Collaboration network META and the Australian Sports Technologies Network (ASTN) together have launched the national META Sports Advanced Manufacturing Hub — a partnership created to give Australian manufacturers and researchers the opportunity to collaboratively foster innovation in sports technologies, such as wearable devices, smart apparel, equipment, medical technologies, and health products.
According to ASTN chairman James Demetriou, the sports technology and equipment market is currently valued at AU$300 billion globally, presenting Australian businesses an opportunity to have a larger stake in it.
"Australia currently has a tiny share of that market," he said.
"We export only AU$286 million in manufactured sports products but import AU$2 billion from overseas. The Sports Advanced Manufacturing Hub has been created to address this imbalance as there is a very real risk that Australia will get left behind if we don't take action now."
META chairman Albert Goller similarly echoed this point, highlighting the most innovative businesses in Australia are mainly small to medium enterprises.
"The problem or challenges we see at the moment is Australia is not travelling very well in this market. We have great products, we have great sports people, but unfortunately we haven't moved that into global powerhouse as an industry," he said.
The hub is expected to provide SMEs, researchers, and large corporations with the support to develop, market, and export their sports technologies products and services to make them commercially available both domestically and internationally.
In addition, the META Sports Advanced Manufacturing Hub will also work to encourage foreign investment and create employment opportunities through new commercial projects.
"We want to establish Australia as a global leader, not only on the sports field but also in sports manufacturing and technology. We will connect the dots between manufacturers and researchers, build the brand of our sports technology industry and showcase Australia's capabilities to the global market," said Zoran Angelkovski, META managing director.
Hub members will initially be made up of a network of 350 members from META's membership, and ASTN's national network including SMEs, universities, and national sporting organisations, such as Deakin University, Monash University, CSIRO, and Tennis Australia.
Through the META Sports Advanced Manufacturing Hub, ASTN and META members will also work together to identify ways that technology being developed for sport can be transferred across other industries, such as research into fatigue on muscles or the development of protective equipment being transferred into the aged care or defence sectors.
"Our country is a major global player in industries such as mining and medical science, but we have so far failed to fully exploit the potential of our sports technology such as smart apparel, wearable technologies, and protective wear," said Demetriou.
"We have a pipeline of projects that have overseas interest and it is the job of the Sports Advanced Manufacturing Hub to convert this interest into tangible opportunities and sell Australian innovation to the world."
While the government-funded initiative is receiving AU$10 million on an annual basis, Goller said the Hub has already identified up to AU$600 million worth of possible revenue generating projects.
"Our members have already identified business opportunities, but when we talk about business opportunities we are not looking into anything that takes longer than two years. We are not doing R&D, we're really commercialising ideas that are already there," he said.
It will be one of more than 10 collaboration hubs to be launched this year. This is the second hub META has launched with the first being in partnership with the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing in May that aims to capitalise on Australia's carbon fibre industry.