Cochlear welcomed representatives of the Queensland State Government on 30 July to unveil its world-class new facility in Newstead, Brisbane.

Founded in Sydney in 1981, Cochlear is a global leader in implantable hearing solutions. The company has a global workforce of 3,500 people and invests more than $150m a year in research & development. Products include hearing systems for cochlear, bone conduction and acoustic implants. Over 450,000 people of all ages, across more than 100 countries, now hear because of Cochlear.

Cochlear has completed the final phase of redevelopment at the Newstead site, which it has owned since 2007 when the company acquired the manufacturing operations of Brisbane company Crystalaid. Currently around 200 people are employed on the site, with 130 working in direct manufacturing and logistics, 40 working in engineering, and the remainder in administration and operations. The new facility has been built for growth in mind, with Cochlear planning to expand and take on more employees, commencing in early 2019, plus ongoing training and upskilling for staff currently employed.

Cameron Dick, State Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure & Planning, and Grace Grace, State Minister for Education and Minister for Industrial Relations, attended the new facility’s unveiling on 30 July. Dig Howitt, CEO of Cochlear, said: “I am pleased to welcome Minister Dick and Minister Grace to our new facility. We look forward to adding more skilled team members as we expand our advanced manufacturing operations here in Queensland.”

Minister Dick said: “Cochlear has transformed the lives more than 475,000 people across 100 countries and now they will continue their great work with Queensland-built technology. This investment has enabled Cochlear to redirect more than $20m of work from overseas to Queensland, so not only is our state supporting people experiencing hearing loss but additional staff will be recruited as the facility ramps up.

“More than 27,000 Queenslanders have severe to profound hearing loss, more than 2100 have a Cochlear implant, and we hope to see many more Queenslanders benefitting from this incredible innovation now happening right here in our state.”

Minister Dick added that Cochlear is the perfect example of Australian-headquartered, globally competitive exporters choosing Queensland to base their manufacturing operations.

“This is an important step for the development of advanced manufacturing capabilities in our state, with our growing manufacturing sector already employing 170,000 Queenslanders and consistently contributing nearly $20 billion a year to Queensland’s economy,” he said. “This is what our government is focused on creating: the high-tech, high-paid jobs of the future for Queenslanders manufacturing products that create high-value exports for our economy. We want manufacturing businesses in Queensland to set their sights on delivering not only for domestic markets, but also for global markets, and Cochlear is one company grasping that vision with both hands through their Newstead operations.”

In 2017 it was estimated one in six, or approximately 3.6m Australians were affected by disabling hearing loss. In line with global trends, and largely due to the ageing population, this number is expected to rise significantly without effective policy intervention.

Cochlear has invested more than $15m in capital, plant, equipment and labour to enable the Newstead facility to manufacture the latest electronic components used in its implants. This is in addition to products and components used in the external parts of the cochlear implant system like sound processors. Manufacturing staff will be provided on-the-job training before commencing work on the new production line.

Class 3 implantable medical devices are the most heavily regulated, so every aspect of the Newstead facility has had to be validated and verified to make it fully compliant with global governing bodies. Facility compliance with the regulations enables the export of products to various global markets. Each year over 400 different types of products are produced through a mixture of high tech automation and painstaking manual micro assembly work. In 2017-18, the facility manufactured 1.2m parts and 550,000 finished products for global export.

“Innovation has been essential to Cochlear’s success as an Australian headquartered, globally competitive exporter, and we are delighted this new facility provides us the opportunity to continue our investment locally,” added Howitt. “With Australia’s ageing population, finding solutions for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss is an increasingly important issue to address. Cochlear looks forward to working with the Queensland Government, continuing our work to make hearing a national health priority and cement Australia as the world leader in hearing health.” Mr Howitt said.