Countering emerging improvised threats will be the first “grand challenge” faced under Australia’s $730 million package to fund new generation defence technologies.
The first program under the fund will be Grand Challenges, where Defence puts forward a problem with no easy solutions and asks Australians to come up with an answer. These challenges will require joint, multi-disciplinary research across organisations to resolve.
To kick off the program, the Government will invest $16.8 million by June.
The first challenge, which will soon be open to proposals, is to Counter Improvised Threats, which are constantly evolving and confronting our troops, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said.
Improvised Threats are devised and deployed in ways other than in conventional military action. These aren’t just explosive devices but can come in many different forms such as chemical and biological hazards, Mr Pyne said.
The Grand Challenges are expected to bring small agile companies, including start-ups, larger companies and academic researchers to work alongside Defence scientists in pursuing large-scale projects with clearly-defined end goals.
“There are a range of opportunities for universities and companies to contribute innovative technology solutions to defeat future threats, many of which are not even on the radar today. The Government is determined to … ensure that industry and academia are actively engaged in developing unbeatable capabilities for Australia’s future defence force,” he said.
Defence is taking on board the risk of failure and in doing so encouraging innovation to solve critical problems, the government said.
The government is also committing $7.5 million for the CSIRO’s Data 61 research group to partner with the ANU and University of South Australia on researching cyber security threats.
“We get the researchers together, we get the smart people together to understand these areas and we ask them what possibly could happen and what could our solutions be, and then we go away and start working on the solutions and that’s what the first grand challenge has been,” Mr Pyne told the ABC.
The Next Generation Technologies Fund will also establish Defence Cooperative Research Centres, university research networks, a Defence research accelerator scheme, an innovation research initiative for small business, and expanded technology foresighting activities.