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Speech to open GlaxoSmithKline's new facility in Melbourne.

Melbourne Australia

17 December 2015

Check against delivery

Firstly I wish to convey the apologies of the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne. Unfortunately Christopher could not be here today so I have the privilege of deputising.

I acknowledge the Federal Member for Aston and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge, and the Mayor of the City of Knox, Tony Holland, whose communities benefit so greatly from GlaxoSmithKline’s investment at Boronia.

And I thank Mr Geoff McDonald, Vice-President and General Manager Pharmaceuticals, and the rest of the GSK staff here today for their warm welcome.

New vaccine facility

With such a talented team, it is no surprise GSK has flourished since what was then known simply as Glaxo founded a plant in Boronia over half a century ago.

Subsequent expansions have entrenched GSK as a fixture in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs and I am delighted to be with you all to celebrate the latest addition to the site.

This new facility will increase our already substantial pharmaceutical exports and fuel economic growth.

And ultimately, the hard work, skill and energy of everyone involved in this project will help to save the lives of thousands of children and improve the quality of life of countless more.

So the work being done right here on the outskirts of Melbourne will enable children living in countries like Nigeria and Pakistan to receive a desperately‑needed vaccine.

And the ground-breaking use of blow-fill-seal technology for its production – created by a brilliant Australian-led team – will hopefully mean many more children can access doses in the years ahead.

I can think of no more worthwhile application of Australian know‑how, ingenuity and business acumen than combatting sickness affecting the world’s poorest.

I am told this year marks the 25th anniversary of hi‑tech manufacturing at Boronia, and I am pleased a $1 million Federal Government grant as part of the Manufacturing Transition Programme has helped to make the development of a new facility possible.

GSK has backed Australia by investing some $100 million over the past four years at Boronia, including $7.7 million to build this facility, so it is right we should back GSK to advance high‑value, knowledge-intensive manufacturing in our country.

National Innovation and Science Agenda

Innovation and science are integral to this endeavour, as they are to all of GSK’s work.

So it is fitting I should open this facility only a week after the Prime Minister and Minister Pyne launched the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The Agenda is a $1.1 billion blueprint for building a dynamic and agile 21st century economy with science and innovation as its lifeblood.

We know the mining boom is over and science and innovation are the key to generating the jobs of the future, maintaining our high living standards and seizing the next wave of economic prosperity.

So we are ushering in an ideas boom to transform Australia into a global innovation pacesetter.

Skills and talent

Human intellect, not minerals under the ground, is the most precious resource in the modern world.

So a key pillar of the National Innovation and Science Agenda is building our talent and skills pool.

Three in four jobs of the future will require expertise in science, technology, engineering or maths, yet fewer and fewer young people are studying science, maths and computing at high school.

Research-industry collaboration

Another pillar of the National Innovation and Science Agenda I would like to touch on is fostering greater collaboration between industry and researchers.

The chemists, market analysts and salespeople at GSK know as well as anyone that business needs science and science needs business.

Businesses that collaborate with researchers on innovation are three times more likely to boost their productivity, and improve their sales and exports.

GSK’s partnership with Monash University to use blow-fill-seal technology to produce vaccines is just one way in which GSK is connecting our best minds and sharpest businesspeople.

But our country needs much more of this sort of collaboration.

Australia is a world leader in health and medical research but we consistently rank last or second last among OECD countries for business-research collaboration and opportunities to commercialise our best ideas are often lost to overseas investors.

The Government is determined to turn our great potential into a reality.

So we are establishing a $250 million Biomedical Translation Fund to invest in promising biomedical discoveries and assist in taking them from the research bench to the hospital bedside.

This will help Australian biomedical businesses to cross the ‘valley of death’ that marks the complex and expensive early stages of commercialisation.

It will help to arrest the flow overseas of intellectual property developed by our biomedical researchers, ensuring their innovative work translates into better treatments, drugs and devices for Australians.

Asia is emerging as a massive overseas market and global competition for customers is fiercer than ever, so it is critical we capitalise on our competitive advantage in health and medical research.

Concluding remarks

Now, many of you may be unaware GSK has been backing Australia since its predecessor companies first started operating here in the late 19th century.

That’s right, long before Australia became a world-leader in medical research – before our greatest minds discovered penicillin, invented the Cochlear implant and developed a cervical cancer vaccine – GSK’s heritage companies saw Australia’s potential.

Perhaps they sensed we were a smart and innovative people, and their desire to improve the quality of human life would resonate here.

If they did, they were absolutely right.

Australians are naturally creative and enterprising and the Government is committed to unlocking the enormous potential for science and innovation in this country.

Today is a milestone for pharmaceutical manufacturing in Australia and for vaccination in the developing world, and it has been made possible by the combined skills and resources of industry, academia, domestic and international researchers and government.

In an increasingly competitive and connected world, it is this type of collaboration that I hope to see much, much more of in the years ahead.