Jeff Connolly joins Thales Australia as CEO


By Peter Roberts

French defence group Thales has appointed leading Australian manufacturing figure Jeff Connolly as Australia and New Zealand CEO.

The well known head of Siemens in Australia joins following the decision by CEO Chris Jenkins to retire after 14 years in the role.

Connolly will take up the role in September with Jenkins continuing as a non-executive director of the defence company after a period of leave.

Australian-born Connolly has held senior executive roles throughout Australia, Europe and Asia, including 30 years with technology and engineering company Siemens AG, where he has been executive chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia and New Zealand for the past 10 years.

Connolly has had a leading role in Australia promoting industry 4.0 initiatives, and was instrumental in Siemens supporting university research and teaching work through the provisions of Siemens technology assets.

He chaired the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce and the federal government’s Research Commercialisation Taskforce, and in 2019 was made an adjunct professor of Swinburne University recognising ‘significant contributions to Industry 4.0 in Australia’.

At the time Swinburne’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (R&D) Professor Aleksandar Subic said: “No other individual has contributed so much to Australia’s journey through the fourth industrial revolution.

“He is an advocate and thought leader, and as a company, Siemens has invested an incredible amount of time, resources and effort to bring this capability to life across Australia.”

Connolly’s arrival comes at a critical time for Thales, which is investing heavily in revitalising its widespread Australian product development and manufacturing capabilities.

In January Thales began construction on the first phase of its plan to create an advanced manufacturing 4.0 and integration hub at the historic Lithgow Arms factory in regional NSW. This followed a $12 million investment in infrastructure and advanced manufacturing capabilities at its’ Lithgow and Mulwala facilities,

Most recently Thales established a Small Arms Collaboration and Cooperation Centre (C3) at its Lithgow Arms plant, and entered into a teaming agreement with Ocius Technology to develop and deploy an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV)

Thales ANZ chair Belinda Hutchinson said the company was delighted to welcome a highly regarded senior business leader of Mr Connolly’s calibre to Thales.

Hutchinson said: “As an experienced, passionate and committed supporter of Australian research, innovation and modern manufacturing, Jeff has the strategic and operational capability to deliver for our customers and support our employees and other stakeholders.”

Connolly himself said he was excited by the opportunity to lead one of Australia’s most innovative and trusted companies.

In his 17 years with Thales Jenkins, an engineer, has focused on technology and engineering as drivers of the company’s Australian business.

He joined Thales from GEC Marconi, and was instrumental in Thales successful involvement in the Collins class submarine build.

Over the past 15 years Thales has exported more than $500 million of Australian developed and manufactured product.

Picture: Jeff Connolly

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