MONCh talks to Australian companies about their success at Eurosatory
This year at Eurosatory, approximately 45 Australian companies have made the trip from “Down-Under” to demonstrate their capabilities and showcase products into the European defence market, with a focus on developing business partnerships enabling engagement in commercial opportunities across Europe.
While some of these companies are prime contractors, such as Thales Australia, the majority of them are small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) centred at the stand in Hall 6. Team Defence Australia TDA, part of Australia’s newly established Defence Export Office, provides support to Australian businesses entering and/or working in the defence industry by organising trade missions to global events (such as Eurosatory) and assisting them in the process of accessing global markets. “A non-EU company seeking to do business in Europe is not eligible to tender directly into the European market,” Claire Willette, CEO of Australian Industry & Defence Network – Victoria, the peak body representing defence industry SMEs, told MONCh; “there are opportunities to do so through government-to-government arrangements, or becoming part of the global supply chain for major acquisition programmes, however that is very different from having direct entry into market.” For SMEs that are unfamiliar with the European defence market and its key players, building relationships from scratch to enter different acquisition programmes can therefore become a daunting, if not quasi-impossible, task.
TDA’s primary role is ensuring SMEs get the most out of their time during international defence shows. “In the case of Eurosatory, it is all about building relationships and exposing our European colleagues to the vast array of capabilities and technologies in Australia,” continues Ms Willette; “TDA, along with State Government representatives, Industry Associations, and our Senior Military Advocates, work as a team to help Australian SMEs understand international defence markets and provide them with the tools required to build relationships, such as Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), Business to Business (B2B) sessions, and preparation for pitchfests and networking events.” All of these resources combined, contribute to companies identifying potential new markets and engaging with companies who recognise the value proposition of engaging Australian SMEs as suppliers.
In this context, on 13 June Claire Willette signed an MoU focusing on collaboration and partnership, arranged by the Victorian State Government, with the Region Centre Val de Loire, forming the basis for a partnership between Victoria’s SMEs and those of the Region Centre, with an emphasis on Land Systems. “The aim of the MoU is to provide Australian companies opportunities, at every trade event, to directly engage in B2B sessions with peer companies active in the European market, and already engaged in programmes,” says Ms Willette. This will facilitate the development of partnerships that will then make them eligible to tender within the EU.
While at the TDA stand, MONCh had the opportunity to talk to two companies that have been able to take advantage of the opportunities facilitated by TDA and can be considered real success stories in this sense.
Armor Australia is a designer and manufacturer of leading edge Ballistic Protection Systems; it offers a wide variety of armour products for military land vehicles, aerospace, maritime, commercial and personal application. Thanks to TDA exposure, the company has now been active in the European market for approximately four years, where it has been working to get NATO contracts. At the moment, it has on-going contracts with the Danish Ministry of Defence and National Police, the Belgian Army and the Italian Army. “The stands help getting attention, and the support we are getting from TDA, such as rank support from Brigadier David Shields, who can discuss the technologies on a peer-to-peer basis, is crucial in helping us increase our customer base in Europe,” Craig Line, Body Armour Technical Sales & PM, told MONCh.
At the TDA stand EOS is also presenting its technology, the R400S-Mk2 Remote Weapon Station (RWS). EOS RWS is plug-and-play compatible with other EOS weapon systems and combines the lightweight 30mm ATK M230 LF cannon to provide light vehicles with access to firepower. The Mk2 has a variant optimised for tracked vehicles, which minimises high frequency road and vehicle vibration, facilitating mobile engagements up to 2km range. EOS also integrates its RWS on patrol ships using a gimble for stabilisation. The company already has an on-going contract with the Netherlands, currently upgrading the RWS on their Bushmaster, and is talking to Germany, although this is still at a very early stage.
“We are seeing confidence grow on the stands,” noted Ms Willette, “even sitting amongst themselves, these companies are doing as much business with one-another as they are with any of the international participants.” This confirms Mr Line’s point that being part of TDA at Eurosatory is also an opportunity to feed off of each other’s work.
But while these stories of Armor and EOS, amongst many others, are proof that Australia is taking its recently released Defence Export Strategy, and its political commitment to growing a robust and competitive defence export market, very seriously, this remains a new space for Australia’s SMEs, and will require them to be as commercially agile as they are innovative. And while Eurosatory provides a fantastic opportunity for participating Australian companies to enter the European market, it also provides opportunity for the supporting organisations to continue providing the best support possible to these companies. “Before Euronaval [in October] there will be a number of prep sessions provided to our SMEs, so that they can further improve and continue to grow… In Victoria alone we have over 500 SMEs who are actively engaged in trying to identify new export opportunities across the world, so whatever we can do to strengthen their competitiveness is well worth the effort, ” concluded Ms Willette.