The technology transfer opportunities of the new AUKUS submarine arrangements are a two-way street, but industry must start the hard work now to identify and focus on areas of specific comparative advantage, according to Australia’s ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos.
The AUKUS pact – a technology sharing arrangement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the US – is “not just about subs”, but rather included a whole slew of other areas where the Prime Minister envisaged deeper science and technological cooperation with the UK and with the US.
“The purpose of this was to promote cooperation not just on finished technologies, but also the co-development of technologies as they evolve,” Mr Sinodinos said.
“The view was that we have a science and research infrastructure that we could bring to the table – where we punch above our weight internationally – and create capabilities and areas of comparative advantage,” he said.
Quantum computing was one area where Australia had genuine, world leading expertise, he said. But the Australia capability in cyber, artificial intelligence and machine learning were also hugely respected by our partners.
“These are all areas where we have strengths that we can bring to the table. So this is not going to be a one-way street.
“There will be technology transfer from which we can learn, and that’s always been a benefit of working with foreign partners, particularly close partners like the US and UK. But we will bring real strengths to the table.”
Speaking at the InnovationAus Capability: Submarines, Industrial Development and Future Industries forum on Tuesday, Mr Sinodinos said the opportunities for Australian industry was immense – but work needed to be done now map out plans to capitalise on those opportunities.
“The sort of environment we have created in Australia in tax and in regulation, and what we have done to reform the R&D system, the way we have sought to engage the university system more closely with industry are all ways in which I think we can bring much greater commercialisation incentives to bear on the system,” he said.
“And that’s going to be important going forward. Because with all of this investment going into the defence sector in these various ways – whether with the subs of the non-sub aspects [of that investment – that is going to create all sorts of opportunities.”
“So it is going to require the arms of Industry policy working with the arms of economic policy to make sure that we are ‘match-fit’ to take advantage of [this]. Certainly the Prime Minister sees this as a way of driving broader industry and economic transformation, and really making the innovation ecosystem in Australia more sustainable,” Mr Sinodinos said.
The scale of the submarine program – and the changed geopolitical circumstances that led to it – would be a key influence on adjacent industries important to Australia, including in the creation of secured supply chains in for critical minerals and rare earths.
Mr Sinodinos said Australia was in discussion with the Biden Administration specifically on critical minerals supply chains, as well as with partners in the Quad (Australia, the US, Japan and India).
“The US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo is talking about the ways in which the US can help to … engineer demand for many of these products, so that we can create secure supply chains among trusted partners.”
This is true of supply chains for dual-use technologies: “How do we encourage supply chains among trusted partners so that in areas where economic and national security overlap.”
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