• Bid Leader and SmartSat CEO designate UniSA Professor Andy Koronios. Credit: UniSA
    Bid Leader and SmartSat CEO designate UniSA Professor Andy Koronios. Credit: UniSA

The Commonwealth has announced that it will fund SA's Cooperative Research Centre for Smart Satellite Technologies and Analytics – the SmartSat CRC - with $55 million through the Department of Industry, Science & Technology.

The investment makes the SmartSat CRC, a national research powerhouse involving $190 million of funding, the biggest investment in space industry R&D in Australian history.

The bid was developed by UniSA in partnership with Nova Systems.

Bid Leader and SmartSat CEO designate Professor Andy Koronios of UniSA, says the CRC will be a game changer for Australia’s space economy.

“Globally space technologies and industries are worth more than $500 billion but that success has been underpinned by serious global investment in research,” Prof Koronios said. “Australia has had a strong pedigree and a long history in space with excellent scientific capabilities in instrumentation and communications technologies but until now, the research has not been brought together to build a new industry for Australia, and to capitalise on the exponential growth of the global space economy.

“Our goal in bringing together the bid for SmartSat, was to show the huge potential and capacity there is in Australia to make an impact globally by developing leapfrogging technologies in areas where we have some of the best expertise on the planet – AI, advanced communications and remote sensing analytics.

“For a nation with a footprint covering nearly 1/10 of the planet, Australia has had very little presence in space; we cannot rely exclusively on the goodwill of other nations or our deep pockets to meet our communications and connectivity needs or to monitor our nation and our resources.

“For example, through their advanced remote sensing capabilities with satellites passing over Australia every day, other nations have the ability to predict our crop yields before we can.

“As we advance at a pace to an era of machine-to-machine communications and the Internet of Things satellites are becoming central.”

According to Prof Koronios, although the new CRC will be headquartered in SA it is a national program and will involve some of the best universities in the country as well as the CSIRO and DST.

It will establish state nodes to ensure that the whole of the nation is involved in the development of smart satellite technologies which will meet Australia’s needs to secure its defence, telecommunications and monitoring technologies into the future.

“This new CRC will re-energise Australia’s satellite communications expertise and capacity and launch a new era of development which will benefit every Australian enterprise into the future – improving communications for all Australians, helping us to monitor and protect our environment, enhance our understanding of climate change, protect our borders and our communications systems and advance the progress of new industries,” Prof Koronios said.

Chief Executive Nova Systems ANZ Steven Robinson highlighted the significant impact the CRC would have in Australia, building sovereign space capability, creating business and employment opportunities, driving innovation, and strengthening the economy.

“It is exciting to be at the forefront of an Australian Space industry milestone. We have already seen overwhelming support and collaboration for the CRC from industry leaders and world-renowned research organisations," Robinson said.

“The CRC is another step towards the enhancement of the capability and competitiveness of the Australian space sector, providing an opportunity for the next generation of space companies and technologies.”

Last year, the SmartSat CRC won the backing of UK satellite station Goonhilly Downs, made famous for its involvement in the Apollo 11 moon landings.

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