The evidence is now in from around the globe: a healthy manufacturing base is vital to national prosperity. Manufacturing – especially advanced manufacturing – does not just create and support high- skilled, well-paid jobs across the entire economy. Manufacturing also underpins the nation’s innovation engine. In many industries, the research findings show that if you cannot test your ideas in the production process, then your capacity to innovate is likely to diminish. The loss of manufacturing further disrupts innovation by depleting the industrial ecosystem and its local supplier networks so essential to transforming ideas into marketable products.

The fact that 21st century manufacturing is not just a jobs story, but also an innovation story raises wider policy issues that are not currently met by the focus on R&D alone. Seen in this light, the dramatic shrinking of Australia’s manufacturing base poses a major risk to our national prosperity.

The question is what can be done to reinvent Australian manufacturing? How might we as a nation revive and grow our techno-industrial base? And what role can and should the government play in this reinvention?

This blog is devoted to exploring these and similar questions. In particular, we ask:

What has happened to Australian manufacturing?

What kinds of government actions have helped or held back the creation of a thriving techno-industrial base?

What lessons might we learn from other countries’ experiences?

We also identify and celebrate outstanding Australian manufacturing firms and ask: what lessons might be learned from their stories of trying to build a vibrant manufacturing business in the Australian context?

Elizabeth Thurbon is Associate Professor in International Relations at the University of New South Wales and Linda Weiss is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Both are members of the Management Committee of Reinvent Australia.