CSIRO science director and deputy director of manufacturing Dr Cathy Foley said the Defence White Paper was being used as a stimulus for putting research dollars into new-to-the-world concepts.
Dr Foley welcomed how this push now means “these big contracts will allow the stimulation of the economy by getting SMEs to be part of the supply chain”.
Despite the research dollars being put into these new-to-the-world concepts, Foley noted that there is still a stigma around working on Defence projects, particularly those that may relate to combat or strikes.
“And we still have that now where people say: ‘I'm not sure I want to work on a Defence project’… it's interesting. When I talk to them saying that, ‘Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where human nature is that you don't fight and no-one fights, but just out of curiosity do you ever fight with anybody [or] have a difference of opinion about things?’ They always say, ‘Oh yeah of course.’”
"Well just magnify that,” Dr Foley explained. “I think now the Defence White Paper is saying: ‘No, we're going to see defence procurement and government procurement’ [and] the government's National Innovation and Science Agenda is also saying the same thing.”
She said key opportunities would be created just in that space where government procurement has to buy local and use their procurement to stimulate manufacturing.
The scope of Defence contracts expands much further than most assume, with Dr Foley noting that Defence actually comprises a whole lot more than just pointing a gun at someone, or the notion of trying to capture territory.
“A lot of new technologies which we take for granted like GPS started off as Defence things,” she added.
“It's got a much broader requirement from disaster management, you bring in the Defence forces,” she said, citing new key drivers for this remit being pushed out, such as extreme weather events and earthquakes.
“It means that a strong Defence force is actually able to really get in there and help in disaster management,” Dr Foley added.