The NSW Hunter region’s defence industry is set to receive a major boost, with a Defence innovation hub being established in Williamtown.
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald made the announcement at the HunterNet Defence Conference, saying the new hub, part of a University of Newcastle innovation network, will aid innovation and investment in the region.
“The new Defence Research and Innovation Hub at Williamtown Aerospace Centre will be an exciting addition to the region, helping drive more innovative projects and growth in the sector including for startup businesses,” MacDonald said.
“The initiative is part of the University of Newcastle's innovation network delivered under the NSW government’s Boosting Business Innovation Program. The hub will bring the university’s strengths in capabilities such as cyber space, control systems and autonomous vehicles, alongside firms servicing the defence sector to explore commercial opportunities.”
The establishment of the hub comes after NSW unveiled its defence strategy earlier this year, which the government says will draw on its strengths in air and naval capabilities to maximise opportunities for NSW regional defence sector.
“This is a demonstration of the NSW Defence and Industry Strategy in action,” MacDonald said.
“The Defence and Industry Strategy, New South Wales: Strong, Smart and Connected, is the NSW government’s plan to support the national Defence effort and grow defence jobs, investment and innovation in NSW – including in the Hunter.
“We will maximise regional opportunities from the Commonwealth’s $195 billion spend on Defence acquisition, sustainment and operations over the next decade.
“The Hunter embodies NSW’s strength in defence force sustainment with Williamtown home to fast-jet maintenance, and now the renewed potential for naval sustainment in Newcastle when the Carrington slipway reopens at the port.”
The region will also host a NSW parliamentary inquiry later this year, a follow up to the two in Sydney and Orange.
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“A NSW parliamentary inquiry focused on growing our defence industry will also hold a Hunter hearing on 18 September to hear further development proposals for the region,” MacDonald said.
The parliamentary secretary added that the Hunter is a defence stronghold with Australia’s leading jet fighter base at RAAF Williamtown and the Army’s School of Infantry, Special Forces Training Centre and Army Reserve units.
“Defence was worth $1.3 billion to the Hunter in 2014-15, a quarter of NSW’s spend,” he said. “We have the largest regional defence presence in NSW with 4,000 defence personnel, prime contractors like BAE Systems, Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and a deep supply chain of smaller businesses servicing the sector.”