FTA aids UK investment in Australian IT manufacturing

In November 2022, UK-registered tech firm SoftIron opened Australia’s first-ever facility that manufactures all the components needed for ‘built-to-order’ cloud infrastructure. It was officially opened by Australia’s Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite MP. 

The Botany, NSW factory builds ‘clean’ computer servers for customers that want to be sure there is no unknown hardware or code operating in their data centres.

SoftIron’s local facility will enable the onshoring of ICT supply chains. This will help defence, government and Australian IT providers manage both their commercial and strategic risk.

Jason Van der Schyff, Chief Operating Officer at SoftIron, says: ‘SoftIron Australia is expanding its operations to support sovereign manufacturing in Australia. Friend-shoring ICT supply chains is the only way that Australian IT providers can manage the risks that exist in global supply chains, particularly in the area of critical technology.

‘The Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UK FTA) will support our expansion,’ he adds. ‘We will benefit from the FTA’s Innovation Chapter and from the free flow of people and data between Australia and the UK when the FTA enters into force.’

New facility will help build cloud for AUKUS alliance

The advanced manufacturing facility is part-funded by an Australian Defence Department innovation grant under the Sovereign Industrial Capability Program, worth $1.5 million.

Components manufactured at the facility will be used in HyperCloud. This is SoftIron’s world-first technology that enables customers to build and run their own secure clouds, without the risk that third-party software will ‘infect’ the process.

In this way, HyperCloud helps enterprises, government and defence organisations protect their sensitive data and critical national infrastructure. For example, HyperCloud has the potential to be an ideal platform to enable secure information-sharing for industry and government in the AUKUS partnership.

AUKUS is the trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that was announced in September 2021.

The A-UK FTA helps SoftIron’s expansion

SoftIron believes the new free trade agreement between Australia and the UK will make it easier for the company to do business across 2 of its key geographies.

Van der Schyff says: ‘This includes making it easier to hire brilliant talent to grow our operations and improve our offerings as a result of a better recognition of qualifications.

‘It also means reduced costs of doing business, allowing greater flexibility and interconnectedness across our operating lines.’

How Austrade helped

Julianne Davis, Investment Director at Austrade UK, says Austrade’s foreign direct investment attraction services supported SoftIron’s entry into the Australian market and will continue to do so as the firm expands.

‘We provided in-country expertise, referrals and introductions including to the New South Wales Government,’ she says. ‘We have been delighted to assist and look forward to continuing to support the firm alongside our state government colleagues as SoftIron grows its footprint in Australia.’

Van der Schyff adds: ‘Across Australia and the UK, Austrade has connected us to relevant businesses, media, industry organisations and policymakers to accelerate our growth and development.

‘Austrade has also supported us with identifying funding initiatives that enabled us to build our sovereign manufacturing facility. Finally, they were instrumental in connecting us to government and defence officials in the UK to help with the launch of our product for AUKUS.’

SoftIron collaborates with leading Indigenous Australian ICT businesses

UK-based SoftIron is engaging with Australia’s Indigenous businesses.

For example, Baidam Solutions is a Supply Nation-certified, leading Indigenous ICT security partner to the national economy. SoftIron recently won a large contract with National Computational Infrastructure in Canberra with Baidam Solutions acting as the reseller.

Baidam Solutions helps the Indigenous community by encouraging participation and industry engagement through mentored pathways, combined with ICT certification funding.

SoftIron also works with Kirra Services, a majority-owned and Supply Nation-certified Indigenous IT services provider. Kirra acts as a reseller to implement HyperCloud in Australian businesses and governments.

Kirra and Industry Trading work in collaboration with government departments to donate depreciated assets to organisations such as the Canberra Institute of Technology’s (TAFE) Indigenous Digital Literacy program.

SoftIron’s approach to achieving net zero

Austrade works with companies that make a difference when it comes to addressing the challenge of net zero.

‘SoftIron is a great example of this,’ says Davis. ‘The company’s Edge Manufacturing model – which involves locating its manufacturing sites closer to the customer – enables greater use of local supply chains and reduces transport emissions.’

A recent independent analysis conducted by Earth Capital measured SoftIron’s carbon footprint. Compared to industry-standard servers, SoftIron generates up to 80% less heat and is 5 times more energy efficient.

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