The research, materials and approaches used in modern manufacturing are evolving rapidly and transitioning their target markets towards a much more diverse array of industries including construction, food packaging, transport, medical science, biotechnology and clothing. The Defence sector will be a key beneficiary of these diversified sovereign capabilities that are powered by leading-edge research and development (R&D).
Victoria’s Defence Science Institute (DSI) has spent the last decade nurturing this varied local capability ensuring Defence has access to the best R&D available across the region’s universities and SMEs. Funding and facilitating sovereign expertise at ground level, DSI understands the importance of sourcing local.
In 2018, DSI supported the internship of a PhD candidate in a research project between Charles Darwin University and additive manufacturing company SPEE3D. The student was placed through the APR.Intern program and helped develop a compliance pathway for producing and validating a functioning mechanical part for a defence application. The project’s successful outcome underscored the importance of utilising local expertise to solve local challenges, and in 2020, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price confirmed that the cutting-edge technology would be used by the Australian Army.
Last year, researchers from Monash University concluded a Critical Minerals Assessment of the potential risks and threats to the supply and trade of raw materials to Australia’s defence sector. The project, supported by a DSI Collaborative Research Grant, led to the establishment of the Critical Minerals Consortium and the submission of a whitepaper the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. The resulting development of capability to assess risks and improve resiliency will make Defence more self-sufficient in the long run.
Ensuring this robust pipeline of sovereign expertise has multiple benefits for Defence: it provides cost-efficient, innovative capability for the ADF, maximises Australian industry and research involvement and ensures a continuous source of goods in the event of a global supply chain disruption.
In addition, State and Federal funding directed at manufacturing objectives provide critical support to ensure a viable defence sector. The Federal Government’s Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grants announced in 2018, help local SMEs invest in projects that build capabilities aligned with Defence Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities including ship building, munitions and small arms, land combat vehicle upgrades, combat clothing survivability and signature reduction technology.
Furthermore, in Victoria, the state government has recently announced a $2B investment over the next 10 years through the Breakthrough Victoria Fund to drive translational research, innovation and commercialisation outcomes. The support extended to advanced manufacturing, health and life-sciences and digital technologies will have far-reaching benefits for the Defence sector.
This level of sustained investment will help to ensure that Victoria will have the necessary workforce, skills and capability to help drive transformative change for the manufacturing sector.
The fundamental research and development currently underway in Australia to evolve these advanced manufacturing techniques will catalyse a knowledge-driven economy – stimulating the commercialisation of homegrown new ideas and technologies and the development of world-class sovereign defence capability for our nation.
Image credit: UNSW