement many national efforts to develop COVID-19 immunity certificates, ICC is preparing to launch a digital health “passport” with the world’s largest medical and travel security services provider, International SOS.  The “ICC AOKpass” will help people and businesses make decisions about whether it is possible to return to work.

In conclusion, John Denton underscored that contributing to a coordinated effort to protect lives, livelihoods and the global economy is in line with the ICC purpose to enable business to secure peace, prosperity and opportunity for all.

With 85 participants, this very successful first joint German-French webinar proved so popular that more are being planned for the near future.

For more information:

A recording of the webinar can be accessed HERE