​Department of Defence's AU$14m investment to help CSIRO, BOM

The Australian Department of Defence will be splitting AU$14.2 million with seven organisations including the CSIRO and BOM to help with the development of new defence technologies.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The Australian Department of Defence has announced that it will be investing AU$14.2 million in seven organisations to help with the development of new defence technology capabilities.

The seven companies that will receive the funding include Armor Composite Engineering, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Micro-X Ocius Technology, University of Canberra, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), and Deakin University.

The seven organisations were selected out of a total of 96 proposals that were received by the federal government as part of funding round 19 of the Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) program. Managed by the Defence Science and Technology Group, the CTD program was established in 1997 to encourage Australian research and development organisations to submit new technology concepts that could potentially be used to enhance Defence's capabilities.

Some of the proposals the winning organisations in this funding round had put forward included the development of a miniaturised wide-band, low-noise radio frequency antenna; mobile X-ray imagers for use during field deployments and detecting improvised explosive devices; technology to securely transmit three-dimensional geospatial data to ships at sea; and a low-cost, high-G centrifuge for simulators used in pilot training.

Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews said that since the program was established, Defence has invested AU$270 million in 118 projects, and, of these, 104 projects had successfully demonstrated the feasibility of their technologies.

"This is a very good result for high-risk research and development projects that benefit both Defence and Australian industry," he said. "The government continues to be committed to supporting these programs in the search to find solutions to Defence's technology challenges now and into the future."

The funding will be a particular win for the under-funded CSIRO, where more than 500 jobs were axed after the government's 2014-15 Budget cut AU$111.4 million in funding to the research organisation. This was after CSIRO had announced it would cut 300 full-time jobs after receiving AU$32.3 in funding in the 2013-14 Budget.

"These funding cuts to CSIRO are short-sighted and destructive," CSIRO's staff association president Dr Michael Borgas said at the time. "They will do lasting harm to CSIRO and the capacity to deliver new inventions and crucial research for the next generation of Australians.

"These cuts to public funding of CSIRO could not come at a worse time. These budget cuts will mean more science workers will lose their jobs and more important research will not be done. CSIRO management might be faced with the terrible prospect of getting out of some areas of research altogether."

Last August, the federal government merged CSIRO with National ICT Australia in the hope to "supercharge" Australia's technological advancements. Then-Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said creating a single national organisation, dubbed "Data61", would produce focused research.

"The new combined entity will continue to train Australia's future digital technology leaders through the enhanced PhD program, with more than 300 technology PhDs enrolled at partner universities," he said at the time.

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