Tag Archives: defence technology

defence industry

Partnerships driving next generation defence technologies

As the Chief Defence Scientist, my job is to ensure the best science and technology is applied to deliver solutions for Australia’s defence and national security. Since the White Paper was released in 2016, Defence has embarked on a huge $195 billion technology refresh program to build game-changing capabilities based on partnerships through research and innovation, working with Australia’s best and brightest.    

Solving defence industry capability problems is a complex challenge; it requires deep and extensive collaboration across disciplines, organisations and geographic boundaries.

The 2016 Defence White Paper created a clear pathway for collaboration by establishing a new unified innovation system with an investment of $1.9 billion over 10 years.

The new system centres around a Defence Innovation Hub ($640 M), a Next Generation Technologies Fund ($730 M) and a Defence Innovation Portal as an interface into the innovation system.

The Defence Science and Technology team manages the Next Generation Technologies Fund. It focuses on early stage, high-risk research and invites proposals to collaborate on game-changing capabilities through the Defence Innovation Portal. Promising proposals are progressed through the Defence Innovation Hub for further development.   

To focus our efforts, we picked nine ‘winner’ domains where investment in science and technology could lead to game-changing defence industry capabilities. These range from space and cyber to autonomous systems and quantum technologies.

We also settled on seven program elements, with different forms of interaction and collaboration. Defence CRCs are one part of the program that’s made considerable progress.  

The first Defence CRC, on Trusted Autonomous Systems, follows a mission-driven approach ensuring the outcome will be delivered by industry utilising academic and public-funded research agencies as research providers.

Defence is investing $50 million over seven years in the CRC to develop trusted smart machine technologies for ADF capabilities in the land, aerospace and maritime domains. The Defence CRC has been registered with initial participating members BAE Systems Australia, RMIT University, DefendTex and DST.

The first three research projects will be led by BAE Systems, Thales and Lockheed Martin. Other companies and universities will join as the CRC develops more projects. The Queensland State government is providing $50 million in cash and in-kind support.

The Next Generation Technologies Fund is continually generating new opportunities under its various programs, including the call for proposals for the Small Business Innovation Research for Defence, which is imminent.

In the defence industry we are keen to harness the collective expertise of the country’s innovation sector and there has never been a better time for research partnerships than now, to realise the future capabilities of the ADF.

national security

National security relies on STEM

For Australia to be a prosperous, healthy and sustainable country it must be safe and secure. We expect our defence forces and national security agencies to be at the leading edge in their capabilities. Increasingly, this edge is underpinned by science and technology, which requires recruiting and developing our country’s most gifted scientists and engineers.

These talented professionals do not emerge by accident. They must be encouraged in our schools and tertiary institutions and then nurtured and supported through dedicated programs to achieve fulfilling careers. Australian institutions, including the Department of Defence, must be deeply committed to developing a future workforce with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“In this age of digital disruption, the most secure countries will rely on platforms that are powered by STEM knowledge.”

STEM skills will underpin effective national security as Australia acquires sophisticated, multi-billion dollar platforms, including Future Submarine, Future Frigate, Joint Strike Fighter, Air Warfare Destroyer, Unmanned Aircraft and Cyber capabilities. All of these platforms will require STEM support during acquisition and throughout their service life.

Australia’s defence and national security sectors need to stay ahead of the technology curve to both create and prevent strategic surprise. Autonomous systems, cyber technology, electronic warfare, quantum computing and space exploitation are potentially game-changing technologies. In this age of digital disruption, the most secure countries will rely on platforms that are powered by STEM knowledge.

It is vital that our nation builds a ’talent pipeline’ to ensure a steady flow of highly trained scientists, technologists and engineers who can develop innovative solutions for future national security challenges.

A model for fostering talent in STEM 

The Department of Defence is actively engaged in a wide variety of STEM-focused initiatives, ranging from a ‘Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools’ program through to undergraduate and PhD scholarships.

We support further education by offering our employees generous study leave, and encourage diversity in STEM through scholarships and cadetships dedicated to women and Indigenous Australians.

We also encourage undergraduate university students to undertake summer vacation work and other paid work placements with Defence, both short-term and long-term.

In 2015–16, Defence provided over 100 STEM scholarships, cadetships and work placements. A number of sponsored students went on to win awards such as the South Australian Early Career STEM Professional Award (Mark McKenzie, 2013 and Tristan Goss, 2015), the South Australian Apprentice of the Year  (Dale Goldfinch, 2012), the inaugural Aerospace Australia Defence Innovation Scholarship (Luke Vandewater, 2012) and Materials Australia’s Ray Reynoldson Award for research (Genevieve Hart, 2013).

These success stories are testament to the promising rewards reaped by investing in Australia’s future STEM workforce.

Dr Alex Zelinsky

Chief Defence Scientist and Head of the Defence Science and Technology Group

Read next: Vish Nandlall, Chief Technology Officer of Telstra on To code or not to code?

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