US defence giant Lockheed Martin will be spending AU$13 million over three years on a new research and development facility in Melbourne, aiming to solve the technology challenges of the future, and work in the so-called "art of the possible".
The Science Technology Engineering Leadership and Research Laboratory (STELaR Lab) is slated to open early next year and will be the first multi-disciplinary facility to be established by Lockheed Martin outside of the US.
Lockheed Martin said the STELaR Lab will constitute its national R&D operations centre for the company's current research portfolio in Australia, and undertake additional internal R&D programs, with researchers expected to explore several fields, including hypersonics, autonomy, robotics and command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
"The decision to establish a multi-disciplinary R&D facility in Australia was partly based on Lockheed Martin's own track record of research & development success with Australia's Defence Science and Technology Group and Australian universities over the last 20 years," Dr Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin's chief technology officer, said in Melbourne.
"Lockheed Martin laboratories operate on the frontline of applied research and development, and have been responsible for many advanced technology breakthroughs. It is our vision that STELaR Lab will add to that unparalleled legacy of technological excellence, and contribute to the advancement of human knowledge."
STELaR Lab will be housed between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
Former Australian deputy prime minister and ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley -- who was appointed to the Lockheed Martin Australia board in June -- previously highlighted the potential for the defence sector to collaborate with small-to-medium enterprises to secure Australia's place on the global stage.
"In rebalancing our economy in the context of the end of the mining boom, Australian industry has significant responsibilities. The defence sector will play a key role in this transition, and will provide substantial opportunities for our nation's SMEs," he said.
"In order to facilitate growth and to foster innovation in the defence industry, it is imperative that we place a concerted focus on our SME sector and the opportunities to expand its capabilities. Investing in SMEs, including those spearheading new research and development, will expedite the transformation of Australian industry and ensure that Australia meets its security and economic objectives."
Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin partnered with Australia's Defence Science Technology Group (DST Group) to enhance cutting edge Over-the-Horizon Radar (OTHR) technology, which monitors aircraft and ships in the country's northern maritime approaches, and drive advancements in new two-dimensional OTHR networks.
The Australian government announced a AU$240 million cybersecurity strategy in April, which aims to defend the nation's cyber networks from organised criminals and state-sponsored attackers, and sits alongside the AU$400 million provided in the Defence White Paper for cyber activities.
Melbourne was also slated to receive the first international office of Oxford University's Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC), after an agreement was signed in December that would see the GCSCC carry out audits of national cybersecurity risks and capabilities to help the nation in planning investments and strategies to improve its digital security.
Similarly, Deloitte launched the Australian chapter of its 24/7 Cyber Intelligence Centre last year, aimed at sharing intelligence with 27 other countries to provide a global front against cybercrime.