One of Australia’s top tech entrepreneurs has called for Australia to pile into the next wave of resources development and high-order manufacturing.

Speaking broadly on R&D in Australia, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes said Australia had the capability to support more high-value industries.

“Mining should really be divided in half. Yes coal and gas are on their way out, but look at what else we have – nickel, lithium, silver, rare earths, iron ore – we could be building smartphones and solar panels here with the ingredients we’ve got,” he was quoted by the Australian Financial Review as saying.

“If I was running Australia as a business, I think I’d be investing in some pretty heavy R&D to replace that revenue stream … instead of course they’re cutting R&D, $4 billion in the last two budgets, which just makes no sense.”

Cannon-Brookes is a noted supporter of renewable energy, famously luring Tesla founder Elon Musk over Twitter to build a battery in South Australia to feed renewable power into the grid .


Australia currently has a thriving exploration scene for several minerals used in the production of batteries, such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt — but has relatively little capacity for high-order manufacturing.

With Australia’s R&D spend just 1.9 percent of national GDP compared to the average of 2.4 percent for OECD-nations, there is fear a brain drain of technical capability could leave Australia.

Worse still, we could be missing out on the opportunity to make the most of our mineral advantage.

According to a report by industry body AMEC has indicated that while raw lithium market could be worth $20 billion for raw material by 2025 — refining the stuff could see Australia play in a $43 billion market.

The market for battery cells, meanwhile, is forecast to be worth $424 billion.