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Defence Trailblazer investing in disruptive new technology

27 October 2023

Advanced Innovation Fund, Defence 10x Accelerator and skills investment supporting over $200 million in projects

Focussing on innovation at speed, the Defence Trailblazer Program is investing over $200 million in disruptive new technologies that will directly translate into Australian Defence Force (ADF) capability.

In partnership with industry, the University of Adelaide (UoA) and UNSW, the Defence Trailblazer is accelerating the commercialisation of research at speed and scale.

“Teaming up with over 40 Australian companies of all sizes, from start-ups to primes gives us a direct pathway to develop cutting-edge technologies and solutions for the ADF,” said Defence Trailblazer Executive Director, Dr Sanjay Mazumdar.

“This year, we are investing in 3 core areas including technology development, which has over 25 projects on their way to commercialisation; the creation of the Defence 10X Accelerator for startups to fast track growth; and industry-led opportunities that provide up to 32 higher degree research scholarships with 16 industry partners.”

The technology development projects specifically accelerate the translation of proven concepts to commercial-ready products across Quantum Materials, Technologies & Computing; Defensive Hypersonics & Countermeasures; Information Warfare & Advanced Cyber Technologies; Robotics, Autonomous Systems & Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Defence Space Technologies.

Through the Advanced Innovation Fund (AIF), the Defence Trailblazer program will contribute to support the establishment of a Quantum Silicon (Q-Si) Production Plant to deliver an Australian manufacturing facility in Sydney producing zero spin silicon (ZS-Si) – a key material needed to build quantum computing chips.

“The Q-Si project will develop a sovereign end-to-end supply chain for critical quantum materials, essential for silicon quantum computing,” said Dr Mazumdar.

Other recently AIF funded industry-led projects will develop sovereign capability in the areas of quantum, defensive hypersonics & countermeasures and AI.

To boost the capacity and capability of startups into the ADF, the Defence Trailblazer has partnered with UNSW Founders and private investors to establish the Defence 10x Accelerator Program. As the nation’s first and only defence-focussed accelerator program, it will provide founders with seed investment, access to entrepreneurial mentors and research and development (R&D) capabilities, along with the industry and defence networks to fast-track business growth.

In 2023, the Defence Trailblazer has invested $1.25 million of seed funding matched by $500,000 from private investors in five defence focussed start-up businesses — Advanced Alloy Holdings (AAH), Australian Droid and Robot (ADR), Fortifyedge, Hullbot and Stratoship.

These companies specialise in developing innovative new sovereign capabilities in the areas of advanced materials, robotics, artificial intelligence, and surveillance and communication.

  • Australian Droid and Robot (ADR): specialising in rough terrain unmanned robotic solutions for transportation, search and rescue, training, combat, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
  • Advanced Alloy Holdings (AAH): providing a lighter ammunition product with improved projectile velocity, range, and impact energy.
  • Fortifyedge: developing a device to track the bio behavioural states of sub mariners, improving safety and performance beneath the waves.
  • Hullbot: specialising in autonomous underwater robotics to clean vessel hulls- enhancing naval power and reducing environmental damage from toxic anti fouling paints.
  • Stratoship: delivering high altitude technology for improved defence monitoring, intelligence gathering, and top-notch secure communications.

Each startup received $350,000 of seed funding and 10 weeks of one-to-one support from industry experts and mentors, as well as weekly workshops and connections to support their growth, capital raising and global ambitions.

“We are looking forward to seeing the growth of the companies we have invested in. Support for home grown innovation in our geopolitical climate is critical to keeping us one step ahead of our adversaries”, said Defence Trailblazer, Innovation Manager, Liz Kobold.

The Defence Strategic Review highlights that the demand for Defence’s capability innovation systems has never been higher, along with a need to improve the growth and retention of a highly skilled Defence workforce.

To address this challenge, the Defence Trailblazer is set to strengthen Australia’s defence capabilities by upskilling the workforce of today and shaping the workforce of tomorrow. PhD scholarships provide students with a minimum $50,000 tax-free per annum stipend scholarship to work on real-word defence industry challenges, these are jointly funded by Defence Trailblazer and an industry partner. An additional 4 pilot industry-upskilling projects are also underway, including staff mobility exchanges between university and industry and new course curriculum development to address critical workforce skill needs in industry.

The Defence Trailblazer has been established by the Australian Government to lift our capacity to rapidly translate disruptive new R&D technologies and provide future workforce skills required for ADF capability. By supporting the acceleration of ideas into commercial application and enhancing job-ready skills development, the Defence Trailblazer is building capability through an ongoing culture of collaboration between industry and academia. These innovative new practices will create institutional change for the benefit of the Australian defence industry.

More information

Applications for Defence Trailblazer 2024 Innovation Programs will open on 22nd November 2023. For more information visit dtb.solutions

Live demonstrations of the Hullbot robot, one of Defence 10x’s programs will be on show at IndoPacific, Sydney. Learn about the benefits Hullbot provides to vessel operators including increased efficiency and fuel savings; 10 am – 12:30 pm on the 7th – 9th November 2023 near Ripples Cafe, Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour.

About the Defence Trailblazer

Defence Trailblazer is a collaborative partnership between the University of Adelaide and UNSW and 42 industry partners, with support from the Australian Government Department of Education. The Defence Trailblazer aims to strengthen Australia’s defence sovereign capabilities by developing cutting-edge technologies and solutions, while simultaneously equipping the next generation of innovators with specialised knowledge and skills to meet the current and future needs of Defence.

This Defence Trailblazer is a 4 year program funded by a $50 million grant from the Department of Education and matched by $25 million (cash and in-kind) from each of the University of Adelaide and the UNSW Sydney with an additional contribution of approximately $100 million from industry.

Media contact:  Ilsa Stuart, Senior Partnerships Manager, 0402 260 771, istuart@dtb.solutions