Australian government awards AU$5.9m in R&D grants to support defence operations

Five organisations have been awarded Defence Innovation Hub grants for the research and development of underwater acoustic sensors and VR-based resilience training programs, among others.

The Australian government has announced awarding five organisations with Defence Innovation Hub grants worth AU$5.9 million.

Western Australia-based L3 Oceania has secured a AU$2.9 million contract to explore the development of an underwater acoustic sensor, while the University of Newcastle will explore the development of virtual reality-based resilience training programs for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel under a AU$2.2 million contract.

Agent Oriented Software from Victoria has been awarded a AU$378,000 grant to explore the concept of an "autonomous teamed intelligent software agent capability resilient to cyber-attacks"; Explosive Protective Equipment from Queensland received a AU$242,000 grant to explore the integration of a Cobham Amulet Ground Penetrating Radar into an existing unmanned ground vehicle for the detection of improvised explosive devices; and Griffith University received a AU$183,000 grant to explore the development of a portable device that enables real-time detection of airborne biological threats.

"These investments will drive growth in defence industry and innovation whilst focusing on the capability needs required to ensure Australia's national security now and into the future," Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said in a statement on Friday.

Launched in December last year, the Defence Innovation Hub has invested about AU$20 million to industry and research organisations, Pyne said.

The largest grant was awarded to Quantum cybersecurity firm QuintessenceLabs -- which received AU$3.26 million -- to explore the development of an Australian-specific solution aimed at protecting defence and other critical government systems from "malicious cyber intrusion and disruption", as well as enhance the resilience of defence networks locally and abroad.

The Australian government has been boosting its investment in Australia's defence capability and innovation, in March announcing the launch of its AU$730 million "Next Generation" Technologies Fund, which Pyne said would help incubate "creative solutions" to protect the nation from new threats.

As part of the initiative, the government said it would launch defence cooperative research centres, university research networks, a defence research accelerator scheme, an innovation research program for small business, and expanded technology "foresighting" activities.

The federal government also announced in March that the Australian Signals Directorate would be receiving AU$75 million critical infrastructure upgrades at two of its national security facilities in Canberra.

Funded under the Defence Integrated Investment Program, Minister for Defence Personnel Dan Tehan said the upgrades would help keep Australians safer by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

The government additionally announced in June that it would be investing AU$500 million into Defence Project 799 to enhance space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, which followed the Department of Defence signing a AU$40 million contract extension with Optus Satellite to continue using its C1 satellite for the next 10 years.

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