Successful manufacturing firms of the future will do two things: innovate and diversify, says CSIRO scientist


Dr. Swee Mak, Director of CSIRO’s Future of Manufacturing Flagship, says a lot of the firms that will be successful in the future will do two things: become more innovative, and learn how to diversify.

Screenshot from ABC News
CSIRO’s Dr. Swee Mak
Screenshot from ABC News

In an interview on ABC News, Dr. Mak stressed the importance of innovation, diversity and agility in manufacturing but explains the definition of diversification in order for businesses not to fall in the trap of overdoing it.

“It is understanding what your capabilities are as a firm and understanding where that capability can be applied,” says Dr. Mak. “If you overdiversify you’re basically competing at a very shallow level across many different things.”

The problem with many firms, according to Dr. Mak, is that they do not understand where they are really good at, and consequently they do not understand where they can apply those capabilities.


Since CSIRO works with more than 2000 firms every year and these firms choose to utilize technology and R&D as a source of competitive advantage, Dr. Mak says this has allowed them to gain insight into what makes businesses competitive.

“Instead of focusing on what it is that we should be doing I think quite useful to look at is what it is that enables firms to be very competitive,” he said.

Dr. Mak says future manufacturing is comprised of two stories—first the companies that successfully make transitions, for instance these are firms that, in the midst of difficulties have found ways to innovate, streamline their processes and enter new markets. Second are the companies that adopt breakthrough technologies in their operations to form new businesses.

Australia needs to make a decision about the role of manufacturing in the country, says the CSIRO director.

“Our perspective is that manufacturing will have a vibrant future if we can actually improve collaboration and ensure that we connect up all the bits within the innovation system,” Dr. Mak said.

CSIRO’s Future of Manufacturing Flagship builds partnerships with research and industry groups around Australia and overseas to address the major challenges facing the Australian manufacturing industry.

Dr. Mak’s expertise are in the areas of research, innovation management, cellular materials, low emission materials, and low energy accelerated processing. Prior to assuming his role as Flagship Director Dr. Mak was Deputy Chief Industry, CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering where he managed a large and diverse materials and manufacturing research and development (R&D) portfolio.

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