Speech to Scindicate Opening

29 Aug 2018 Speech

It’s a great pleasure to be here today to open SCINDICATE, an event, which brings together our Defence scientists and our partners in industry and academia.

The work being done to advance innovation and science and technology in support of Defence capability is something that is not spoken about enough.

In 2016, when the Defence White Paper was released, we outlined two basic principles – that industry was a fundamental input to capability, and science and technology were key enablers in achieving a capability edge.

Bringing these two elements together was a no-brainer.

Defence needs to be future-ready.

Australia must mobilise its scientific expertise as well as its industrial capabilities to provide for the security of our nation, but also contribute to the prosperity of our people.

The Government has positioned Defence at front and centre of its transformational vision to drive innovation in Australia.

It has committed $200 billion over 10 years, representing two per cent of GDP every year from 2020 onwards to invest in the defence capabilities of the future. This is the largest build-up of our military capability in peacetime history.

The scale and size of this investment has never been attempted before in Australia.

Think of the air superiority that will be provided by the 5th generation Joint Strike Fighters, the Super Hornets, Growlers and the Wedgetail early warning system combined with the Triton long-endurance eye-in-the-sky and the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

Our maritime defences will be bolstered by 12 new Future Submarines, nine Anti-Submarine Warfare Future Frigates and three Air Warfare Destroyers.

Our land forces will deploy a modernised fleet with new Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles and Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

These new frontline capabilities will require extensive science, technology and engineering support well into the future.

The Government anticipated this requirement and proactively put in place a single innovation pipeline for Defence capability that is closely aligned with our strategic goals and maximises the value of government investment.

This will form part of the Government’s long-term strategy to create a sustainable and sovereign Australian industry that is positioned to support Defence capability and is internationally competitive.

The Government is hard at work realising this ambitious, but achievable vision.

The Naval Shipbuilding Plan is more than a project to build ships and submarines in Australia.

It is a nation-building program that will see the maritime workforce grow to more than 5,000 workers by the mid-to-late 2020s, with another 15,000 workers engaged in sustainment and supply chain activities at Osborne alone.

The plan is designed to ensure we have a viable shipbuilding industry in the future, with the skills required to support Australia’s naval platforms.

We also want Australian defence equipment to compete successfully in the global market.

The Government has developed a Defence Export Strategy and established a new Australian Defence Export Office.

Through these initiatives, the Government is supporting Australian industry to improve the performance of its defence exports and achieve better export outcomes.

We know we have cutting-edge technologies we can export to our overseas allies.

All of you are familiar with the Nulka anti-ship missile decoy developed by our Defence scientists. It is Australia’s most successful defence export to date.

We need more “Nulkas” to succeed in the defence export market.

Recently I released the Defence Industrial Capability Plan.

This is the first time that an Australian Government has articulated a vision for our Defence industry.

A strong and sustainable defence industry is absolutely critical in supporting the Australian Defence Force to carry out its mission successfully.

The Government is determined to facilitate the growth of the entire industry sector to become ‘defence-ready.’

We’re seeing more and more companies investing in Australia, developing our sovereign capability, and deepening our industrial base.

In a mark of confidence in Australia’s defence industry, I’m pleased to announce today that Leonardo will partner with the Commonwealth to establish a transmission repair and overhaul facility for our Taipan helicopters, right here at Fishermans’ Bend.

This will mean that instead of going all the way back to Italy for maintenance, helicopter transmissions for our aircraft and those of New Zealand can be maintained right here – employing 15 full time technical staff and 25 more staff indirectly.

Steps like this are important milestones as we grow our defence industry.

And there’s more to come. We are taking other positive steps to support industry.

These measures include:

A defence industry skilling and STEM strategy to grow the defence industry workforce and skills base;

A defence industry participation policy with a consistent framework for involving industry in Defence procurements valued at $4 million and above; and

A defence industry security program to expand access and services to companies seeking work with Defence.

To take advantage of the opportunities offered in the Defence White Paper, industry needs to step up and build capacity and capability over the next 10 years.

There are unprecedented opportunities for Australian industry involvement, and for Australian jobs growth, in the Defence Industrial Capability Plan.

The focus of the Defence Industrial Capability Plan is also on enhancing our sovereign industrial capabilities.

These capabilities must be protected for our national security.

Ten initial sovereign industrial capability priorities have been identified, as they are operationally critical to the Defence mission in the three to five year timeframe.

They range from capabilities in electronic warfare, cyber and information security to surveillance, combat clothing enhancements, air platform maintenance and land combat technology upgrades.

These initial priorities cut across the six capability streams identified in the Integrated Investment Program of the Defence White Paper.

We will release industrial strategies for each of these six streams from the middle of next year, outlining the short-term and longer-term objectives to be achieved.

The Government also will put in place a grants program of up to $17 million to support companies that contribute to a sovereign industrial capability priority.

To grow the robust, globally-competitive Australian defence industry of the future requires deep collaboration between Defence, industry and academia.

We have also introduced a new Defence Innovation System to ensure this three-way collaboration.

The signature programs under the innovation system are the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

These two programs are actively encouraging collaboration across industry and research organisations to deliver innovative solutions for Defence capability.

A new force design process ensures that investment priorities are coherent across the Defence Innovation System and are aligned with Defence strategy.

In the first year of operation, 1,100 proposals were received for the various Defence innovation programs.

More than $80 million worth of innovation contracts have been signed during this period.

The market has responded well to this transparency and clarity on priorities.

In the last financial year, 88 per cent of all proposals that the Hub received were aligned with Defence’s top three innovation priority capability streams.

As well as this, 76 per cent of contracts were awarded to small to medium enterprises.

Even more promising was the fact that 10 per cent of Innovation Hub partners were doing business with Defence for the first time.

These results are revealing and encouraging. They show that our innovation system is working and is helping to discover new sources of innovative talent, especially from the SME sector.

This pattern is repeated with the programs under the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

Australian SMEs have never had a better opportunity to contribute to Defence innovation.

They have often faced barriers in trying to access Government funds to further develop their early stage research, which could enable them to participate in bigger collaboration programs.

The Defence Innovation System has given them a new option and they have voted with their feet.

SMEs like DefendTex, Myriota, and Tectonica are now working with Defence primes and universities on projects for the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

The defence industry leaders are beginning to recognise that collaborating with SMEs provides them with a competitive advantage.

The Next Generation Technologies Fund has importantly set aside $10 million for the Small Business Innovation Research program, aimed specifically at SMEs.

I saw a great demonstration a few weeks ago of how well the Defence Innovation System was delivering results when I visited Silentium Defence, a start-up based in Adelaide.

Two Defence scientists who had developed an innovative form of passive radar technology went through an accelerator program and were able to spin off a company in radar technologies for which they subsequently received funding from the Defence Innovation Hub to diversify into commercial markets.

I believe this spin-off is the first in a long time for Defence and it was an outcome of the Defence Innovation System.

Defence benefits when its in-house innovations are licensed to industry.

Increasingly SMEs are stepping up to commercialise Defence innovations, having also assisted in the development process.

Two recent examples include;

Adelaide-based SME Consilium Technology, which has enhanced DST’s visualisation simulation software for Defence applications and is marketing it under the brand name Infinite Studio for commercial markets; and

the Sydney-based SME Clearbox Systems, which will commercialise the CORTEX military satellite communications monitoring and control system, designed by DST. This system was developed to provide enhanced situational awareness of Defence’s satellite networks.

Later this morning I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be shown an innovative flight instrumentation kit, which has transitioned to capability.

It’s called NIFTI, which is a catchy name for Non-Intrusive Flight Test Instrumentation.

It’s compact and wireless, which means flight tests can be carried out without time-consuming aircraft modifications.

NIFTI has been developed by DST and the Air Warfare Centre, with the hardware and software development delivered by a Melbourne SME, Defence Innovations.

The Royal Australian Air Force will take delivery of the novel instrument kit today.

The Next Generation Technologies Fund, led by DST, is setting new benchmarks for the delivery of research and innovation.

It has a portfolio of seven program elements, each with a different form for engaging and collaborating with external partners.

The Grand Challenges program, one of the largest in the portfolio, is a first for Defence and Australia.

It truly throws down the gauntlet to the wider research community to find solutions to problems currently sitting in Defence’s too-hard basket.

This approach lived up to its expectations when proposals were sought for the first Grand Challenge to counter improvised threats.

The response was overwhelming – the largest number of submissions ever received for a Defence research proposal, with a response from 75 companies and 23 universities.

As expected, many of the proposals – 36 per cent - came from researchers new to Defence collaboration, but eager to take on the challenge.

This underscores the fact that for a grand challenge to be successful, the solution must come from a variety of sources bringing together a diversity of expertise in multiple disciplines.

The Australian Research Council College of Experts recently said that ‘the Grand Challenges Program will prove to be one of the most important research funding initiatives in Australia in the past 30 years.’

Defence expects to facilitate two to three more grand challenges over the coming decade.

A core condition of participating in the Next Generation Technologies Fund is for industry, academia and research agencies to collaborate as genuine partners on future technologies of interest to Defence, not as contractors.

The objective is to tap into the widest possible brains trust in Australia to find solutions for Defence capability.

This objective is being achieved with new forms of collaboration emerging as a result.

For example, governments in three states are supporting their universities to pool their resources and form intrastate academic research networks that can jointly address Defence projects.

The Defence Innovation Partnership in South Australia, the Defence Innovation Network in New South Wales and the Defence Science Institute in Victoria are providing a critical mass for Defence research never seen before.

In another first, four Australian universities are teaming with their American counterparts under the US Defense Department’s Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, or MURI, to work on future technology projects.

They are the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, Griffith University and the University of Technology, Sydney.

MURI is a highly-competitive program, so the success of our universities is a recognition of their world-class academic expertise.

Their participation is being facilitated with funding from the Next Generation Technologies Fund.

Last year I announced the formation of the first Defence Cooperative Research Centre for Trusted Autonomous Systems, known as the Defence CRC.

Defence needs to be on top of quickly-emerging technologies such as Autonomous Systems, which offer both opportunities and threats.

In terms of research to nail down the various aspects of autonomous technologies, this is a huge undertaking. Not surprisingly, it has attracted extensive interest from primes, SMEs, universities and research agencies.

I would like to thank Mr Jim McDowell who has been the Chair of the Defence CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems since its inception for his excellent leadership in establishing the Centre. Sadly, Jim is leaving the Defence CRC to lead the Premier’s Department in South Australia and I wish him well.

But I’m pleased to welcome Mr Hugh Durrant-Whyte as the new Chair of the Defence CRC. Hugh has an impressive record as a pioneer in robotics and he will be a tremendous asset to the Defence CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems.

Defence is investing $50 million over seven years in this Defence CRC, which is now operating as a limited liability company.

The funding has been matched by the Queensland Government.

This is an unmistakable sign that Defence innovation is a truly national enterprise.

It is inspiring companies, universities, research organisations and state governments to invest in Defence capability to help build a secure future for our nation.

Today you will see how that future is being shaped by talking to our Defence scientists at work.

You can be part of that future by partnering with DST and making your innovative contributions to Defence capability.

Thank you.