Defence research contracts boost Australian SMEs

| December 11, 2017

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has announced the third tranche of investments in SMEs developing new military technology through the Defence Innovation Hub, which was launched a year ago.

The new projects are worth a total $5.9 million and follows earlier announcements in June and July.

Kord Defence

On top of the third set of contracts, Minister Pyne confirmed that Kord Defence in the ACT has been given $635,000 to begin development of a wireless soldier control system for the Australian Defence Force.

The system will use Bluetooth Low Energy technology to connect with multiple electronic devices already used by the ADF. Minister Pyne said this would improve situational awareness for soldiers in combat, linking devices used for communications, sensors and battlefield intelligence.

“Soldiers can focus on their surroundings during high-stress combat situations rather than trying to find buttons or operate equipment such as radios or sensors,” the minister said, while Liberal ACT senator Zed Seselja was pleased to see an ACT company leading the development of innovative technology for the ADF.

“This contract reflects the innovative technologies emerging from our local Canberra defence industry,” Seselja said. “What is especially pleasing to see is the work done by Kord Defence in the ACT is bringing significant economic benefits to our region.”

Round three highlights

Headlining the latest round, a NSW SME will develop a counter-improvised explosive device (IED) system to protect Australian army personnel on the battlefield. RingIR will receive $4.6 million to develop the counter-IED system, which will use a sensitive laser spectrometry technique to locate and identify vapours exuded from explosives.

“This technology could be used to determine the location and type of IED, allowing Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel to effectively respond to improvised threats,” Minister Pyne said a statement announcing the new project.

Other schemes in the third tranche of Defence Innovation Hub projects benefit SMEs in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria.

Queensland’s Explosive Protective Equipment received a $242,000 contract to explore the integration of a Cobham Amulet Ground Penetrating Radar into an existing unmanned ground vehicle for detection of improvised explosive devices. Griffith University, also in Queensland, won a $183,000 contract to explore the development of a portable device that enables real-time detection of airborne biological threats, such as fungi spores, viruses and bacteria.

Western Australia’s L3 Oceania received $2.9 million, the largest contract of the third tranche, to explore the development of an underwater acoustic sensor for the Australian navy.

NSW’s University of Newcastle was given $2.2 million to explore the development of enhanced resilience training for ADF personnel through a set of virtual reality-based training sessions involving controlled exposure to adverse environments.

And in Victoria, Agent Oriented Software received $378,000 to explore the concept of an autonomous teamed intelligent software agent capability resilient to cyber attacks.

Second Tranche Summary

The second tranche of Defence Innovation Hub investments was worth $12.3 million and was announced in July. Its eight innovation contracts were awarded to three NSW companies, three Victorian companies, one South Australian company and one company in the ACT.

A $3,170,000 contract with Ron Allum Deepsea Services in Sydney will investigate the feasibility of a novel, high-performance autonomous glider for long-endurance undersea surveillance. Sydney’s Saber Astronautics was given $275,000 to explore the development of an innovation that will use machine learning technology for autonomous identification and modelling of electronic threats.

Trang Imagineering of NSW was awarded $218,000 to consider the development of 3D sensors used in the mining industry for potential use by the Australian Defence Force for threat monitoring in conflict zones. This might entail identifying areas of ground disturbance where IEDs, or other threats, might be hidden, and identifying recent enemy movements based on 3D scanning of changes to terrain.

Deakin University in Victoria won a $2,157,000 contract to explore the feasibility of developing a functioning hot fire training system using haptic (touch) force feedback, high fidelity visuals and realistic heat experience to improve fire fighting training for the Navy.

Grollo Aerospace in Victoria was given a $1,925,000 contract to plan the design of an affordable re-usable supersonic sea skimming target missile, to give the ADF world leading capability designed domestically.

SYPAQ Systems earned a second contract, worth $274,000, to investigate the development of software-based systems that train networks to learn how to interpret non-standard intelligence products and convert them to comply with appropriate format standards.

The Data to Decisions Co-Operative Research Centre in South Australia was given $1,054,000 to leverage international research and look at developing a cyber threat intelligence capability to help enterprise and mission systems identify and mitigate potential adversary exploitations.

Finally, QuintessenceLabs in the ACT won a $3,261,000 contract to look at better ways to create highly secure communications links between two points, both fixed and over line of sight.

First Tranche Review

Three contracts worth $880,000 were announced in the initial tranche in June. Announcing the measures, Minister Pyne stressed the crucial importance of the Defence Innovation Hub to delivering the government’s $1.6 billion commitment to develop local defence capability, help Australian industry to mature and further develop defence technologies which will create jobs and drive economic growth around the country.

A $618,000 contract signed with Newcastle-based Armor Composite Engineering, for example, will provide a low profile body armour system, which could be used by personnel in close protection roles, to improve protection for Australian Defence Force members from new and emerging threats.

Melbourne-based SYPAQ Systems signed a $172,000 contract with Defence to provide a small, lightweight, next generation power generator tailored to land environments which can be used by individual soldiers and vehicle-based forces.

A $97,000 contract between Defence and Sydney’s Berkeley Information Technology will provide a software solution to support the protection of documents used on Defence information and communication systems. Defence hopes that this technology has the potential to negate unintentional data breaches as well as malicious insider attacks in an increasingly hostile cyber-environment.

Industry, academic and research organisations can offer proposals for new projects through the Defence Innovation Portal.