German Chancellor Angela Merkel experiencing the wonders of new technologies at the Hannover Messe 2019. (Image: ndr.de)
The Hannover Messe or Hannover Fair is one of the world's largest trade fairs. In 2019 it was held on 1-5th of April 2019 at the Hannover Fairground in Germany. There are approximately 6,500 exhibitors and 250,000 visitors per year.
InfraNomics was delighted to be invited by the German Government to one of the world’s premier trade shows based on the contribution to the Lithium Valley report from last year. The Hannover Messe is an outstanding display of the latest global technologies and trends. Although it was interesting to investigate the latest developments across various high tech industries, the primary focus was power storage and critical raw materials.
A standard question we asked the companies was where their battery cells came from. In all instances the answer was the cells came from China; European companies were surprised that all critical raw materials could also be sourced from WA. It was also a revelation to many that Australia has the second largest known deposits of cobalt. Companies are especially sensitive to ethical and sustainably mined cobalt and current ethical cobalt purchases exceed supply several times over. Australia has a partial solution to the ethical and sustainably mined cobalt problem.
We were fortunate to meet the WA Agent General, Mike Deeks, who was busy and in demand at the Fair. There were several European battery companies in the secondary and tertiary processing segments that were interested in developing a presence in WA. Direct discussions are ongoing and announcements will be made where appropriate.
According to the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) raw materials and advanced materials are the key enablers for transition in the energy and mobility sectors. These two sectors are strategically important for Europe and as Europe is almost 100% dependent on imports of these raw materials, security of supply and competitive pricing is essential. This strategy was summed up by a recent quote by M. Brudermüller, CEO BASF:
“What I think is far too little considered is the question of accessibility to battery materials in Europe and also to the respective raw materials, that is, nickel, cobalt and manganese. These materials are under strong control of the Chinese, which is why we should secure the access to them.”
Although the Europeans seem to recognise what needs to be done, the only way this strategy can be executed is by European companies investing directly into resources. The scale of investment needed hasn’t occurred yet and maybe it is too late? Europe’s share of global cell manufacturing is 3% while Asia has 85% and the European Commission recognises that there is a real risk that Europe falls irreversibly behind its competitors and becomes dependent on imports of higher priced raw materials and batteries controlled by 3rd parties. InfraNomics will continue to work with the European Commission, governments and companies in developing more robust supply chains for raw materials and energy storage solutions.
On another note, the South Australian pavilion was in the centre of one of the most important halls and was a marketing triumph. In contrast, the Austrade stand was unfortunately in the furthest, darkest corner of the entire Messe. South Australia actually asked Austrade if it is worth collaborating on Hannover however no agreement was reached, so went alone with their stand. As there is enough international competition, there is also an argument that Australians and New Zealanders could improve their collaboration. In the meantime, WA could perhaps work with SA and any other State interested in marketing to the world. The current piecemeal approach does not appear to be a successful strategy, especially when you see first-hand how other countries do it.
The South Australian pavilion at the Hannover Messe 2019
The main takeaways from this year’s Messe were:
a) Hydrogen is progressing faster now than in the last 15 years.
b) Digital twins and predictive maintenance are mature technologies.
c) European technology and the automotive industry are dependent on Chinese battery cells.
d) Hardly anyone knows WA has critical raw materials as they believe all raw materials come from China.
e) South Australia is better at marketing than any other state by a country mile.
There were some major findings from the trip that will guide the strategy and continuing development of Lithium Valley over the coming year. As the trip was a success, planning has begun to attend next year with a larger delegation.
Cameron Edwards (Director, InfraNomics) and Colleen Yates (CEO Regional Development Australia – Perth) at the Hannover Messe 2019
 JRC analysis based on data from report of the Ad hoc Working Group on defining critical raw materials, 2010,‘Critical raw materials for the EU
 Report from the European Commission on the Implementation of the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries: Building a Strategic Battery Value Chain in Europe, April 2019