David Ridgway is a Member of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of South Australia and the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment in the State Government led by Premier Steven Marshall. He spoke to William Poole.

AMT: What’s the current state of play for the manufacturing industry in South Australia?

David Ridgway: South Australia has a very long history of manufacturing, which is transitioning into new, more advanced industries including space, energy and future mobility, and will rely on new materials and processes to be competitive. With more than $50bn in future defence manufacturing happening in South Australia, opportunities for business have never been better

Our geographic positioning, topography, climate, long, straight regional roads, world-class manufacturing and technology have positioned the state as a leader for safe autonomous vehicles – it’s worth pointing out that Adelaide is the only city in the world to be currently trialling four brands of autonomous shuttles in public areas. Adelaide has been chosen by EasyMile as the location for its Asia-Pacific headquarters, which is being established this month, and manufacturing will commence in partnership with South Australian businesses later this year.


AMT: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry in the state?

DR: The cyber-physical Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, represents several unique implementation challenges for industry. It requires targeted investment in new digital technology and engineering-based skills to support the transition towards a modern industrial economy.

A key challenge is that many South Australian businesses are small – 98% of businesses in South Australia employ less than 20 people. We are committed to helping early adopters of these emerging technologies grow their business through facilitating export and international investment opportunities.


AMT: And what do you regard as the greatest strengths of manufacturers there?

DR: Technology plays a central role in the competitiveness of South Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry, supporting innovation, driving product and service development and improving performance

There are great synergies and collaboration between research, industry and education that will enable the state to prepare for industries of the future

In emerging technologies such as photonics, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing, advanced materials, robotics and digital technology, South Australia is demonstrating significant strengths in research and development expertise. The state has a unique fusion of talent and technologies that make ideas happen and is a launch-pad for forward-thinking businesses to grow across an increasingly competitive global market.


AMT: Tell us about what the Marshall Government is doing to support and promote manufacturing.

DR: The Marshall Liberal Government is committed to building a dynamic advanced manufacturing ecosystem and strong value chains, creating an environment for businesses to grow from concept to full commercialisation.

I recently joined several South Australian companies displaying at Hannover Messe (Germany) – a great opportunity for our South Australian companies to gain exposure on the world stage. This is the first time South Australia has exhibited at Hannover Messe, and as the only Australian state to exhibit there, we’re committed to being a first mover. It is important for our organisations to connect with global partners, thereby increasing the opportunities to boost trade and investment in the state.

The Marshall Liberal Government has also supported South Australian photonics companies to exhibit at global trade show Photonics West (in San Francisco), facilitating connections between innovative South Australian photonics manufacturers and global corporations.

We are supporting companies to develop their technical capability and business systems through our new Emerging Technology Interest Groups program. With these interest groups we will build closer connections between advanced manufacturers and provide a platform for companies to share their experiences and help accelerate the uptake of new technologies, supported by leading independent expertise present in our universities.

Through our innovation hub, Lot Fourteen, South Australia is developing a dynamic start-up ecosystem with a focus on future industries including manufacturing and design.

A point about making South Australia an attractive place to invest? Our recently established South Australian Productivity Commission will facilitate productivity growth, unlock new economic opportunities, support job creation and remove existing regulatory barriers.


AMT: Where do you want to see the industry in 10 years time?

DR: In 10 years’ time I would hope that we have a dynamic and specialised advanced manufacturing sector that is really seeing the defence and space industry sectors flourish. With the billions of dollars flowing into our state for the ships and subs builds, along with the National Space Agency, I’d hope that South Australia is a national leader in space industry, satellite manufacturing, frontier materials, photonics and much more. The opportunity to develop and scale up these industries in South Australia is massive.

I’d also like to see the pace from R&D (research & development) to market significantly shortened in the years ahead and hope that I would barely recognise the industry due a flourishing innovation and entrepreneurial sector constantly transforming and reshaping the industry to keep us competitive and consistent with global trends.


AMT: Tell us about your professional background and how you ended up in your current role.

DR: I am from the south-east of South Australia and grew up on the family farm. We diversified and grew bulbs for the cut flower industry. Due to biosecurity changes it was necessary to embrace the latest technology to be globally competitive and we eventually became the biggest gladioli supplier in Australia.

This experience in both the agricultural sector and in business gave me the skills to understand pressures on business and the things our State needs to focus on to be internationally competitive. I was interested in politics and a member of the Liberal Party for a long time, and was elected as a Member of the Legislative Council in 2002.


AMT: What’s the most satisfying aspect of the job?

DR: I am a passionate advocate of South Australia. We are the perfect size with a vibrant city that has everything you need. We have magnificent natural landscapes and beaches, outstanding food and wine. Additionally, we have some true ingenuity and innovation that has come out of South Australia. It’s fantastic to be able to tell the world about what a great place South Australia is to visit, live or invest in each day.