Advanced manufacturing among focus of talks between SA gov’t and London defence firms

Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) power station. Image credit: Rolls Royce

State Trade and Investment Minister Nick Champion is meeting with London-based global nuclear and defence companies Rolls Royce and Babcock International today to explore potential investment opportunities in the AUKUS submarine program.

The discussions will centre on advanced manufacturing, naval shipbuilding, submarine repair and sustainment, with nuclear training capabilities, as the state strives to construct a nuclear-competent workforce, the government said in a media release. 

With a workforce of over 3,000 employees, the aerospace and defence giant Rolls Royce is set to provide reactors for Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines.  

Rolls Royce already has a significant presence in South Australia, in part due to its collaboration with BAE Systems Australia on the Type 26 frigate project for the Royal Australian Navy.

On the other hand, Babcock International is expected to play a key role in the AUKUS trilateral agreement, assisting in the management of complex assets and important infrastructure projects needed.

Former Vice-Admiral Sir Nick Hine KCB of the UK Royal Navy was recently chosen to manage the newly formed division of Babcock as its first managing director for AUKUS and international.

Babcock operates globally with its Australasian Headquarters based in Adelaide – with the South Australian market expected to boom as the submarine program is rolled out.

Minister Nick Champion pointed out that although South Australia leads the country in defence manufacturing, the state still needs to develop the capabilities and talents necessary to satisfy escalating defence demands.

“The task ahead to support the generational AUKUS program rollout is clear and we are committed to growing our global partnerships to address this challenge,” Champion noted. 

He added that hearing directly from the UK’s most senior defence officials, who are in charge of some of the world’s largest defence programs, is not only a chance to learn from these firms, but also to stimulate investment in Australia’s new submarine fleet.

“I look forward to working with the High Commissioner and his team to build on recent momentum and take full advantage of our vast pipeline of projects,” Champion concluded.

Today’s discussions will build on Premier Peter Malinauskas’ visit to Barrow-in-Furness earlier this year, following the announcement of the AUKUS deal.

The government learned about Rolls Royce’s Nuclear Skills Academy during this visit in March, and the UK model is expected to influence how new apprentices for AUKUS have access to the greatest mentors and courses while they are studying at home.