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

Testing Times: Insights from Sonic Healthcare, a key player in COVID-19 Diagnostics, April 2020

Over 25 members and friends joined our first ever webinar featuring Evangelos Kotsopoulos, CEO of Sonic Healthcare Germany and German Australian Business Council Board Member, who gave an overview of Sonic Healthcare’s significant role in the COVID-19 tests.

At a recent press conference by the Akkreditierten Labore in der Medizin, ALM e.V., it was shared that over a million SARS CoV-2 tests have been carried out in Germany since the beginning of March. This is equivalent to 1.5% of the Germany population having been tested.

The top ten test labs (six of which are Sonic Healthcare labs) have been performing over 40% of the testing in Germany. Sonic Healthcare has been equipped to do the SARS CoV-2 test since the end of January and their German labs have conducted more than 800,000 tests since the beginning of March with over 7,500 employees working across three shifts 24/7 and continuing to increase their productivity every day. With a daily capacity of 93,000 tests, Germany’s testing capacity is much higher than that of many other countries and Germany is now accepting tests from other countries such as the UK and Switzerland.

While the current PKR tests have served well, they only provide a snapshot in time of the patient’s condition and the focus is now on antibody testing.  These antibody tests can help determine the prevalence of the disease across the population, the real mortality rate, and people with immunity so a certain percentage of the population can return to work. That being said, there are only four to five companies with the ability to develop these antibody tests and each of the rapid testing machines can only process a small number of tests at a time. With this limited ability to scale antibody tests, the next conversation will be around who should be tested and when.

Speaking about the positive learnings from this experience, Evangelos shared that the speed and willingness for scientists, industry and government to collaborate and the appreciation for the diagnostic testing was heartening.

GABC Focus Future event with DB Schenker ANZ, February 2020, Frankfurt

On 6 February 2020, Craig Davison, CEO, DB Schenker ANZ provided an overview of the AU$1.0b business which has been in operation since 1962 with over 2000 employees. Craig discussed DB Schenker’s transition from a traditional freight forwarder and cargo logistics company to an end-to-end supply chain solutions provider offering value-added services to customers. He also highlighted some of the current key projects in Australia, including the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, BHP South Flank Project in Western Australia, and Belectric Limondale Solar Farm. The presentation was followed by a lively discussion about the future of the freight industry and DB Schenker ANZ’s sustainability initiatives.

We thank GABC Member Adina Frankfurt Neue Oper for the kind hospitality.


GABC Christmas Celebration, December 2019, Berlin

GABC members and friends met for a pre-Christmas networking dinner at Berlin´s famous Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market. Traditional Glühwein helped to warm up a freezing evening, followed by a festive dinner in Lutter & Wegener´s tent.

GABC Aviation event with Dr Ian Douglas, October 2019, Frankfurt

GABC members and friends from the aviation industry gathered in October for an event titled “A land far away: How mega-hubs impact the way we fly to Australia?”. The keynote speaker was Dr Ian Douglas , Chair of the Australian International Air Services Commission. Dr Ian Douglas, who recently retired from the School of Aviation at UNSW Sydney where he was a Senior Lecturer in aviation management,  shared his broad experience in air transportation economics and airline strategic thinking. The audience engaged in the discussion on the rise of the mega-hub airports in the Middle East and Asia and how this has changed travel patterns and the way in which Europe and Australia are connected. Additionally, GABC was honoured that the event was attended by Mrs Anna Fedeles, the new Australian Consul-General in Frankfurt. Ms Fedeles was happy to introduce the event topic in light of her own experiences, having recently served in the Middle East prior to her posting in Frankfurt.


End of Year Breakfast Briefing, December 2019, Frankfurt

On 11 December 2019, the German Australian Business Council concluded the year with a breakfast briefing focusing on our 2019 themes of the Australia- EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and digitalization.

We also had pleasure in welcoming Ms Anna Fedeles, the new Consul-General, Frankfurt, and Trade Commissioner with responsibility for the DACH region and the Netherlands. Anna gave an update on Austrade’s new Digital First strategy, which includes delivery of services digitally and access to wide-ranging data sources and information tools. She also highlighted the key investment priorities between Germany and Australia in sectors such as space, financial services, advanced manufacturing, mobility (as a service), defence, AgTech and energy.

Mr Jason Collins, CEO of fellow ABIE organization European Australian Business Council, then gave an update on the current status of the proposed FTA between the EU and Australia after the latest fifth round of negotiations. Against the context of the US-China trade dispute and Brexit, there is optimism regarding the negotiations as there has been significant investment growth over the years in sectors such as renewable energy and public procurement (particularly in infrastructure and defence) between Australia and the EU.

A lively discussion followed about the potential FTA benefits for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the promotion of stronger research and innovation ties between the EU and Australia through programs such as Horizon EU.

The event concluded with a farewell from the Business Council Board to our Co-Patron Mr Dan Tebbutt, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade who heads back to Australia in the new year. Dan has been a positive and proactive supporter of the Council and we wish him all the best in his next role.

We thank all members and friends for your support over the year and look forward to seeing everyone in 2020.