Defence innovation to be linked to purchasing – Conroy

The shakeup in Australia’s defence innovation programmes announced last week will see research and development linked more closely to eventual purchasing by defence, according to Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy.

Speaking on ABC Radio National, Conroy said the creation of a new Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA) would focus innovation efforts on capabilities that the Australian Defence Force could use or see themselves using in a few years’ time.

Conroy said: “The old defence innovation model effectively sprayed the money far and wide on good ideas, and that’s important, but it meant that if a technology was proved up, there wasn’t an acquisition programme that would then develop that technology into service.

“And that meant those technologies were being forced to go overseas.”

The ASCA replaces the former Defence Innovation Hub and Next Generation Technologies Fund.

“So, the big thing with this accelerator is that we will only be supporting technology that the Australian Defence Force says ‘I can see this being used by our troops in theatre in five or seven years’ time’.

“That means that we’re much more focused with our limited dollars.

“…and secondly, it means that when the technology does get proven up, that there’s an acquisition program to fund the commercialisation of it, so that it doesn’t get forced to go overseas, we get it into production and working in Australia.”

The government, which also announced increased spending on defence innovation of $591 million over ten years, said the focus would be on hypersonic systems, directed energy weapons, autonomous systems, quantum technology, information warfare and long-range fires.

Conroy said: “We have to get equipment faster and we have to make sure we spend our limited funds on the best possible equipment, to give our troops a capability edge.”

Conroy gave two examples of systems being developed – autonomous vehicles equipped with guns or missiles and operated remotely, and autonomous undersea vessels to complement the government’s acquisition of nuclear powered submarines.

He said innovation spending over the next decade would be $3.4 billion and represented the most significant investment and change in defence innovation policy in decades.

“It should be put in context, we spend around three percent of our defence budget on defence innovation.

“The United Kingdom spends seven percent of theirs and the United States 13 percent.

“So, this is a step up and it’s a necessary step up to give us a technical advantage.

“This is really critical and it’s also good for jobs, because we want to see more home-grown technology here, being developed here, leading into new capabilities for the Australian Defence Force and new jobs and new industries of the future, especially in manufacturing.”

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Picture: Pat Conroy

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