Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne has launched the $730 million Next Generation Technologies Fund, which promises to provide the creative capability solutions that Defence needs while benefiting Australian industry, at the University of South Australia.
“This is a 10-year strategic research-and-development program that will deliver game-changing capabilities for the Australian Defence Force of the future,” Minister Pyne said. “This fund will draw on the collective scientific expertise of our nation across both industry and university sectors to give the ADF a winning edge with advanced technologies.”
Minister Pyne stated that to kick off the program the federal government intends to invest $16.8 million by June. The Defence Industry Policy Statement that was released with the 2016 Defence White Paper noted that approximately $730 million would be spent over the decade to FY2025-26 on “strategic next-generation technologies”.
The Defence Science and Technology Group will lead the research program, focusing on the following technology areas: cyber-security; space capabilities; quantum technologies; trusted autonomous systems; enhanced human performance; medical countermeasures; multidisciplinary material sciences; integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and advanced sensors, hypersonics and directed energy capabilities.
“The first program as part of the fund will be Grand Challenges, where Defence puts forward a problem with no easy solutions and asks Australians to come up with an answer,” Minister Pyne said.
“These challenges will require joint, multidisciplinary research across organisations to resolve. The first such challenge, which will soon be open to proposals, is to counter improvised threats, which are constantly evolving and confronting our troops.”
Grand Challenges will bring together small, agile companies including start-ups, larger companies and academic researchers to work alongside Defence scientists on large-scale, mission-focused projects with clearly defined goals. Defence is taking on board the risk of failure, and in doing so encouraging innovation, Minister Pyne stated.