The University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales and Queensland University of Technology will join forces with Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The universities will explore whether the way in which living creatures receive, process and react to environmental and contextual information can be applied to robots to improve their perception, navigation and spatial awareness.
Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said autonomous capability was a key priority for Defence because of its important safety and efficiency benefits: “Autonomous vehicles help keep troops a safe distance from harm and present solutions to a range of problems faced by our military personnel in the field.”
“This project is aimed at developing a truly autonomous vehicle capable of learning, adapting to unexpected situations and pursuing complex goals in dynamic and challenging environments. It is a tremendous opportunity for our scientists to collaborate with their counterparts in the United States on research that is vital for the future defence and security of Australia,” Minister Price added.
The funding was awarded under the AUSMURI program, a sister program to the US multidisciplinary university research initiative (MURI). AUSMURI supports Australian universities, which are part of successful bids in the US MURI process.
Designed to encourage collaboration between Australian universities and their US counterparts, AUSMURI provides funding of up to $1 million per year for three years, supporting research in high-priority areas for Defence.
A total of $25 million from the Next Generation Technologies Fund will be invested in the AUSMURI program over the next nine years.
The Next Generation Technologies Fund, managed by DST, is a new government initiative introduced with the Defence Industry Policy Statement in 2016. Together with the Defence Innovation Hub and the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, these three policies form the integrated Defence innovation system.
With an investment of $730 million over the decade to June 2026, the Next Generation Technologies Fund is a forward-looking program focusing on research and development in emerging and future technologies for the “future Defence force after next”.
The Next Generation Technologies Fund is focused on the following nine priority areas as determined by the Defence White Paper 2016:
- Integrated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
- Space capabilities
- Enhanced human performance
- Medical countermeasure products
- Multi-disciplinary material sciences
- Quantum technologies
- Trusted autonomous systems
- Advanced sensors, hypersonics and directed energy capabilities
“In addition to providing critical Defence capability, the AUSMURI program will help to grow local skills and expertise in key areas,” Minister Price said.
Further information regarding the Next Generation Technologies Fund is available here.