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Deep Dive – Unlocking AUKUS

Posted July 3, 2023

From nuclear-powered subs to innovative space tech, South Australia’s defence and space ecosystem is drawing international companies to Lot Fourteen for a chance to establish a foothold in these growing sectors.

Hidden away in a secure part of the Margaret Graham building lies a place where defence and space companies from near and far have a safe space to land, assemble and deploy business activity in South Australia. 

This is the Defence and Space Landing Pad. 

And it will be in higher demand after the recent AUKUS announcement by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, of Australia’s mission to acquire a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet. 

The deal, inked by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, is estimated to cost $268 billion to $368 billion, and create 20,000 jobs nation-wide over the next 30+ years. With more than 8500 jobs heading to South Australia as part of the ambitious program, work begins this year on a new state-of-the-art submarine shipyard in Osborne. Training will focus on trades in science and engineering to upskill and build a next-generation shipbuilding workforce, ready to fill the high-skilled, hi-tech jobs to come.

For Australia, the heart of the nuclear-powered submarines manufacture is here in Adelaide, and it will need a robust supply and talent pipeline to ensure success.


Because nuclear propulsion is independent of air, nuclear-powered submarines have no need to surface frequently, so they can maintain maximum stealth by staying completely submerged. The nuclear reactor on board a submarine allows it to operate at high speed for long periods of time, with virtually unlimited range.

Source: United States Naval Institute

The Defence and Space Landing Pad will be just one component of ensuring the supply chain is in place. Managed by state government department, Defence SA, it offers tenants access to short-term office accommodation, a range of support programs and a network of industry contacts.

And the alumni list is a long and high-calibre one, including L3 Harris, Bureau Veritas and Saber Astronautics, with the latter opening the Responsive Space Operations Centre at Lot Fourteen in 2021; providing next generation spaceflight operations services and software to the commercial space sector.

Far from commercial leasing business objectives, the Landing Pad aims to graduate its tenants within relatively short time frames, supporting them to establish a strong South Australian base and providing a seamless transition from entry to exit.


Catching up with a submariner

With 22 years in the Swedish Armed Forces as a submariner, it was fascinating to catch up with Anders Folbert, managing director of MCT Brattberg Australia, on the day of the AUKUS announcement. 

Folbert, who arrived at the Defence and Space Landing Pad in January 2023 and has substantial experience aboard submarines, says the new nuclear powered subs once operational can spend months underwater.

His role in the Swedish Navy and as a Submarine Commanding Officer led to several managing positions in Sweden’s Submarine project A26. He now heads up MCT Brattberg Australia, which he says is a “world leader in the design, development and manufacture of cable and pipe transits”, and provides local support to key clients BAE Systems, SAAB Australia and ASC.

“MCT Brattberg is the original creator of multicable and pipe transit, patented in the early 1950s and since then has become the industry standard because of its high performance and safety features, and represented by more than 200 offices in the world,” Folbert says.

”The cable and pipe transits must have features that make them safe in a variety of hazardous applications to protect people, environment – including intellectual property like computer data – and to help ensure the continued operations. 

“I believe that Cable Penetration Seals should receive the same attention to detail as the watertight and fire tight doors on a ship, platform or building.​ Both penetrate the same division and, therefore, are local weaknesses within the construction.”

Projects in the Defence sector are the main reason for the company’s new subsidiary in Adelaide, but they are also involved in other projects at sea and on land (for example train, offshore, buildings and data centres) and are looking at expanding in these areas.


Catching up with MBDA

MBDA is another new arrival to Lot Fourteen, taking up residence in the Defence and Space Landing Pad in March 2023. 

The company has over 13,000 employees worldwide and is Europe’s leading missile and missile systems company. MBDA uses leading-edge technology, focusing on the design, development, production and through-life support of highly complex guided missile systems. Sarah Webb, Head of Engineering Australia at MBDA Systems, says that they’re excited to be based at the innovation district. 

“This new local presence in South Australia is an important step for MBDA in supporting the growth and sustainment of Australia’s Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise industrial capability,” she says.

“We are engaging across both Primes and SMEs in the Australia supply chain given some of the unique capabilities that exist and saw Lot Fourteen as an obvious location to enable those collaborative discussions in South Australia.”

Webb says her initial focus is to build long-term relationships, partnering with local Australian entities, while building a team.

“Last year in the UK, we worked with over 700 SMEs. We’re not at that level yet in Australia, but we’re keen to support the development of supply-chain and sovereign capabilities,” she says.

“For us, it’s not about keeping all our capabilities under lock and key. It’s about upskilling local teams, while ensuring they have ownership of products and make informed decisions on the ground, rather than keeping all capabilities in other countries.

“We’re also always looking at how to increase our workforce diversity globally, for example through supporting programs to get girls into software coding, to raising awareness around neurodiversity in the workplace.”

As the state prepares to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by AUKUS, Lot Fourteen will continue to build strong networks with other knowledge and manufacturing hubs including the Osborne Naval Shipyard, the Edinburgh Defence Precinct and the future Australian Space Park.

Visit their website to learn more about the Defence and Space Landing Pad at Lot Fourteen.

Read more stories like this on Issue_01 of Lot Fourteen’s Boundless Magazine

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