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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 9

I Introduction

II The Australian Chemical Industry
i Beginnings 1865-1919
ii Fertilisers
iii Raw materials from gasworks and coke ovens
iv The beginnings of industrial chemical research - in the sugar industry
v Explosives

III Pharmaceuticals

IV Chemists In Other Industries

V The Dawn Of Modern Chemical Industry - High Pressure Synthesis

VI The Growth Of Synthetic Chemicals - Concentration, Rationalisation And International Links

VII Australian Industrial Chemical Research Laboratories

VIII The Plastics Industry

IX The Paint Industry

X Acknowledgements



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The Australian Chemical Industry

The chemical industry is one of the few technology-based and fully integrated industries in Australia. Because of its highly technical character it had to be part and parcel of international technology. This meant that much of the technology had to be imported, either by licensees or by the local subsidiaries of international companies. However, to be competitive and to adapt technology successfully, local research, development and engineering were necessary. Indeed, for many decades the industry has been a leader in local industrial research; although it represents roughly only one tenth of the Australian manufacturing industry, it has carried out about one quarter of its private sector research. By 1985 its turnover[4] (including plastics, paint and pharmaceuticals[5]) was 10 840 million dollars, its added value 3 923 million dollars and it employed 83 630 people. It is also one of the country's key strategic and enabling industries, on which other industries depend.

The dual dependence on imported technology and local Research and Development (R&D) led to special strategies appropriate to the country and to the industry's national and international structure. These strategies clearly had to differ from those of the overseas majors. Some of the companies which entered the industry early and which pioneered industrial research in Australia carefully avoided the truncated structure of a branch plant operation, which concentrates on production and marketing only and relies on R&D from overseas licensors. These companies developed their own research, development, engineering and technical services departments as well as production and marketing and thus grew into fully integrated organisations. This mode was not always the most economic operation because of the high cost of local research and the smallness of the market. Other companies, particularly the subsidiaries of some American corporations which entered the Australian market relatively late, preferred to operate on the basis of most cost-effective acquisition of knowhow, usually from the parent company, as the principal consideration. Even though research intensity differs between companies, the industry as a whole (ASIC class 27) is more research intensive than any other of the major ASIC groups.

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© 1988 Print Edition page 633, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher