UniAdelaide partners with UNSW as defence capability Trailblazer

Brandon How

The University of Adelaide in partnership with the University of New South Wales is the second recipient of $50 million through the federal government’s trailblazer program to support innovation in the defence sector.

The Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC) program will receive the funding over the four years and is being undertaken in partnership with the University of New South Wales. In total, the project is worth $250 million, with the universities matching the $50 million grant, an additional $10 million coming from CSIRO, and more than $140 million of capital and in-kind contributions from industry partners.

CSIRO will also provide projects with lab facilities. A seed fund of $34 million will be established to enable the production of deployable prototypes. To support commercialisation, a $126 million Advanced Innovation Fund will also be established.

The defence capability hub is being led by the University of Adelaide in partnership with the University of New South Wales

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the program would support the national capability as well as the local South Australian economy.

“Here in South Australia, we’re focusing on the defence industry and making sure there are the great partnerships getting those high-end skills that are needed to see the defence industry grow and prosper here in South Australia,” the Prime Minister said.

“Now they’re teaming up with 52 industry partners, there’s 35 smaller businesses. Companies like BAE, and smaller ones like Supashock, Greenroom Robotics, Silentium Defence, firms here in South Australia.”

This builds on existing partnerships between industry and the CSC universities. For example, the University of Adelaide began working with BAE Systems Australia from 2018 to upgrade the Jindalee Operational Radar Network early-warning system.

Collaboration under the CSC will focus on meeting the Department of Defence’s priorities as well as reaching entrepreneurial and commercial outcomes. Financial and research commitments have been secured 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

About 80 per cent of the firms involved are small to medium sized enterprises based in Australia. More than 2500 jobs are expected to be created during the course of the program as well as a further net benefit of $1.5 billion over ten years.

University of Adelaide vice-chancellor and president Professor Peter Høj welcomed the funding.

“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,” Professor Høj said.

University of New South Wales vice-chancellor and president Attila Brungs emphasised the importance of university-industry collaboration and highlighted the university’s expertise in project’s priority areas.

CSC chair designate and Northrop Grumman general manager Asia Pacific Christine Zeitz said the Defence Trailblazer was an important initiative for the defence sector.

“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,” Ms Zeitz said.

”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.”

Today’s announcement follows the unveiling of Curtin University as the first Trailblazer university on Tuesday. The Perth-based program will focus on the commercialising technology in the resources and critical minerals sector.

The $242.7 million Trailblazer Universities program announced last November aims to establish research commercialisation hubs at four universities to assist Australia’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. After a competitive process, the recipient universities receive $50 million over four years.

Initially 21 universities expressed interest in participating in the program, with a shortlist of eight released in January. The shortlisted universities then submitted a detailed proposal for direct hub funding and additional specialist support from CSIRO.

Two more Trailblazer universities are expected to be announced during the election campaign while another two will come through a $119 million allocation in the federal budget 2022-23. This comes through the government’s regional accelerator program which extends existing programs to regional applicants with dedicated funding.

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