$50 million for Industry and Defence to work together on Trusted Autonomous Systems

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The Hon Christopher Pyne MP

Minister for Defence Industry

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6 July 2017

The Turnbull Government continues to deliver in Defence Innovation with the launch of the first $50 million Defence Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), announced today by the Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP.

The Defence CRC is a collaborative program that brings together academia, publicly funded research agencies, industry (particularly small to medium enterprises) to create an interlocking research and innovation capability that is focused on driving a Defence outcome. 

Minister Pyne said the first Defence CRC will focus on Trusted Autonomous Systems to deliver game-changing unmanned platforms that ensure reliable and effective cooperation 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.

“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.”

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 Next Generation Technologies Fund.

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,” Minister Pyne said. 

The CRC is an initiative of the Next Generation Technologies Fund which complements the Defence Innovation Hub as the two core initiatives of the new Defence Innovation System outlined in the Government’s Defence Industry Policy Statement. These two signature innovation research and development programs, together with the Centre for Defence Industry Capability, deliver on the Government‘s $1.6 billion commitment to grow Australia's defence industry and innovation sector.

For more information visit www.business.gov.au/cdic

Mr. McDowell’s biography is below.


Biography of Mr. Jim McDowell

Mr Jim McDowell commenced as Chancellor of the University of South Australia on 1 January 2016.

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jim completed a law degree with honours at the University of Warwick (England) in 1977. He worked in legal, commercial and marketing roles with aerospace company Bombardier Shorts for the next 18 years.

Jim joined British Aerospace in Singapore in August 1996. In 1999, he was appointed Regional Managing Director of BAE Systems for Asia, following the merger of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems and based in Hong Kong. Upon taking over at BAE Systems Australia, Jim established the company’s headquarters in Adelaide, South Australia where he lives.

Jim was Chief Executive Officer of BAE Systems Saudi Arabia a $6 billion company from September 2011 to December 2013.

He has in-depth experience in corporate governance having served, mainly as Chair on a range of boards including the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Air Warfare Destroyer Principals Council, Total Construction Pty Ltd and Australian Defence Accelerator Ltd. He is a non-executive director of both Codan Ltd and Austal Ltd and a Board Member of the Royal Automobile Association (RAA), Adelaide Football Club, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Council and St Peter’s College Council of Governors.

Jim acts in a number of advisory roles to the Minister and the Department of Defence as a member of the First Principles Review of the Department and the Expert Advisory Panel for the Future Submarine Project.

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