ABIE Business Leaders Forum, Online Event, March, 2021

With much of the world still struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activity has fallen drastically, foreshadowing the most severe recession in nearly a century. As part of the post-COVID-19 recovery, countries are now focusing on measures that can drive sustainability while boosting jobs, income and growth and accelerating climate action.

It was no surprise then that this was the topic chosen for the second ABIE Network Business Leaders Roundtable held on the 18 March 2021 and titled “Opportunities for a sustainability-driven recovery: Perspectives between Australia and Europe”.

The three speakers, Romain Desrousseaux, Deputy CEO of Neoen; Jeff Connolly, Chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia Pacific and Roland Schmidt, MD of Macquarie Capital, representing the financial services, industrial infrastructure and power sectors, are all members of the ABIE network. Nicola Watkinson, MD of International Trade and Investment at TheCityUK and former Austrade Senior Trade Commissioner for Western Europe, joined from the UK to moderate the round table.

Roland Schmidt opened the discussion with an introduction to Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG), a primary vehicle for principal investment in green energy projects, and home to one of the world’s largest teams of green energy investment specialists. The group has already committed and arranged £20+ bn to support green energy projects around the world.

As countries turn towards renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint in order to reach the goals of the Paris agreement, companies like Neoen, France’s leading independent producer of renewable energy, play a key role in this transition. Romain Desrousseaux pointed out that in 2020 despite the COVID-19 crisis, Neoen had a turnover of €300 million and now operates 4 GW of assets in 15 countries.

Siemens is also working towards becoming the world’s first major industrial company to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030 and have already reduced their carbon footprint by 54% and ahead of schedule. Jeff Connolly explained that Siemens hopes to drive sustainability through the areas of intelligent infrastructure, industry 4.0 and the future of energy – everything from smart infrastructure delivering energy efficiency upgrades for commercial buildings through to automation and digitalisation in industrial plants and even enabling green hydrogen from renewables.

Green hydrogen was a recurring topic discussed by the three speakers with Roland Schmidt describing it as “the next big thing” with countries like Australia and Germany playing a key role in establishing a global hydrogen market.

On whether Australia is a good place to invest in renewable energy, Romain Desrousseaux indicated that Australia has a great macro environment for renewable energy “with both wind and sun in the same location” as well as “plenty of land to build large assets”. He also mentioned certain difficulties faced including the complexity of organising and connecting an asset within the expansive Australian electricity network and meeting local specificities. This has not put Neoen off from investing more than AUD3 billion in projects around Australia since its presence in 2012 including the Hornsdale Power Reserve and a new Victorian Big Battery which will become one of the largest batteries in the world.

In regards to the accelerated digitalisation due to the COVID-19 crisis and the various opportunities for future growth and sustainability, Jeff Connolly said that there are many elements to it and “it’s about better use of resources”. Wolf of the Willows craft brewery for instance reduced their brew time from 25 to 18 days. He also highlighted Hydrogen Park in South Australia which uses Siemens technology to produce green hydrogen from excess rooftop solar to inject into the gas network as well as to ship to industrial customers around Australia. He also believes that there is a confidence issue which is holding some companies back from reaching their sustainability goals and which needs to be addressed. In particular, there needs to be an incentive on the demand side to take up business risk and work on R&D.

The circular economy is also a hot topic in Australia at the moment, with state and federal governments investing in circular economy innovation projects.

The exchange ended with valuable insights into whether we are seeing a genuine change of global mindset regarding government attitudes to sustainability and climate change and whether this would create winner and loser markets. “There is a shift in mindset on green energy and green economy, but it’s also a matter of affordability”, said Roland Schmidt. “There is a transition globally, but some countries around the globe will need help to be able to participate in the transition.”

In his closing remarks and vote of thanks, Richard York, the current Chair of the ABIE Group, which comprises 17 organisations in Europe and Australia, hoped that initiatives like this annual ABIE Business Leaders Roundtable would help to build trust and understanding between companies in Australia and Europe.

COVID-19 Impact on under- and postgraduate academic exchange, Online Event, February 2021

On 5th of February 2021, the Business Council had the pleasure of hosting an online event with Katharina McGrath, Director of the DAAD Information Centre in Sydney, and Christian Strowa, Head of Section “Scholarship Programmes Asia and the Pacific” at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in Bonn. The DAAD is a self-governing organisation comprised of German higher education institutions and their student bodies and constitutes one of the largest funding bodies for academic exchange worldwide. Since it was founded in 1925, the DAAD has supported more than 2.6 million academics in Germany and abroad. It relies on a strong organisational structure, a worldwide network of partners and alumni and a motivated staff of over 900 employees.

Christian Strowa provided a structural overview and explained DAAD’s mission from an operational point of view. He introduced the DAAD’s current strategic goals: promote excellence in education and science through international exchange, enhance international collaboration and promote global responsibility and development through “change by exchange”, the DAAD’s motto. He also introduced the pillars of the German research sector from a funding point of view. Detailed figures were provided on international student exchange and the current measures in place in view of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Katharina McGrath outlined scholarships and funding opportunities for exchanges from Australia to Germany and spoke about the current situation of Australian universities with regards to international exchange during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines may allow exchanges to resume in the near future but new opportunities to build deeper connections have accelerated through virtual tools in the meantime.

If you have interest in watching the webinar, please contact our office for access to a recording.

Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce Virtual Event: A 2021 Toast to Australia: Aussie Wine Tasting and Networking, February 2021

The Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce invited members to their virtual event: A 2021 Toast to Australia: Aussie Wine Tasting and Networking on the 3rd of February, 2021. Representatives of various ABIE Groups across Europe were also invited to participate to broaden the networking across borders. Eberhard Goihl, GABC treasurer, attended as the German flag-bearer.

The wines were delivered to participants beforehand, so everybody could smell, taste and drink the products as Mark Flounders from Plonk Wines Ltd. introduced three different wines and shared a lot of insider information. Despite the European guests experiencing their first contact with the new Brexit regulations (the wine delivery was delayed in Customs due to declaration requirements), everybody enjoyed the session and networking opportunities very much.

Corporate Roundtable with H.E Philip Green, Online, December 2020

In order to welcome Ambassador Philip Green to Germany, the German Australian Business Council held a virtual corporate roundtable for corporate members on the 3rd  of December 2020. During this exclusive C-Level briefing, which took place under Chatham House rules, the Ambassador set out key priorities for his tenure. Participants had the opportunity to put their questions to the Ambassador.

Given the success of the format, we are looking at hosting further industry-specific roundtables in 2021.

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