Towards 3% R&D – Innovation bolsters defence industry by Minister Pat Conroy

Today in our editorial series – Towards 3% R&D – Turbocharging Australia’s Innovation Effort – Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy explains how the government has built new structures to link defence innovation with commercial outcomes, building the defence industrial base in the process.

A strong and sovereign innovation, science and technology sector is critical to Australia’s national security.

The Albanese Government is delivering the strategy, investment and the commitment to ensure Australia’s defence innovation ecosystem can deliver the advanced technologies the Australian Defence Force needs.

The new Defence Industry Development Strategy details how the Government will grow our sovereign defence industrial base and deliver a greater partnership between Defence and industry. This is supported by $183.8 million in defence industry grants.

We want to drive investment in new industries that will create secure jobs for working Australians, and encourage more manufacturing here.

The Strategy feeds into our broader future made in Australia plan which brings together all our work and drive a practical strategy for Australia to seize the opportunity.

The Strategy sets out the priorities for Defence through the new Sovereign Defence Industrial Priorities (SDIPs), providing the detail, certainty and timelines that Australian industry needs to invest.

And it provides real and practical ways the Government is going to tackle the big issues facing Defence industry, from procurement reform to security uplift and developing the industry workforce. You can read the full Strategy here.

Breaking from the ways of the past

It was clear to the Albanese Government that the way of doing things were frustrating the very innovators we needed to be encouraging, and stultifying the disruptive technologies we needed to streamline into capability.

To this end, we stood up the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA) with $3.4 billion over the next decade and a mandate to use a new, fast and flexible approach to innovation and procurement.

ASCA has an Innovation Incubation program specifically designed to nurture industry and academia to identify innovations that can be rapidly adapted, tested and acquired to address capability priorities.

ASCA’s inaugural challenge – the Sovereign UAS Challenge – aims to bolster industry capacity to deliver large numbers of affordable uncrewed aerial systems, or drones.

This means business actually partners with Defence to understand and solve the most critical capability problems.

If you are in the business of innovation, I strongly recommend you check out the opportunities on the ASCA website to see what opportunities are available.

Innovation and AUKUS

Australia’s partners have always been a central element of our capability edge, and none is more critical than AUKUS, which is advancing at a remarkable pace.

We are working closely with the United States and United Kingdom through our AUKUS Pillar II Advanced Capabilities partnership.

All three nations are committed to taking full advantage of the technological opportunities under AUKUS – we are combining our collective strengths and deepening collaboration to deliver game-changing capabilities at pace.

We are aligning export and trade regulations to drive deeper defence trade between us, enabling most defence items to transfer or re-transfer between our three countries without needing further authorisation.

In February, the first meeting of the Defence Investors Network was held, embracing innovative finance and investment as key enablers for advanced capability development.

@AuManufacturing is in the final week publishing contributions from readers for our series – Towards 3% R&D – turbocharging our national innovation effort – and will shortly publish contributions in an e-Book. Information: Peter Roberts, 0419 140679 or write to [email protected].

And last month ASCA launched the inaugural AUKUS Pillar II Innovation Challenge, on electronic warfare, seeking to identify opportunities to harness commercial technologies from all three nations.

Electronic warfare will be critical to future operations, and we are working together to achieve electromagnetic spectrum superiority.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data for 2022-23 shows the contribution from Australia’s defence industry to the national economy grew by 4.1 per cent on the previous year, and the number of people directly employed grew by 3,800 jobs.

These numbers underscore the fact that the defence industry is a key incubator of employment, providing more than 100,000 jobs across Australia.

It demonstrates that the Government’s positive plan to grow Australia’s defence industrial base is working.

There is more work to be done, because Defence industry – and especially, defence innovation – is an essential partner in keeping Australians safe at home and secure in the world.

Pat Conroy graduated with honours in economics from the University of Sydney before working for a number of unions and politicians as an adviser. From 2008 to 2013 he was Principal Policy Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff to then industry minister Greg Combet, where he worked on policy development. Conroy was elected to Parliament in 2013 and held senior roles as a Labour MP. Pat Conroy is Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Minister for Defence Industry.

Picture: Pat Conroy

This series is brought to you through the support of our principal sponsor, public accounting, tax, consulting and business advisory BDO, and R&D tax incentive consultancy Michael Johnson Associates.

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