When the Australian Government launched its new Defence White Paper back in March, the document contained a major new initiative to involve local industry and the R&D startup community in the job of supporting the Australian Defence Force (ADF) of the future.
As part of the roll-out of Defence White Paper initiatives, not only is Australian industry being expected to supply a larger share of the military’s new capability requirements, but the skills of the nation’s industrial and scientific research base is also being sought to help innovate ‘sovereign capabilities’ that can directly contribute to the ADF’s next generation of warfighting skills and equipment.
Work to generate a roadmap for the creation of these sovereign capabilities is currently underway, with a new Defence Industry Capability Plan to be released by mid-2017. This document will directly interface with the Defence Integrated Investment Plan released at the time of the Defence White Paper, which details new military capability procurement requirements set to be funded over the next ten years. A new Defence Exports Plan due mid-2017 will further outline market extension opportunities for nominated sovereign military capabilities.
To encourage Australian industry participation in the above initiatives, the Turnbull Government is establishing an e-Portal through which it will administer some $1.5 billion (over ten years) of Defence Innovation Programmes outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper, and which will gravitate around a new Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) in Adelaide. The e-Portal will outline in detail Defence’s innovation priorities, as well as its new IP strategy and contracting frameworks.
To extend the CDIC’s activities to all States and Territories, the Department of Defence is funding AusIndustry to deliver Defence Innovation programmes across the nation. The Defence innovation agenda is separate from, but will run in parallel with the Government’s broader National Innovation and Science Agenda (www.nisa.gov.au), as well as the five future Industry Growth Centres first announced in September 2014 as part of the government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda.
The Turnbull government has on several occasions, including during the last Federal election campaign, confirmed its intention to foster an expanded local defence industry as a major contributor to the national economy. Having accepted the majority of 2016 Defence White Paper recommendations, existing defence innovation programmes are being consolidated and enhanced via new more integrated programmes structured around two major streams:
- The first is a Next Generation Technologies Fund resourced with $730 million over ten years.
- The second is a Defence Innovation Hub resourced with $640 million over ten years.
1 – Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGT)
The NGT is to be administered by the former Defence Science and Technology Organisation – now referred to as the Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG). The Fund’s focus will be on supporting proposals with particular alignment to the science and research required to turn early ideas on new Defence technologies or approaches into innovation concepts that can change future (i.e. potentially greater than ten years) Defence capabilities.
The DST Group’s website (www.dst.defence.gov.au) provides guidance on the roll-out of the NGT, however, research priorities relating to Defence White Paper future military capabilities have recently been published as encompassing:
- Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance;
- Space Capabilities;
- Enhanced Human Performance/Resilience (Physical & Psychological);
- Medical Countermeasures;
- Multi-disciplinary Material Sciences;
- Quantum Technologies;
- Trusted Autonomous Systems;
- Directed Energy; and
Mechanisms by which the DST Group is proposing to engage business entities, universities and scientific institutions to advance the NGT Fund’s activities will likely encompass:
- Integrating with projects currently underway within the existing Defence Cooperative Research Centre;
- Raising a new Defence Strategic Research Initiative;
- Raising a new Multi-Disciplinary University Research Initiative;
- Offering opportunities to participate in a rolling program of Small Business Exploratory Tasks; and
- Offering opportunities to participate in a rolling program of group challenges to address distinct military mission requirements.
2 – Defence Innovation Hub (DIH)
The new Hub will, in the first instance, be driven from a policy perspective by the Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group, which is located within the mainstream structure of the Department of Defence. Through the new CDIC web portal, the Hub innovation programme will call for proposals considered by proponents as ready to enter the engineering and developmental stages, including projects emerging from the NGT Fund. The six capability streams considered as the current focus of the DIH programme include:
- Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Space and Cyber (*);
- Key Enablers (*);
- Land Combat and Amphibious Warfare (*);
- Strike and Air Combat;
- Maritime and Anti-Submarine Warfare; and
- Air and Sea Lift.
The first three capability streams (i.e. marked with an asterisk) have been nominated as the three innovation priorities for 2016/17, while funds will also be reserved to resource a seventh capability stream that encompasses ‘Unexpected or Unforeseen Technologies or Ideas’ not already identified by Defence to date, but which nevertheless relate to objectives for the future defence force as set out in the Defence White Paper.
On a practical day-to-day basis, Hub activities will be managed by the CDIC which will offer assistance to take projects from concept exploration and technology demonstration through to prototyping and integrated (with the ADF) capability demonstration and evaluation. At the end of this process, proven technologies and concepts will most likely be referred into the new military capability acquisition system. Proposals will be able to enter the Hub at any one of the following entry points:
- Activities that support further technological concept exploration;
- Via a refreshed/funded technology demonstration program;
- Via a new formal system to advance the development of prototypes;
- Via a new program of integrated capability demonstrations; and
- The raising of a series of Defence-Industry collaboration initiatives.
Applications to participate in Hub R&D advancement programmes will be enabled via a website smart form which, after submission, will undergo an initial fast-track (or six week) assessment by CDIC staff. If the proposal is accepted for further evaluation, a further six-week detailed assessment phase is expected to conclude with the preparation of a contract to commence work. While the CDIC will undertake its own compliance checks on initial proposals, it’s likely that detailed Stage 2 assessment work will be contracted out to specialist advisors.
Depending on the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of each Defence Innovation Hub proposal, Defence funding to advance proposals is likely to be structured in the following manner:
- Concept/Technology Exploration: $100-250,000 over 6-12 months;
- Capability/Technology Demonstration: $1-3 million over 1-3 years;
- Prototyping: $3-5 million over 1-3 years;
- Integrated Capability Demonstration/Evaluation: up to $5 million over 6-12 months.
Defence has separately undertaken as part of wider industry engagement reform processes (known as the First Principles Review) to adopt a refreshed approach to Intellectual Property (IP) management and product/services contracting whereby it seeks: access to IP (not ownership); a more facilitative approach to fostering commercialisation; and the development of a culture that genuinely supports collaboration.
The CDIC homepage (www.business.gov.au/cdic) has now been enabled, and a formal Ministerial-level opening/launch of the new CDIC and Defence innovation programmes is expected early in December.
TCF Services has formed a specialist Defence Innovation Programmes advisory team and they will be contacting existing R&D clients anticipated to possess technologies potentially able to readily align with priority Australian Defence Force new capability requirements in the coming weeks. Regular newsletters reporting on the roll-out of CDIC, NGT and Hub activities will also be published. Immediate inquiries should be directed to either of:
Trevor Thomas, BEcon, GDipBus
D+I+sG+X-M Executive Advisers in
– The Defence Economy & Strategy
– Government Relations
– Corporate Communications
M +61 412 631 399
PO Box 5113, Kingston ACT 2604, Australia
Managing Director – TCF Services
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