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Clean tech firms gain access to ‘supplier advocates’

Wednesday, 5 October 2011 | By Michelle Hammond
Australian water and clean tech firms will have access to “supplier advocates” as part of a government program designed to boost SMEs’ competitiveness locally and internationally.


The Federal Government has allocated $5 million over four years to a program called Clean Technology Focus for Supply Chains, which targets water and clean tech firms.


The program also applies to companies with relevant capabilities that want to improve competitiveness in the clean tech fields.


It enhances the role of so-called supplier advocates, who seek to raise the firms’ competitiveness, promote capabilities and link capable suppliers with clean tech projects.


Firms gain access to a supplier advocate by joining a “capability team” where they work alongside other like-minded companies.


The companies benefit from joint marketing, collaborative bids for larger projects and increased exposure to customers through the skills and assistance of a supplier advocate.


“The capability teams will be driven by industry – pursuing goals that business puts on the agenda,” Innovation Minister Kim Carr said in a statement.


Water supplier advocate Bob Herbert says the capability teams will lead to greater opportunities among local suppliers for new and larger projects.


“The aim is for team members to increase sales and better promote Australian products, technologies and services, ultimately making our water and clean technology industries more competitive,” Herbert says.


Priority is given to activities where the supplier advocate can make a positive impact with an agreed strategy that focuses on identified capabilities and capacity.


According to Nick Boyd, co-founder of ocean energy company AquaGen Technologies, supplier advocates could prove useful to clean tech firms as long as there is minimal red tape.


“You have to ask whether the bureaucratic process is worth it … I think advocacy could be good,” Boyd says.


“Raising capital – dollar-for-dollar funding – is still a huge obstacle when you’re building large -scale technologies and trying to secure private investment.”


Boyd says while it is fairly easy for more established clean tech fields – solar and wind – to secure funding, the situation is different for ocean energy companies.


“No one in ocean energy is really commercially up and running yet. There is a developing phase and we’re all going through that, but (ocean energy) has huge potential in Australia,” he says.


The capability teams will be developed in partnership with industry bodies waterAUSTRALIA and Australian Clean Tech.


National workshops will be held in October and November to seek firms’ participation and input into priorities for the capability teams.