Jan Drobik - video transcript

Defence Innovation Hub Industry Update

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Master of ceremonies: I would now like to welcome our next speaker, Mr Jan Drobik, programme leader, innovation, from Defence Science and Technology Group. Jan will provide an update on the Hub sister programme, the Next Generation Technologies Fund. Please join me in welcoming Mr Jan Drobik.

Jan Drobik: Good morning, and thank you very much. It’s interesting listening to the echo, so I might be a very droll voice, but you get to hear it several times. So if you didn’t hear it first time, just wait a couple of milliseconds. I want to just change the focus a little bit. I suggest it’s like a family gathering. There’s the Innovation Hub brother, and here’s sister Jan, now Jen, and I’m sitting here beside my brother that looks after the industry side, and I just take the focus a little bit now with the Next Generation Technology Fund, and say, we’re trying to activate, not only the small to medium enterprises, the small industry, the large industry, but we’re trying to work in partnership with the academic energy that sits within Australia.

And if you think about where most of innovation comes from, it comes out of potentially basic research. It comes out of the farmer sitting on a tractor, coming up with a very good idea that then may need some further increase. But what we’re trying to do in Defence Science and Technology is really start stimulating that partnership between industry, the partnership between academia, and the partnership with Defence Science and Technology specialists.

One of our key objectives is to actually get our science and technology people to be more outward focused and to also be part of that, and we have this little catchy phrase, partnering in depth. What we do not want to do, given that most of our next generation technology fund is going out, 80% of our monies go outside, 80 plus percent, is we do not want to be simply a contract letter. We want to be able to be part of that solution. We want to leave and use or lead and use our deep 100 year plus knowledge in deep science.

When you think of [INAUDIBLE], you can think of over the horizon radar. You can think of a range of things that Defence Science and Technology has been involved in. Each one of those has involved an industry partner. It’s involved academic research over a significant number of years, and this is what we’re trying to energise.

This is the standard part that comes out of the white paper series of papers. And the only point I’d make with that is at the top, we had this gap between Next Generation Technology Fund and the Defence Innovation Hub. Andrew and myself have talked a lot in recent times in his massive three weeks of work, so far, is how we can actually not demonstrate that as a gap, but that actually is a single continuum, where there isn’t a cost to do business across our own creation of a valley of death. And so this is something that if I get up, if I’m allowed to get up next year and talk about it, we’d like to think that this is something that’s conjoined and that in reality for the industry people, for the academics, we don’t see that there’s some partition there.

I’ll just put this slide up, which is really, I want to briefly put it up to simply show the participants that we see can help make-- I nearly said help make Australia great again, but help build a great Australian defence industry, but underpinning that industry is a very vibrant and Defence focused academic sector. I do not mean that the academic sector is simply working for Defence, but we actually use a lot of that brainpower, a lot of that innovation, a lot of that research R&D that government writ large puts into the sector and have an outcome that actually helps Defence. And as the Chief of Air Force said, we have many enemies from many areas, and really, we’ve got to activate a very, very large system to be in front of that.

The other nice thing of this slide, which I’ll dwell on for a millisecond is really the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science. This is a really key part that it’s not Defence just doing its thing, doing its, dare I say, large acquisition style processes to try and get things. We’re really trying to, again, use external bodies to help us learn how Defence can be more reactive, proactive, faster, quicker learning, et cetera. And the final part is this whole interwoven part between the Next Gen Tech Fund and the hub.

I’m just going to leave this up for a small amount of time so people can see there’s often a question why does DST pick particular themes in its research. And there’s a set of principles about how we go about it. I won’t read them all but I think the mission first is really, really important.

I start in the days when Aeronautical Research Lab existed. And in many ways I’ll use one small example, chromium alloys for engines, we had a programme for 10, 15 years. It went nowhere, but academically, it was very interesting. The model of today is not think about a component, but think about a Defence capability and how can we activate our systems to actually meet that.

The one bit of detail that I’ve got is this slide, and it’s on the left. What are the priority themes, and where did they come out of? They actually came out of the White Paper process. They were socialised, debated, refined within the Defence committee systems, and ultimately, made it as a shopping list within the white paper.

With that, we’ve been prosecuting everything from integrated ISR. DST has been putting forward a space strategy, which will be released, which is based on what Australia can make a difference in in space, and that’s not just mimicking a large global company or a large global enterprise such as NASA but what is the bespoke thing that we can contribute to Australian capability needs.

I won’t read them all, but I’ll pick one, and I’ll pick the quantum technology. If you go into the US areas where they’re putting significant funding, you would look at quantum. If you look at the UK, you’d look at quantum. If you go to China, you’d see quantum. Everyone’s trying to get an edge.

So for Australia to have a impact, we have to basically make sure whatever we’re doing is something that one, meets a warfighter need, two, is world class, and three is something that we can develop with industry. The actual vehicles we have, that’s the term we tend to use. The themes are the ones on the left, in the middle, the way we deliver. I guess my final one minute of speaking will be about the vehicles.

We have got somewhat hung up on saying we do grand challenges – we had one in counter improvised threats. We have a Defence CRC entrusted autonomous systems. The question is often when’s the next one. I guess I would posit that as we’ve become a mature system, we’re trying to work out almost everything starts with a research network about what are the things within Australia and potentially internationally that can build a capability.

And I think I would like to think in 12 months time that those square or rectangular boxes are somewhat blurry, and that there’s overlap, and in fact, the balance is something that evolves, so that we can meet the need as quickly as possible. I’m going to end my talk on that, but the main one is outside we have a banner, which we could very cheekily call it a stand. It’s staffed by some of the DST people, and I guess if you want to ask detail, if you want to understand the 825 responses that we’ve had from academia, industry, for various ones of those vehicles, our people are here to help as always. So thank you for your attention.

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