The Australia-Germany Innovation Forum

Australian Trade Commission, Frankfurt

Hosted by the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), the Australia-Germany Innovation Forum was held in Frankfurt on January 24, 2013. Its focus was the future of Australian-German collaboration in the fields of innovation, research and development.
Industry and academic experts from both countries took their turns behind the microphone to put forward ideas and present compelling examples of existing successful cooperation, as well as to show how Australia and Germany can benefit from each other’s strengths in business partnerships.
As the first speaker, Australian Ambassador to Germany Peter Tesch gave an overview of the existing business relations between the two countries – and noted that there is still a lot of potential for cooperation in tackling the big challenges of the future. Both governments have identified preventative health, biodiversity and clean energy as the priority areas for developing common agenda.
“There are many, many more things happening at the university level, and we are very keen to exploit those to help create an awareness of what Australia brings to the table,” said Tesch.
In his keynote address, Göran Roos, a pioneer in the modern field of intellectual capital science, pointed out that Australian firms are exceedingly good at reactive problem-solving – a skill he considers to be an offshoot of the “outback mechanic” mentality. Conversely, he sees Germany and other Germanic countries as places that specialise in long-term, strategic thinking. Such differences are complementary, he added, noting that both sides can benefit from each other’s skills.
The following eight speakers were a mixture of industry and academic representatives. First up was Calum Drummond, Group Executive for Manufacturing, Materials and Minerals at CSIRO (Australia’s national scientific research body), who presented a facts-and-figures overview of the institution. He was followed by Karl Föger from Ceramic Fuel Cells, who explained how his company operates in both Australia and Germany in the field of clean-energy innovation. Jens Schlimbach from Quickstep also talked about how his company benefits from its international operations in the production of technology for the aerospace, defence and automotive sectors.
Steffen Walz of Melbourne’s RMIT University discussed how game-design thinking and experimental entertainment can positively affect and alter architecture and urbanism, mobility, popular media, storytelling, engagement, other sciences and even society itself. The university’s research body in this area, GEElab, also has a base in Germany and fosters active collaboration with German industry partners.
Dominik Stampfl from Audi presented the Audi Urban Future Initiative, which aims to establish a dialogue on the synergy of mobility, architecture and urban development. He talked about how game-design thinking, as described by the previous speaker, can be incorporated into the project.
James Steele from Plantic Technologies showed the audience how the bioplastic developed by his company benefits the environment and the consumer. He sees Plantic Technologies as a good example of Australian development and innovation combined with German manufacturing excellence: an R&D base in Melbourne and manufacturing operations in Jena.
Hannes Lau gave an insight into his invention, LiquidKeyboard – a virtual keyboard for touchscreens and surfaces that adapts to the user’s natural finger positions and allows users to touch-type on smooth surfaces. He recalled his positive experiences in gaining support from Australian institutions for turning his idea into reality.
The last speaker, Frank Wagner from German research organisation Fraunhofer, provided an overview of Fraunhofer’s Australian-based activities and its cooperation with Australian research institutions, government bodies and businesses.
At the conclusion of the event, all attendees were invited to join in a buffet lunch. This gave everyone the chance to mingle, network and find out more about the companies, organisations and projects introduced by the speakers. Members of Austrade as well as ABIE were present and available to answer questions on German-Australian business and research opportunities.