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A new model for innovation in Defence

From Left, Neil Tavener, Bryan Clarke, Alan Lavery (from Ron Allum Deepsea Services), and Peter Formby from the Defence Science and Technology Group with the Sun Ray Glider at Woronora Dam, Sydney.
From Left, Neil Tavener, Bryan Clarke, Alan Lavery (from Ron Allum Deepsea Services), and Peter Formby from the Defence Science and Technology Group with the Sun Ray Glider at Woronora Dam, Sydney.

The 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement outlined a single innovation pipeline to deliver future Defence capability.

The innovation pipeline consists of two signature programs – the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technologies Fund. These programs actively encourage collaboration across industry and academia to develop innovative capability solutions.

The Defence Innovation Hub, with funding of $640 million to 2025–26, brings industry and Defence together to undertake collaborative innovation activities from concept through to introduction into service. Defence works with industry to develop technologies that have progressed from the early science stages into the engineering and development stages of the innovation process.

A more focused, coordinated and transparent approach to innovation has ensured that investment priorities are coherent across Defence and aligned with Defence strategy. This new approach was well received by the market. In 2017–18:

  • 88 per cent of all innovation proposals received by the Hub aligned with Defence’s top three innovation priority capability streams
  • 76 per cent of contracts were awarded to small-to-medium enterprises and micro-businesses.

The Next Generation Technologies Fund, with a budget of $730 million to 2025–26, focuses on research and development in future technologies under nine identified priority areas that can create or prevent strategic surprise and lead to game-changing capabilities. Seven specific programs were chosen, each with a different model of collaboration to stimulate innovation. They include:

  • ;The Grand Challenge program to solve intractable problems by inviting solutions from multiple sources and disciplines. Defence received over 200 proposals for the first Grand Challenge to counter improvised threats without casualties. Twenty-two organisations were selected to collaborate on a threat detection-and-defeat prototype for delivery in four years.
  • The Defence Cooperative Research Centre for Trusted Autonomous Systems, established in May 2018, to deliver game-changing autonomous technologies to Defence, using academic and industry partners as research providers. The inaugural participating members are BAE Systems, DefendTex, RMIT University and Defence Science and Technology.
  • The Small Business Innovation Research for Defence program to harness the innovation potential of Australia’s small-to-medium enterprises. Collaboration includes the Fight Recorder—a soldier-worn emergency beacon to capture battlefield data, being developed by two small firms, Myriota in South Australia and IMeasureU in New Zealand.
  • The US-Australia International Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program for Australian universities to participate in the United States Department of Defense’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative on defence capability projects. In 2017–18, four Australian universities were selected to collaborate with a number of US universities on quantum technologies and advanced material sciences which are critical for future defence capabilities.

The new Defence innovation system is leveraging the expertise of the larger science and technology community in Australia to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the country’s defence industry while underpinning the ADF’s capability edge.