Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Peace Through Superior Innovation

Kate Lundy
Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) office, where I am attending a ACT Defence Industry Forum. Former Senator for the ACT, Kate Lundy, the ACT Defence Industry Advocate opened the event. She pointed out that while defence industry in South Australia is discussed in the media, Canberra is the location of the ADF headquarters and many supplier companies. This is timely as I was on a panel for ANU software engineering students this morning, including a discussion of cyber-security and  radar design for warships (which is done in Canberra).

The choice of CBRIN for this event is interesting, as it is usually associated with web startups for consumer products, which would seem a long way from military systems. However, supporting the heavy iron military equipment are thousands of products and services provided by small specialist companies. I saw this first hand in 1997 when taking part in a multi-nation military exercise in Queensland. Not only were there companies at the temporary base set up for the operation, but deployed on warships at sea. I flew out into the Coral Sea by military helicopter to meet with my colleagues on the US fleet flagship, where I bumped into many civilians supporting the military.

Petr Adámek
Petr Adámek, the new CEO of CBRIN challenged the defence industry to think about how innovation could be better done. One way I suggest is to look at adopting some of the gig-economy techniques to defence services. This does not need to involve guns and bombs. Most defence spending goes on personnel: training people, feeding them, and keeping them healthy. The military also spend a lot on "logistics": getting materials needed to the right place at the right time.

A current example is the ADF restructuring to its traditional role as an amphibious fighting force. Australia has invested several billion dollars in amphibious warfare ships, which can transport personnel and equipment across the region onto a shore. However, retraining the Army to be effective marines, to get all the supplies they will need to where the ship is and all of the support on board is an opportunity for many new products and services.

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