Universities blaze a trail to commercialise defence research

April 20, 2022

A bid, led by the University of Adelaide in partnership with the UNSW, has been endorsed to assist the country’s economic recovery under the Trailblazer Universities Program.

Today, Wednesday 20 April, the Defence Trailblazer: Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC) bid, led by the University of Adelaide in partnership with the University of New South Wales, has been endorsed to assist the country’s economic recovery under the Trailblazer Universities Program.

A government commitment of $50 million in cash over four years will be matched by $50 million of funding from the two universities and $10 million from the CSIRO. More than $140 million will be invested in the project by over 50 industry partners located around the country bringing the total value of the program to approximately $250 million.

It is estimated that CSC will have a net economic benefit to the Australian economy of $1.5 billion over ten years and will deliver more than 2500 FTE jobs over four years directly linked to the activities of the program.

CSC aims to create a new trust-based cross-sector culture founded on shared risk, shared problem solving, shared success, and a shared sense of strategic urgency.

Industry and academia will support Defence’s pull-through of leading-edge capabilities, including dual-use technologies, to sustain the ability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to defend national security interests in a highly volatile geo-strategic environment.

The project will create a step change in the Australian defence innovation culture to enable research and industry innovators to quickly fix on the Department of Defence’s priority research translation challenges, rapidly secure capital for collaborative ideation, proto-type potential solutions, commercialise the winners in defence and civilian markets, and accelerate the transition of competitive advantage capabilities into the hands of ADF operators.

Both universities have deep partnering arrangements with some of Australia’s largest defence companies and SMEs and new companies spun out of them. Researchers will pivot to solve complex defence problems alongside industry in both Defence and civilian market sectors. Government, industry and universities will drive together in new ways to push concept demonstrators across the “valley of death” and into manufacturing. The universities will drive outwards towards entrepreneurial and commercial outcomes-driven collaboration.

In partnership with industry, the universities have secured investment and commitments to integrate emerging technologies, and scale manufacturing, support the Australian Defence Force (ADF) capability and to capitalise on dual-use technologies in the following priority areas:

  • Quantum Materials, Technologies & Computing
  • Defensive Hypersonics & Countermeasures
  • Information Warfare & Advanced Cyber Technologies
  • Robotics, Autonomous Systems & AI (RAS-AI)
  • Defence Space Technologies

Over 80 per cent of industry commitments to the program are from Australia-based SMEs: an unprecedented level of commitment.This involvement of SMEs underlines the potential to upscale Australia’s sovereign defence capability, support national security and drive economic growth through commercialisation in dual-use technology areas.

Significant support for CSC, that has been forthcoming from the broad range of industry partners, will be leveraged to produce high-quality research, design and development outcomes. This will form the basis of CSC’s commercialisation output, which will be of significant benefit to the Australian economy and assist in its post-pandemic recovery.

CSC will allocate substantial seed funding ($34 million) to enable innovators in industry and universities to create deployable prototypes of disruptive technologies to meet Defence’s priority future requirements. Successful commercialisation of these technologies in defence and dual-use market opportunities will be enabled through a $126 million Advanced Innovation Fund. These two funding streams underscore the focus of CSC to commercialise technology and grow the Australian economy.

Australia’s defence innovation community will be strengthened by enabling more people across all sectors to see their career goals reflected in a deeper commitment to national defence including initiatives to drive diversity in the workforce

Benefits from CSC will be felt in the longer term through plans for a centre of expertise in research commercialisation that will assist other universities and industry partners to leverage potential in other sectors of the economy.     

Comments about the successful Defence Trailblazer: Concept to Sovereign Capability bid:

Ms Christine Zeitz, General Manager Asia Pacific, Northrup Grumman & CSC Chair Designate

“The Defence Trailblazer will transform the nature of the relationship between the academic sector, defence industry and the Department of Defence, compelling universities to pivot outwards towards entrepreneurial and commercial outcomes-driven collaboration. Our policies, processes, services, workforce incentives and rewards will be realigned to this new approach.

”CSC will address the pressing requirement for a strategic response from industry and academia to the strategic threat environment. It is imperative that we adopt new approaches, to drive research translation and sovereign manufacturing as key industry inputs to defence capability.”

Major General Susan Coyle, Head of Information Warfare, Australian Defence Force

“The Defence Trailblazer: Concept to Sovereign Capability program signals the start of a closer relationship between Defence, research organisations and defence industry that will see Australia’s sovereign defence capability significantly strengthened.

“Mutually reinforcing this relationship is the key to accelerating the translation of research into commercialised and deployable Australian Defence Force capabilities.

“New technology developed under CSC will sustain the Australian Defence Force’s ability to defend national security interests in a highly volatile geo-strategic environment.”

Professor Peter Høj, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Adelaide:

“The University of Adelaide is proud to be named alongside our partner, the University of New South Wales, to assist the country’s economic recovery with the Defence Trailblazer: Concept to Sovereign Capability project.

“CSC will result in a profound and transformative change to our defence innovation landscape, and will meet a long-held ambition to build more sovereign capability for the Australian defence sector.

“The University of Adelaide will apply its research expertise in defence-relevant areas, notably quantum materials, hypersonic countermeasures, information warfare, space and artificial intelligence, to help improve Australia’s sovereign capaibility.

“CSC will grow Australian prosperity by creating new sovereign defence capabilities and strengthening supply chain resilience, all nested in the national interest.”

Professor Attila Brungs, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of New South Wales:

“We are delighted to be able to work with the University of Adelaide and industry partners on research projects that develop into real word outcomes. The program will drive a step change for Australia in the defence related industries. 

“University-industry collaboration is imperative to ensure that research gets translated into outcomes that benefit all of Australia. We have a proud track record at UNSW of quantum, cyber, hypersonics, robotics and space technology research which are supporting Australia’s national capability.”

Dr Stephen Rodda, Chief Innovation & Commercialisation Officer, University of Adelaide and bid-lead for the project

“CSC will expand Australia’s defence industry capabilities to develop and service international export markets with strategic partners through measures including assistance to develop supply chains, transfer of IP protection expertise, transfer of cybersecurity expertise, and promotion of government and private support programs to deliver new technologies for the defence sector and, importantly, civilian markets, where possible.

“With more than $140 million committed by industry in our to Defence Trailblazer CSC in less than two months and a total program value of $250 million, a clear signal has been sent by industry about the appetite for strategic risk in the defence industry and the desire to leverage the skills and capabilities within our university sector.

“More than 80% of companies already committed to participate in CSC are Australian owned, and all are Australian based, which underpins the value of our proposal for sovereign capability and national security.”

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