Australia’s Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne, has officially launched the $730m Next Generation Technologies Fund, a ten-year strategic research & development programme designed to support Australian defence capability and innovation.
The Fund is designed to provide “creative solutions” for the armed forces while at the same time benefiting Australian industry. It is said to be the first time that any Australian government has used defence dollars to drive innovation in this way. The fund will draw on the collective scientific expertise across both industry and university sectors.
Pyne said to kick off the programme the government would invest $16.8m by June 2017. The first programme 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.
The Grand Challenges will bring small agile companies, including start-ups, larger companies and academic researchers to work alongside Defence scientists in pursuing large-scale, mission-focused projects with clearly-defined end goals.
Pyne said the Next Generation Technologies Fund would also establish Defence Cooperative Research Centres, university research networks, a Defence research accelerator scheme, an innovation research initiative for small business, and expanded technology foresighting activities.
Defence's Science and Technology Group will lead the research programme focused on nine transformational technology areas, highlighted in the 2016 Defence White Paper.
The nine technology areas included in the research fund are:
- cyber security,
- space capabilities,
- quantum technologies,
- trusted autonomous systems,
- enhanced human performance,
- medical countermeasures,
- multi-disciplinary material sciences,
- integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,
- advanced sensors, hypersonics and directed energy capabilities.
The Next Generation Technologies Fund complements the Defence Innovation Hub launched last year, as the core of the new Defence Innovation System outlined in the Defence Industry Policy Statement.
The two programmes, together with the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, follow on from the government's $1.6bn commitment to grow Australia's defence industry and innovation sector.