Replacing the Defence Innovation Hub (DIH) and the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF), the newly launched Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA) program seeks to implement new, innovative technologies into priority defence capabilities, through a streamlined process designed to accelerate the acquisition process.
As an initiative which aligns closely with directives outlined throughout the Defence Strategic Review (DSR), ASCA is likely to be an area of intense discourse and focused effort for the Australian Defence Department across the next decade.
It will be essential for industry, and especially those working in certain developing technologies, to understand this new program and the implications it holds for defence.
What is ASCA?
With over $3.4 billion worth of funding from within the Defence budget, ASCA intends to serve as the new defence innovation system for Australian defence, with the key intent of harnessing and implementing new innovations. This has the intent to disrupt existing capabilities or drive the development of asymmetric capabilities.
The way in which this program will function is focused on efficiency and expediency. As a “mission-based approach”, ASCA will coordinate its efforts around missions driven by problem statements, with the explicit intent of addressing key priorities in defence, as outlined in the Defence Strategic Review.
These problem statements will then inform the identification of viable innovations. The goal is to translate identified innovations into relevant, viable capability, which can then be fast-tracked through adaptation and testing phases for accelerated acquisition.
This direction appears to immediately address the pitfalls of previous defence innovation programs, which have a history of being wasteful and inefficient. The most of notable of these was the Defence Innovation Hub (DIH), which only managed to translate 10 technologies into a usable capability for defence over the course of its 7-year run, despite receiving a funding of $441 million.
To ensure relevancy, ASCA missions will be:
• Time-limited to three years and will only commence if there’s an endorsed pathway to acquisition;
• Governed by an oversight group consisting of high-ranking defence personnel;
• Led by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force (VCDF);
• Include industry, academia and government stakeholders as an advisory committee.
What are the implications for Industry?
Ultimately, ASCA offers a range of opportunities for businesses operating in Australia’s defence industry. As Defence searches for new innovations to harness, businesses need to be aware of their positioning, so that they can adequately meet the priorities of defence.
This positioning should be informed six focus areas that ASCA will be targeting for technological innovation.
· Directed energy
· Trusted autonomy
· Quantum technology
· Information warfare
· Long-range fires
Businesses looking to capitalise on ASCA and secure a lucrative defence contract should assess how their products or services can align with the above focus areas.
First focus area released
ASCA hit the ground running by releasing its first Request for Information (RFI) on the 31st of July, seeking information to support ASCA’s ‘first innovation challenge’: the provision of an Australian sovereign uncrewed aerial system (UAS).
This potential capability will likely take the form of small, general-purpose systems that can be produced on a large scale. The RFI also specifies that this be a ‘sovereign capability’: an Australian product free from the security limitations or supply chain vulnerabilities that come with commercially sourced drones.
This RFI has given valuable insight into the priorities of ASCA and Defence. Businesses seeking to capitalise on future government funding towards innovative projects should be aware of this first innovation challenge and think about how to position themselves to effectively address this challenge.
Being acutely aware of these six focus areas and the priorities of ASCA will be essential to those seeking to engage with ASCA, as RFIs and RFTs continue to be released in the coming months.
How to Win Work with Defence
For those who are looking to enter the defence industry, but have yet to make contact, it is essential to establish the right channels of communication within the defence network. Possessing an awareness of ASCA and the way it works is also a great first step. Defence will be more willing to work with companies that have a strong understanding of the acquisition process.
With experience assisting clients with applications through Defence grant and funding channels similar to ASCA, Systematiq is one company that offers the guidance and resources that allows businesses to successfully win work with Defence.
Through their consulting services and client partnerships, Systematiq has developed a deep knowledge of defence, and its related procurement processes. With tender writing experience for projects totalling $45 Billion and over 450 successful projects delivered, Systematiq assist businesses navigate to a successful outcome.
“The benefit of bringing a company like Systematiq onboard to take care of your grant application is that it ensures your resources are not stretched by multi-tasking between completing the application and someone’s day job,” says Brydon Johnson, director of strategy at Systematiq.
“As with any proposal, having a dedicated and experienced resource for your grant, means ensuring that every aspect related to the application, be it research, stakeholder management, or following up post the submission, is taken care of.”
If your business has the potential to provide innovative solutions for ASCA, but you’re not sure where to start, contact Systematiq through their website: Systematiq.com.au.