Defence’s new Force Structure Plan (FSP), released on 1 July, includes a significant increase to innovation funding and an all-new funding mechanism: the Capability Acceleration Fund, which has the potential to address a number of so-called ‘Valley of Death’ issues for innovators in industry and academia. Paragraph 9.25 of the FSP states, “Sustained investment in innovation is necessary to enable Defence to maintain a capability advantage over potential adversaries. The rapid pace of technological change and shifting geopolitical dynamics make it more challenging for Defence to maintain this advantage and it is increasingly important that Defence is able to leverage the best innovation on offer within Australia.”
This is all consistent with the Defence Science & Technology Strategy 2030 released earlier this year, but it spells out financial commitments for the first time. These include:
- $130 million in a new Capability Acceleration Fund, to be introduced from the ‘middle of this decade’ – this is designed, says Paragraph 9.34, ‘to support the development of key disruptive technologies with industry beyond the early stage research and demonstration phases, taking promising technologies all the way to through to acquisition. This is intended to bring together industry participants, Defence personnel and technical subject-matter experts to provide the support needed to build prototypes to demonstrate capability and set requirements for future projects.’
- $1.2 billions-worth of future defence Science & Technology (S&T) investment via the Next Generation Technology Fund (NGTF) over the next decade, compared with $760 million when the NGTF was launched in 2016
- More than $800 millions-worth of future investment via the Defence Innovation Hub over the next decade, compared with $640 million when the Hub was launched in 2016
So far Defence has invested $164 million in 204 research activities under the NGTF and $237 million via the Defence Innovation Hub.
Chapter 9 of the FSP addresses industry and innovation specifically and ‘reinforces the Government’s commitment to build a resilient and internationally competitive defence sovereign industrial base.’