The NSW government launched the Defence Innovation Network (DIN) at Parliament House in Sydney on Tuesday, bringing together industry and academia to boost the state's defence sector.
“R&D is a key driver of innovation, and economic and defence benefits will flow to NSW and Australia thanks to the Defence Innovation Network bringing together our best researchers and our defence industry,” Minister for Trade and Industry Niall Blair said at the launch.
“NSW universities have diverse capabilities in defence-related technologies including artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, aerospace, radar, sensors, signal processing, material sciences, quantum sensors and advanced human performance,” NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said.
“These capabilities provide excellent opportunities for NSW defence businesses to accelerate their R&D and deliver innovative defence technologies to the ADF and our allies.”
The seven founding university members of the DIN are the University of Technology Sydney, Macquarie University, the University of Sydney, the University of Newcastle, the University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University, and UNSW Sydney.
The launch day saw a range of presentations by prominent figures in industry and academia on the innovative work they’re doing in the Defence space.
Dr Linda Matthews of UTS spoke on the success her team has had in using large images laid on the ground with custom-designed pattern architecture to fool the software in commercial drones.
“The patterns we’ve developed have profound disruptive effects on drones and aircraft,” Dr Matthews said. “Flight control systems disabled, obstacle avoidance disabled, massive visual tracking errors to the point where the drone didn’t know where it was.”
Mark Baker from Sonartech Atlas spoke on the challenges of innovating in a sector characterised by the tension between public accountability and the nature of human learning.
“Defence has a fear of failure that is a hurdle [for innovation],” Baker said. “But humans learn more failure than from success.”
“Defence also takes a long time. But I encourage you to stay on course,” he said. “That way we can all have success.”
NSW Defence Advocate Air Marshal (Ret'd) John Harvey told ADM that the DIN aimed to respond to short and long term challenges facing Defence.
"The DIN creates a framework for coordinated responses to defence needs, enabling multidisciplinary teams with critical capabilities to be drawn from across the network of universities, defence industry and DST Group," AIRMSHL Harvey said. "It supports rapid responses to short term needs as well as the skills and knowledge to deal with over the horizon R&D challenges and opportunities for our defence industry."
AIRMSHL Harvey also noted the benchmarks for success the DIN hopes to achieve: "Growth in R&D spending in the state on defence, especially industry contracts and those from the Defence Innovation Hub and the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF); commercialisation of IP that is taken up by the ADF and exported; a greater number of multi-party collaborations focussed on solving defence problems; the delivery of STEM graduates who are skilled for and ready for defence careers; and modifying civil use products and services for dual use applications in Defence."
The DIN has also announced a partnership with the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute to invest $230,000 to place 30 specialist PhDs in defence over three years.
Co-funded under APR.Intern’s National Research Internship Program (NRIP), the internships will match PhDs to NSW defence companies to develop skills and deliver innovative technology.