DMTC Annual Conference 2018

20 Mar 2018 Speech



20 March 2018


Good morning.

It’s a pleasure to be here in Canberra to give this keynote address at the annual Defence Materials and Technology Centre Conference.

I would like to acknowledge DMTC Board Chair Tony Quick and other board members present here today, and in particular I would like to thank CEO Dr Mark Hodge and his team who have pulled this event together.

I congratulate DMTC and its industry and research partners on their impending celebration in July of 10 years of service and commitment to enhancing Australia’s Defence and national security.

May I also welcome our other keynote speakers today, Paul Johnson, Co-Chair of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability Advisory Board and Brent Clark, Chief Executive Officer and Australian Program Director of Naval Group Australia.

And I welcome all delegates present and thank those of you who have travelled from right around Australia to be here.

It’s wonderful to see such a great turnout.

It tells me just how exciting the defence industry sector has now become.

There are many in the room who are current and former serving members of the Australian Defence Force. Thank you for your service and for taking the time to attend.

Driving Australian innovation is a critical element of the Turnbull Government’s vision for the nation.

In December 2015, as the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, I announced with Prime Minister Turnbull the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.

It was a critical plan, designed to incentivise and reward innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking. All elements that the Turnbull Government saw as building blocks for a prosperous economy based on Australia’s limitless capacity to innovate.

One of NISA’s four pillars was connecting industry to innovation infrastructure.

It saw collaboration between research and industry as fundamental to innovation.

It recognised defence industry alongside key sectors such as healthcare, education, agriculture and transport as fundamental to the agenda.

Defence was rightly to become a centrepiece for a smarter, more sustainable and progressive economy.

We delivered on that the following February with the release of the 2016 Defence White Paper, which set out a comprehensive plan for Australia's defence and defence industry.

In the 2016 May Budget we followed – somewhat spectacularly if I say so myself – with a far-reaching and unprecedented, $200 billion commitment to the modernisation and renewal of Australia’s defence capability.

I am very happy to be the Minister for Defence Industry at such a time. Because there has never been a time quite like it.

This is Australia’s largest defence capability renewal since World War Two.

It’s a bold undertaking designed to set Australia on the right path for a century – a path to a sustainable, sovereign defence capability and defence industry sector.

This whole approach reflects the twin elements of what Coalition Governments always stand for— Australia’s national security and the economic prosperity of our people.

The Turnbull Government has now put defence industry at the heart of Australia’s national enterprise.

We are protecting our nation and growing our capacity to defend ourselves.

We are simultaneously creating enormous economic activity and benefit for Australian families and giving working people, and the young students of today, new direction and opportunity.

This is made possible in no small way by the commitment of the defence industry sector, who I am delighted to say, have risen with great energy to meet the challenge.

We are already seeing the results. Invigorated by unprecedented investment, industry is actively creating jobs and pursuing opportunity.

Industry is leveraging new-found confidence and policy clarity and investing in the future.

We are also seeing a large, but less acknowledged contribution by Australia’s other great contributor to innovation – the people and institutions of its science and research community.

Our researchers and scientists have long been known to punch above their weight against global research benchmarks.

But they are not always acknowledged for the day-to-day work they do supporting Australian innovation and industrial advancement.

In my years as the Minister for Education, and as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, I came to fully appreciate the scope of this vast intellectual asset and this daily effort.

I see it as the bedrock of the knowledge and innovation base in Australia.

Whether we are talking basic or applied research, Australian researchers have almost always got what it takes for the job. Where they don’t have it, they are possessed of the standing and reputation globally to go out and find partners who do. And that didn’t come easily.

This is innovation personified, and directly relevant to the success of our defence industry endeavours.

I know this. The whole of the Turnbull Government knows this.

We know how innovation enhances the security and prosperity of every Australian.

We also know it helps ensure our Australian Defence Force personnel are backed and equipped with the capability they need.

Backed and equipped, at the cutting edge, so they can succeed wherever and whenever they answer the call.

This is not only the right thing by the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way in our defence.

It is fundamental to our global and regional security and our readiness.

The people I work with in Defence understand this too.

They ‘get’ the fact that amid the increasing pace of geopolitical, economic and technological change, Defence must have continuous access to the best innovation in Australia and the world.

The way the Turnbull Government looks at it, there is no end point for innovation.

If our Defence force is to remain resilient to emerging threats, including the possible use of disruptive technologies by adversaries, we have an ongoing responsibility to invest in innovation.

It’s not enough to keep up with new and developing areas of technology that have the potential to provide a capability edge for Australia’s relatively small fighting force.

We must get ahead of them wherever we can.

DMTC is an important capability partner for both Defence and for Australia’s Defence industry.

The Government’s commitment to grow our defence industry and innovation sector relies in no small way on two signature research and development programs outlined in the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement – the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

DMTC programs have a track record of success.

Better still they demonstrate that DMTC is delivering collaboration sought in the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement.

As a partner of the Defence Innovation Hub, and drawing on other funding from Defence major programs and government research agencies, DMTC is actively helping Australian industry adapt to, and stay ahead of, the technology curve in a range of activities in support of the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, the Future Submarine Program, Plan Jericho, the Joint Strike Fighter program, and other major acquisition and sustainment programs including our next generation Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles and Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Building on this success, I have asked the Department to work with DMTC to develop a pathway for continuing DMTC engagement with the Defence Innovation Hub.

The work of our world-class research community benefits from DMTC involvement by ensuring researchers’ work is relevant and aligned with industrial and defence priorities.

In September last year, I announced the investment priorities for the Defence Innovation Hub.

As I said, this has given industry certainty about our current and future Defence objectives and allowed them to plan, invest and go forward with confidence.

We set out to provide transparency and clarity on Defence priorities and we have done so.

The Defence Innovation Hub has been very successful.

Some 85 per cent of all innovation proposals received by the Hub align with Defence’s top three innovation priority capability streams.

Since its launch in December 2016, the Defence Innovation Hub has received over 390 proposals and awarded 31 innovation contracts.

These have a combined value of more than $48.5 million, and that goes directly to developing and maturing innovative ideas.

The Next Generation Technologies Fund has continued to thrive and deliver since I launched the Fund in March 2017.

The Next Generation Technologies Fund and its new approach to partnering more broadly with industry are delivering game-changing technologies for Defence through cross-disciplinary, cross-sector collaborations.

Recently, I announced the winners of the first Next Generation Technologies Fund Grand Challenge.

Some $19 million was awarded over four years to universities and companies across the country.

Projects range from developing innovative technology solutions to countering threats to national security.

I also announced the formation of the first Defence Cooperative Research Centre for Trusted Autonomous Systems.

A total of $50 million is to be invested, over seven years, to deliver trustworthy smart-machine technologies for new defence capabilities.

These will be based on advanced human-machine teaming concepts, a truly futuristic endeavour.

It has immensely innovative potential for meeting gaps in our defence capacity and cyber-security infrastructure.

Research engagement facilitates so much. It is why the Government has confidently invested $9.3 million over three years in a strategic partnership in cyber between Defence and CSIRO’s Data61 and 11 universities.

The high tempo of such engagement and response between industry and research organisations to date is very encouraging.

DMTC has a vital role to play as a leader, a broker, and a manager of enhanced defence and industry capability outcomes, all leveraging the very best of research expertise.

Through DMTC, for example, Defence recently partnered with CSIRO, universities and medical technology companies, initiating five projects in the field of medical countermeasure products, with more in the pipeline.

The Defence Science and Technology Group and the Next Generation Technologies Fund sponsor this very exciting work in medical countermeasures.

Since it was established in 2008, DMTC has successfully held the confidence of successive Governments and Defence leadership.

DMTC was identified as a key partner of the Defence Innovation Hub in the Defence Industry Policy Statement released by the Turnbull Government in early 2016.

DMTC has simultaneously contributed to the development of life-saving protection technologies for our troops on deployment, and to the development of sovereign capabilities within Australian industry.

They are equally important elements in our sovereign security and our national prosperity.

Year-on-year, DMTC has achieved growth in the value and maturity of its activities – a demonstration that the industry and research sectors see DMTC as a valued and long-term partner.

They have effectively validated DMTC’s co-investment and program management model under which Defence has leveraged its investment with about an additional Hundred and Ten Million Dollars from the sector since DMTC commenced operations. I look forward to continuing growth in subsequent years.

We are here today to reflect on the latest advances in technologies and industry capabilities within the DMTC community.

So I’ll touch on some of the specifics of how DMTC has enhanced Australian defence capability and advanced the knowledge and technical capability of Australia’s defence industry.

They help demonstrate the value of partnership in pursuit of the shared objective of maintaining a warfighting edge.

DMTC has worked closely with Diggerworks to trial, evaluate, and integrate prototypes in several areas.

The Centre has been active in improving the mobility and survivability of soldiers in the field.

It has undertaken research into new fabrics and treatments for reducing both soldiers’ battlefield signature and the physiological impact associated with wearing a soldier’s combat ensemble.

That research has included quick drying treatments; fragmentation resistant fabrics offering greater protection; and composite fabrics that effectively filter harmful particles for use in protective suits.

Another successful venture has been in flexible manufacturing processes.

This has been proven on Thales Australia’s Bushmaster vehicle production line in Bendigo.

It allows for rapid assembly line programming and completing the majority of hull welding via automation, and is now being transferred to the production of the Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicle.

DMTC has been pivotal in breakthroughs in welding and fabrication.

It has developed among other things, a welding process requiring little to no preheat.

This will allow industry to improve efficiencies when manufacturing armoured platforms.

DMTC assisted in the establishment of titanium manufacturing supply chain capability for BAE Systems Australia.

This work included machining titanium parts for the global F-35 Program. It has resulted in opportunities for many Australian industry partners.

But there have also been low-flying DMTC technology advancements that are just as important to Defence though they don’t always grab the headlines.

I am a great supporter, for example, of the work DMTC is doing to assist industry and research organisations simply to work with Defence, to identify industry capabilities and innovation opportunities that will be targeted for further development.

2017 was a particularly busy year for DMTC.

In March 2017, I announced the commencement of DMTC’s work to define a program of industry capability development initiatives in support of the Joint Strike Fighter program.

There are more than three thousand F-35 aircraft planned for production globally over the next 25 years, and there are many opportunities for Australian Industry to compete for some of the work.

In April, I announced a DMTC partnership agreement with Naval Group (then DCNS) to collaborate on research and development projects in surface shipbuilding, and in envisaging future involvement in submarine projects.

This was another example of DMTC’s commitment to maximising industry involvement in military procurements and sustainment – without compromising capability, cost, schedule or risk.

In September, I announced the selection of four projects to progress under DMTC’s space sensor research program – we know it as HASS – High Altitude Sensor Systems.

The program will bring together a number of organisations across Australia.

These will involve commercial enterprises and leading universities and research agencies.

To enhance Australian defence capability and build industrial capacity, they will work together in sensor and on-board data processing technology for unmanned aerial systems and small-satellite platforms.

In November, I visited Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide to launch the second round of DMTC Medical Countermeasures projects.

Medical countermeasures are an important sovereign capability for military or civilian personnel in a range of scenarios. These include biological warfare or chemical attacks, and the potential spread of global infectious disease pandemics.

One of my most pleasant duties last year was at the Pacific Maritime International Expo in Sydney, where I had the pleasure of presenting DMTC and ANSTO researcher Peter Kabakov [who is in the audience this morning] with the 2017 Young Innovator Prize.

Dr Kabakov’s work has made real breakthroughs for a sovereign capability for Australia in the production of materials critical to sonar systems on submarines.

I also had the pleasure of presenting a High Commendation at Pacific 2017 to the DMTC project team [who are also present this morning]. This honoured ASC, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Wollongong for their work on combating the effects of Microbiologically Induced Corrosion on ships. Their achievement has resulted in smarter maintenance procedures, greater availability of ships and submarines and a reduction in maintenance and repair costs.

So we have here the best of all worlds. Collaborative work that goes to the farthest end of advanced technology and to more practical yet vital aspects of maintaining and facilitating our naval fleet.

I am encouraged that the DMTC continues to grow, with the prospect of more than a dozen new industry and research partner organisations joining in the first half of 2018 alone.

I look forward to more opportunities to celebrate the successes of the DMTC community in 2018.

DMTC, together with defence industry and innovation programs, the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technologies Fund, will continue to work together.

Together they will ensure the Australian industry and innovation sector is positioned to meet Defence capability requirements into the future.

Meanwhile the Turnbull Government will continue to work on the bigger picture, keeping Australia secure and ensuring its people are prosperous.

Although I am unable to attend the awards dinner tonight, I have asked Senator Fawcett to attend and I would like to congratulate, in advance, all of the nominees and award winners.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you; it is a privilege and a pleasure, and I wish you a very successful conference and a bright and productive 2018.