Second Trailblazer university to commercialise defence research

Trailblazer

The University of Adelaide has been chosen as the second university to benefit from the federal government’s Trailblazer Universities Program, to deliver on their Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC) bid. 

A government commitment of $50 million in cash over four years will be matched by $50 million of funding from the two universities and $10 million from the CSIRO. More than $140 million will be invested in the project by over 50 industry partners located around the country, bringing the total value of the program to approximately $250 million. 

It is estimated that CSC will have a net economic benefit to the Australian economy of $1.5 billion over ten years and will deliver more than 2,500 FTE jobs over four years directly linked to the activities of the program. 

In partnership with the University of New South Wales, the CSC project aims to create a new trust-based cross-sector culture founded on shared risk, shared problem solving, shared success, and a shared sense of strategic urgency. 

“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,” CSC chair designate Christine 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.” 

Industry and academia will support Defence’s pull-through of leading-edge capabilities, including dual-use technologies, to sustain the ability of the Australian Defence Force to defend national security interests in a highly volatile geo-strategic environment. 

The project will create a step change in the Australian defence innovation culture to enable research and industry innovators to quickly fix on the Department of Defence’s priority research translation challenges. It will rapidly secure capital for collaborative ideation, prototype potential solutions, commercialise the winners in defence and civilian markets, and accelerate the transition of competitive advantage capabilities into the hands of ADF operators. 

“The Defence Trailblazer: Concept to Sovereign Capability program signals the start of a closer relationship between Defence, research organisations and defence industry that will see Australia’s sovereign defence capability significantly strengthened,” ADF head of Information Warfare, Major General Susan Coyle said. 

“Mutually reinforcing this relationship is the key to accelerating the translation of research into commercialised and deployable Australian Defence Force capabilities.” 

Both universities have deep partnering arrangements with some of Australia’s largest defence companies and SMEs and new companies spun out of them. Researchers will pivot to solve complex defence problems alongside industry in both Defence and civilian market sectors. Government, industry and universities will drive concept demonstrators across the “valley of death” and into manufacturing. 

In partnership with industry, the universities have secured investment and commitments to integrate emerging technologies, and scale manufacturing, support the ADF capability and to capitalise on dual-use technologies in priority areas including: 

  • Quantum Materials, Technologies and Computing; 
  • Defensive Hypersonics and Countermeasures; 
  • Information Warfare and Advanced Cyber Technologies; 
  • Robotics, Autonomous Systems and AI (RAS-AI); and 
  • Defence Space Technologies. 

Over 80 per cent of industry commitments to the program are from Australia-based SMEs. This involvement underlines the potential to upscale Australia’s sovereign defence capability, support national security and drive economic growth through commercialisation in dual-use technology areas. 

Significant support for CSC will help produce high-quality research, design and development outcomes. This will form the basis of CSC’s commercialisation output, which will benefit the Australian economy and assist in its post-pandemic recovery. 

CSC will allocate $34 million in seed funding to create deployable prototypes of disruptive technologies that can meet Defence’s priority future requirements. Successful commercialisation will be enabled through a $126 million Advanced Innovation Fund. These two funding streams underscore CSC’s focus on commercialising technology and growing the economy. 

Benefits from CSC will be felt in the longer term through plans for a centre of expertise in research commercialisation, which will assist other universities and industry partners in leveraging potential in other economic sectors.