Western Australia doubles down on defence with new science centre

SOURCE: Royal Australian Navy
The Western Australian state government has made defence a priority sector.

By U2B Staff 

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The Defence Science Centre has launched in Western Australia, the result of the government’s bid to enhance the state’s defence capabilities through innovation and collaboration. 

Officiated by Defence Issues Minister Paul Papalia last week, the DSC is a collaboration between the state and Commonwealth governments, and Western Australia’s four public universities–Curtin University, Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and The University of Western Australia.


The DSC will assume the role of matchmaker, actively seeking out and nurturing connections between university, government and industry for defence-related research and partnerships, creating the perfect trifecta for collaboration.

To be housed at Defence West in east Perth, the centre’s core activities, in a nutshell, will include:

  • Lifting defence-related research collaborations among universities, industry and defence
  • Identifying opportunities to encourage SME participation in collaborative research
  • Stimulating defence-relevant collaborations through its grant programs
  • Identifying defence-relevant science and innovation opportunities
  • Showcasing Western Australian science and innovation capabilities
  • Supporting students undertaking research projects in defence and related industry.
Australian Defence Forces
The DSC will facilitate research collaborations and industry linkages to boost Western Australia’s defence sector. Source: Royal Australian Navy

Grants allocated through the center will provide support for security and technology development, and the capability requirements necessary to enhance research, with a focus on Western Australia’s defence industry.A partnership between the DSC and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute will allow SMEs to access talents from the institute’s APR.Intern programme. The tie-up will see 10 STEM PhD students given the opportunity to participate in short-term focused research projects with industry.

In addition to that, eligible industry partners will also receive a subsidy and a 50 percent federal government rebate through APR.Intern’s Supporting more women in STEM careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute – National Research Internship Program (NRIP).

“The placements are a welcome boost for Western Australia’s small business sector and a positive step towards realising the objectives of NRIP,” APR.Intern Director and Melbourne Enterprise Professor Gary Hogan says.

“Contributing to the delivery of NRIP, the placements under the APR.Intern program will allow SMEs to cost-effectively tap into specialist research talent with unique skillsets to advance Western Australian defence innovation.”

Papalia says the DSC creates “the right conditions” to boost Western Australia’s defence sector and develop cutting-edge science and innovation.

“This will enable WA researchers to more easily link into projects, boosting our own state’s capability and future-proofing WA’s defence industry, keeping and growing skills and knowledge here and creating job opportunities for Western Australians,” he adds.


As Australia’s gateway to the Indian Ocean, defence is a priority sector for Western Australia.

The state hosts 11 major facilities of the Australian Defence Force, including the HMAS Stirling, the country’s largest naval base, and several key air force and army bases, and strategic infrastructure.

It is also home to nearly 6,000 defence personnel, with 2,391 navy, 912 army, 301 air force and 485 civilian personnel, as well as 1,891 active reserves.

HMAS Stirling
HMAS Stirling, Australia’s largest naval base. Source: Royal Australian Navy

To support and enhance their capabilities, the state rolled out the Defence and Defence Industries Strategic Plan last October, setting ambitious targets to double the defence industry’s estimated AU$3 billion annual contribution to the state economy.

This it aims to achieve by combining the research capabilities of its university academics with the technical expertise of its defence sector.

With the DSC, the government has laid the groundwork to achieve that.

The DSC will be governed by a board of academic and industry experts headed by Russell Potapinski, GM Intelligent and Autonomous Systems, Woodside.

“I look forward to playing a role in promoting even greater knowledge sharing and collaboration between government, industry and universities,” he says.

“Woodside has a strong track record of collaborative innovation partnerships, including with NASA. Woodside is a big supporter of Western Australian innovation capabilities, including in the area of remote operations – where space, defence and resources share common interests and challenges.”