The government has launched a $50 million research centre to investigate technology for the Defence Force of the future.
The Defence Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) is a collaborative program that will bring together academia, publicly funded research agencies, industry – with a strong focus on small to medium enterprises (SMEs) – to create an interlocking research and innovation capability that is focused on driving a Defence outcome.
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said the first Defence CRC, which is an initiative of the Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF), will focus on trusted autonomous systems to deliver game-changing unmanned platforms that ensure reliable and effective co-operation between people and machines during dynamic military operations.
"Existing autonomous and robotic systems that operate in the manufacturing and mining sector are effective in controlled environments but not suitable for the uncertain situations in which Defence operates," Minister Pyne said.
"To be effective, Defence needs autonomous systems to be highly trusted, robust and resilient and this initiative will bring together the best researchers from industry and universities to develop the intelligent military platforms of the future."
The CRC for Trusted Autonomous Systems will receive an annual funding of $8 million with a maximum of $50 million over a seven-year period.
Robotics is not a foreign area for the Australian Defence Force, with some personnel already seeing the benefits of the technology during their missions in Afghanistan.
This is the first of several CRCs that the government is announcing, with further CRCs will be established in the near future on projects also aligned with the priorities in the NGTF.
Defence will be a member of each CRC along with universities, research agencies and industry, and participating members will be selected on the basis of their research excellence and technology expertise.
"The CRC environment offers excellent synergies for Defence, industry and universities to collaborate closely on defence innovation," said Minister Pyne.
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The minister also announced the new CRC will be chaired by Jim McDowell, a businessman with experience in the defence industry.
"I am also pleased to announce that the CRC will be chaired by Mr Jim McDowell, an esteemed businessman who has had an extensive career in the defence industry, and most recently at the University of South Australia," Minister Pyne said.
"As chair, Mr McDowell will be responsible for leading the development of the research program and business plan and work with industry on transitioning the research results into capability outcomes."