Survey suggests SME optimism despite inflationary pressures and recession fears:
The latest annual SME Compass Report by lender Banjo Loans found 70 per cent believe 2023 will be a year of revenue growth for them. The survey of 1,011 respondents found they were “feeling upbeat about the future and reporting revenue growth despite the pressures of the current economic climate and fears of recession”, according to Banjo. CEO Guy Callaghan said there was a clear gap between consumer sentiment and business sentiment. “In a further testament to positivity and confidence, more than a third of SMEs have said they are planning to merge with a competitor or acquire another business in 2023,” said Callaghan. “This is an encouraging sign that they’re seeing a positive future for their business on the horizon.” By sector, manufacturing (70 per cent) and construction (68 per cent) were most likely to leverage external financing products in the year ahead.
Renewable Metals wins Supercharge Australia award
Perth-based Renewable Metals, a company commercialising technology that turns battery waste into battery metals, has won the inaugural Supercharge Australia Innovation Challenge Award. The process is claimed to achieve over 95 per cent recovery of the valuable materials in lithium batteries including lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite. “Renewable Metals unique alkali-based process recovers nearly all the lithium and other metals with minimal chemical by-products and 65% fewer emissions than mining,” said CEO Luan Atkinson. “Other metals recycling processing use 1.2 tonnes of acid for every tonne of battery waste, creating 1.5 tonnes of sodium sulfate (salt).” University of Wollongong spinout Sicona came second with its process to produce next-gen battery materials technology used in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries. Roev, which converts large fleets of utes to electric, came third, and Vaulta, which makes recyclable and repairable high-performance batteries. placed fourth. Supercharge Australia is a project of two not-for-profit accelerators, New Energy Nexus and EnergyLab. In it, 11 start-ups, ranging from developers of novel cell chemistries to electric vehicle up-scalers and critical metals recyclers, were matched with mentors and experts.
Queensland appoints new Trade Commissioner for the Pacific
The Queensland government has announced Leata Alaimoana as Trade Commissioner for the Pacific region. Alaimoana is based in the Brisbane office of Trade and Investment Queensland and will travel extensively through the region through the role, according to a statement. Among previous roles, Alaimoana was Impact Investment Manager with Pacific Trade Invest Australia — the trade and investment arm for the Pacific Islands Forum — and will lead the state government’s Pacific Trade Strategy in her new position. The strategy’s focus is on key export partners across Melanesia and Polynesia, including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. In 2021, Queensland exports to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu were valued at $856 million, representing 31.6 per cent of Australian exports to the region.
FFI and Statkraft secure power for proposed Holmaneset green hydrogen and green ammonia project
Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) has secured renewable power for its proposed Holmaneset green energy project in Norway, entering into a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Statkraft. The conditional agreement was signed in Oslo on Thursday (Australian time) and will see Statkraft supply renewable power to support FFI’s operational plans for a 300 megawatt green hydrogen and green ammonia facility. FFI CEO Mark Hutchinson said, “There is an urgency to produce green hydrogen and green ammonia and support global decarbonisation as quickly as possible”, adding that Statkraft was chosen to develop one of FFI’s first green ammonia projects. FFI undertook a Scoping Study across Norway to identify potential locations for the development of renewable energy and port facilities. Through that process, the Holmaneset Project site (approximately 8 kilometres west of Svelgen in Bremanger municipality) was identified as a prime location. The Holmaneset Project is currently at the feasibility stage.
Siemens, Food South Australia announce emissions tracking pilot
Engineering company Siemens, in association with Food South Australia (Food SA), is looking for food and beverage companies in the state to be part of a nation-first to trial of SiGreen. SiGreen is a tool developed by Siemens, and is described as enabling management of “verifiable Product Carbon Footprints (PCF)” across a company’s supply chain “while each company maintains full data sovereignty”. “Supporting our strong-performing food manufacturing sector to identify, track and reduce their carbon footprint will be critical to South Australia’s future economic and environmental sustainability,” said SA deputy premier Dr Susan Close, who welcomed the pilot program. Siemens Australia and New Zealand CEO Peter Halliday said, “Most companies don’t realise this, but a commitment to net zero means a commitment to measure, track and reduce your emissions in your direct supply chain – otherwise known as scope 3 emissions. Put simply, our industries need to accelerate their efforts and capabilities around net zero or they risk being locked out of critical local and global supply chains.” The pilot will be facilitated by peak body for the sector, Food SA.
Clinical data shows ease-of-use and potential self-administration of Vaxxas patch
Clinical-stage biotechnology company Vaxxas announced publication of clinical trial data demonstrating the potential of its high-density microarray patch (HD-MAP) to effectively deliver vaccines by trained professionals or through individual self-administration. In the study, published in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, the response of the skin, including erythema, was observed at all application sites and data showed no difference was found between trained user or self-administered applications. The study involved 20 healthy participants between 18-45 years old, 65 percent of whom were female. The HD-MAPs were coated with a biologically inert and fluorescent coating (without a vaccine) and then applied to the upper arm (over the deltoid muscle), the volar forearm, and the posterior shoulder of each participant by a trained user. “With this promising initial validation of our technology’s self- or lower-skilled administration potential, we believe we are on a pathway to offering a truly differentiated alternative to delivering vaccination with a global reach, particularly into lower- and middle-income countries or in emergency use pandemic situations,” said Vaxxas’ Chief Technology Officer and co-author of the publication, Dr Angus Forster.
CDU drones program gets federal funding
Students from across the Northern Territory will have the chance to learn the ins and outs of the NT drone industry after a Charles Darwin University (CDU) program was awarded $99,020 through The Maker Projects: Community STEM Engagement Grants 2022. The program, in partnership with National Drones, will provide a pathway into STEM careers for Northern Territory youths in years 9 to 12, including the option to achieve a nationally recognised/accredited Vocational Education and Training qualification. CDU Drone program coordinator Dr Rebecca Rogers said students would be introduced to different aspects of the Territory’s unique drone industry and learn how to use the technology to solve real-world problems. “We really want the program to highlight existing challenges that are unique to the Northern Territory and the drone pilots trying to solve them,” said Rogers. “This means students might explore how drones can detect feral pigs or monitor endangered wallabies, deliver health services or even look for rock art.”
Picture: disused lithium ion batteries (credit Getty Images)