COLLABORATION

First joint Australia-France defence research lab to be built in Adelaide

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The city of Adelaide will play host to the first joint Australia-France defence research lab.

Three major universities of South Australia will be collaborating with French defence experts to establish a joint international research laboratory in Adelaide.

The project will be the first of its kind for the participating nations and aims to “turbocharge” scientific collaboration between the three universities – Adelaide University, Flinders University and the University of South Australia – and their French affiliates, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Naval Group. It will also be only one of five industry-linked CNRS international joint laboratories in the world.

CNRS is the republic’s largest governmental research organisation and the largest fundamental science agency in Europe. Naval Group is a state-owned enterprise that specialises in naval defence and marine renewable energy. The firm had earlier this month inked a AU$50 billion deal with Australia to build and deliver 12 Attack-class submarines for the Australian navy as part the government’s Future Submarines programme.

According to InDaily, the research lab will be working on new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and ergonomics (also known as “human factors”).

The publication says Lot 14 in Adelaide’s central business district, will likely be the chosen site for the laboratory. “Hubs” will also be set up at each of the participating universities.

Commenting on the collaboration, Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling said the combined strength of the three institutions in South Australia, also known as the defence state, makes Adelaide the perfect location for the new laboratory.

“This is yet more evidence of South Australia being an unbeatable place to do business – by drawing on the specific research fortes of each university, we collectively provide an unrivalled capacity in advanced research,” he said in a press release.

“In Flinders’ case, it’s the exciting emerging technologies we’re leading in autonomous systems, such as unmanned vessels that can undertake often hazardous tasks independently of human control. We’re also actively contributing to research involving psychology and innovation.”

University of South Australia Vice-Chancellor Professor David Lloyd called the collaboration a “landmark opportunity” to boost Australian and French scientific cooperation in key areas, such as how “human factors” combine with the physical aspects of maritime vehicles.

“The University of South Australia is delighted to contribute to the laboratory its unique world-leading expertise in an interdisciplinary combination of research relating to Human Solutions for Complex Environments, including psychophysiology and behavior, metrics-based ergonomic design and virtual reality and augmented reality,” he said.

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen expressed confidence that the combination of the university’s and its French affiliate’s research prowess and industry experience would result in significant outcomes.

“The intersection of autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and human factors is one of the key frontiers of research today – areas we are pursuing with vigour,” he said.

“The opportunity to collaborate with some of France’s brightest minds on this frontier promises exciting outcomes.

“With our strong record in pure and applied research in the disciplines of human factors, AI and systems autonomy, the University of Adelaide understands that interdisciplinary research is a powerful means to enhance our contribution to human progress.”

In addition to the academics from the three participating universities, the joint laboratory will be be drawing on the relevant expertise from CNRS’s pool of 33,000 researchers and experts from Naval Group.