$50 million funding awarded to four-year defence manufacturing project


Federal funding for the second Trailblazer program was announced on Wednesday, with the University of Adelaide-led Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC) gaining $50 million for commercialisation of research focussed on defence applications.

According to a statement from the university – which is leading the new centre with University of NSW – Commonwealth funding for a four-year term will be matched by $50 million from the two universities, $10 million from the CSIRO, and over $140 million from more than 50 industry partners located around the country, with a total of approximately $250 million pledged.

University of Adelaide said the centre aimed 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” and would “support Defence’s pull-through of leading-edge capabilities, including dual-use technologies” for use by the Australian Defence Force. 

CSC’s bid lead, University of Adelaide’s Dr Stephen Rodda, said it would expand expand Australia’s defence industry capabilities “to develop and service international export markets with strategic partners through measures including assistance to develop supply chains, transfer of IP protection expertise, transfer of cybersecurity expertise, and promotion of government and private support programs to deliver new technologies”.

The CSC bid estimates an economic impact of $1.5 billion over ten years and over 2,500 full-time equivalent jobs over four years.

It will focus on themes of:

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

BAE Systems Australia is one company member of the and will wo5rk through its national Red Ochre Labs Research and development centre.

More than 500 people work within Red Ochre Labs across Australia and are responsible for developing and delivering new air, land sea space and cyber technologies.

BAE Systems Australia CEO Ben Hudson said: “Collaboration across these technology areas and significant investment in R&D will have the benefit of speeding up the evolution of existing technologies where Australia is leading the world and the development of new technologies for the Australian Defence Force.”

The news follows Tuesday’s announcement of $50 million through the Trailblazer program for a Curtin University-led consortium for a Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Trailblazer hub.

The Trailblazer program is budgeted at $242.7 million, and will select four university-led bids (one must be from a regional university) for a four-year project aiming to commercialise research.

Each Trailblazer must focus on one of the six National Manufacturing Priorities, and each are evaluated on factors including the level of co-funding by industry partners, openness of IP sharing, and incentives for researchers to collaborate with industry.

(The six priority sectors are Resources technology and critical minerals processing; Food and beverage; Medical products; Recycling and clean energy; Defence; and Space.)

The program was announced in November 2021, following a Research Commercialisation Taskforce review chaired by Siemens Australia CEO Jeff Connolly.

According to the federal government, a total of 21 proposals were made, with a shortlist of eight released in January.

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced the successful CSC bid this morning while campaigning in the marginal seat of Boothby, which the Liberals hold by 1.4 per cent.

Also announced was a $14.4 million plan funding 480 extra  internships for engineering students to grow female participation in defence jobs.

Picture: David McClenaghan/Department of Defence

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