Defence innovation funding: drop code, not bombs (well maybe some bombs)

Software, cyber and machine learning investment priority.

By George Nott
July 17, 2017


army

Secure communications, machine learning applied to cyber threats and software to bring civilian intel products up to military standards are among the innovations receiving investment from the Australian Defence Forice, it has been announced.

More than $12 million has been awarded to eight companies as part of the second tranche of Defence Innovation Hub investments.

Although some of those companies will use the funding to develop weapons and aircraft (including a re-usable supersonic sea skimming target missile and an autonomous glider) many of those receiving the funding boost have non-hardware focus.

Quantum cyber security company QuintessenceLabs, has received $3,261,000 to "explore the feasibility of the establishment of highly secure communications links between two points".

Founded a decade ago, the ACT-based company offers an encryption key and policy management system backed by quantum generated true random numbers. Westpac Group increased its stake in the firm earlier this year.

Data to Decisions Co-Operative Research Centre was established last year with a $25 million government grant to "tackle the Big Data challenges that face Australia's national security agencies". The centre has received a $1,054,000 Defence investment to develop a cyber-threat intelligence capability which "could assist enterprise and mission systems in identifying and treating potential adversary exploitations".

A $275,000 innovation contract between Defence and Saber Astronautics Australia will be used to develop machine learning technology for the autonomous identification and modelling of electronic threats.

A similar value contract was awarded to Melbourne-based SYPAQ Systems to develop software that "effectively trains networks to learn how to interpret non-standard intelligence products and convert them to comply with appropriate format standards", Defence said.

"This investment will see a number of organisations across Australia benefit from this initiative to develop game changing defence equipment," Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said.

"It will help support a number of local jobs across Australia and keep local defence industry involved in the latest innovation for Australia's defence."

The Defence Innovation Hub launched in December last year. As part of the first tranche of investments - announced last month - a $97,000 contract was forged between Defence and Sydney-based Berkeley Information Technology to provide a software solution to protect documents used on Defence information and communication systems.

The technology "has the potential to negate unintentional data breaches as well as malicious insider attacks", Defence said at the time.

 

New targets

The investments signal the change within Defence to recognise electronic threats and expand its cyber capabilities, noted in its Defence White Paper of last year.

Late last year Defence released an updated ICT strategy intended to help it implement the 'One Defence' reform program, and the priorities outlined in the white paper. In total, Defence plans to invest $20 billion over 10 years in ICT to implement the strategy.

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