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Newsroom

Gabby Costigan at the ADM Congress

Image of Gabby Costigan Chief Executive Officer, BAE Systems Australia
Technological Innovation: collaborating to strengthen our nation.

Gabby Costigan, Chief Executive Officer, BAE Systems Australia.

 
Thank you for the kind introduction and good morning everyone.
 
I am delighted to be here today, to deliver my first keynote as Chief Executive for BAE Systems Australia.
 
It is an exciting time for me to become a part of the Australian Defence industry. And I can’t think of a better time to join this company.
 
After all, this year marks 65 years that BAE Systems has been working in Australia.
 
That’s a significant demonstration of the unwavering commitment this Company has to the nation, its economy and its people. Today we employ around three and a half thousand Australians working at over 20 sites around the country, and we have significant ambitions to continue to grow that.
 
But today, I would like to talk about technology. And in doing so, I would like to discuss the technology and capability that is essential in providing security to our Nation and for delivering on our responsibilities in our region and with our allies.
 
In doing so I will address the following:
 
  • First, the importance of technology to the Australian Defence Force;
  • Secondly, the challenges with technology advancement;
  • Thirdly, how Collaboration can deliver technology advances;
  • Fourth, the opportunities created and available through investing in technology;
  • And finally I will discuss what we need to do to ensure this nation has enough Future Technologists

 

1. The importance of Technology to the Australian Defence Force

 
So, to begin, let me talk about technology, what it is and why we need to invest in it.
There are many definitions of technology, but the one I think is most applicable for our industry, is this: Technology is the application of science to solve a problem or to achieve an objective.
 
At BAE Systems Australia we use technology to extend our abilities and ultimately to help better protect our nation. And let me tell you, we have some amazing technology at work today that does just that.
 
When I started my career in the Australian Army in the early nineties we were using the latest in binocular technology – electric binoculars that also provided GPS coordinates.
 
These allowed us to see kilometres into the distance, obtain coordinates and plan approaches.
 
Compare this to today where tactical UAVs are now being used to see into the distance, and over the hill and around the corner, and use space-based technologies to provide data and coordinates to plan approach.
 
Technology is enabling us to change how we operate, not just improving how we operate.
 
The wonderful thing about technology is that you never really know what is around the corner.
 
Can we look around that corner and imagine 20 years into the future. Can we look into the future and determine how technology is going to change, influence and enhance us – as a defence force, as a nation and as individuals.
 
Can we imagine what it might look like for our adversaries. How might technology help them try to gain an advantage over us?
 
We must keep pace with these developments to ensure the Australian Defence Force remains highly capable and respected for its professionalism world-wide.
 
And that is what BAE Systems Australia is committed to doing. Our job is to understand the needs of the Australian Defence and apply the best of our thinking both here and globally to meet those needs.
 
And this is also why the Australian Government has embarked on a significant national endeavour, providing an unprecedented investment in Australia’s defence capability.
 
And herein lies the sophistication and complexity of the challenge the Government and industry must face together.
 
How we support the ADF to maintain its potency while at the same time understanding, and preparing for the more complex high-tech conflicts of the future.
 
Throughout the history of military action, novel game-changing technologies have brought about advantages on the battlefield and the development of a technological edge has been amongst the most effective of deterrents.
 
In the past it was technologies such as the jet engine, radar and rocket technology that moved from the pages of science fiction into reality.
 
Today, it is developments in electronic warfare, precision-guided munitions, miniaturisation, autonomy and machine learning that are seeing rapid advances. 
 
Personally I have a passion for technology. And I must say that in my travels around BAE Systems Australia’s operation in the past few months as well during my international visits, it has been truly amazing to see some of the technology that we are developing and deploying across the business.
 
Technology that will influence the Defence Force of the future, and has the potential to go beyond that … to influence other industries and even the way we live and work.
 
It is technologies like these that will continue to enhance us. Humans and technology will continue to come together to form integrated systems that enable closer collaboration – between our Defence Forces and our allies - and provide a force multiplier for service men and women.
 
Autonomous systems for example are one of the few areas of current technology that legitimately qualifies as having a potentially revolutionary impact on Australian Defence Force operations.
 
It has the potential to extend the reach and access of operations, while simultaneously reducing risk to personnel. It will provide increased capability across the battlespace and, in the longer term, reduce the cost of acquisition and operations.
 
Consider the advantages this will provide in the air and on the ground, when networked with soldiers in ground vehicles. The systems operate ahead of the crew, in potentially hostile environments, allowing the soldiers to remain out of harm’s way.
 
When working at their best these systems can and will deliver higher operational effectiveness. 
 
And this leads me to my next point, technology can allow us to do things better, not only in operations, but also in how we design, manufacture, and sustain the nation’s defence platforms and services.  
 
There are many things that humans will continue to do better than technology. But there are also tasks that we can and should delegate to technology. The key is to play to our respective strengths. 
 
An even closer working relationship between humans and technology has the potential to deliver huge economic and social benefits.
 
At BAE Systems Australia we see humans and technology working together, side by side to build the products of the future, faster, more safely and in a more affordable way. 
 
Advances in sensor technology, digital design, and machine learning will increasingly enable humans to work alongside machines, safely, without stopping the production line.
 
Using this process of ‘co-botics’ we are building the fuselage and vertical and horizontal tails, effectively the rear section, of every F-35 at our advanced manufacturing facilities in Lancashire in the United Kingdom, and here at home in Adelaide.
 
These facilities allow us to readily scale production according to what is needed and when. 
 
In 2016, we produced 1,500 titanium parts in Adelaide for the F-35 program. 
 
By 2019 we will be at peak production, producing 3,600 parts. This is technology at work, it has and will continue to allow us to deliver what is needed for this critical defence program.
 

 

2. Challenges to technology advancement

 
Let me now turn to some of the challenges facing technology advancement. 
 
The changing shape of manufacturing in Australia and the production line is one area where we are witnessing polarising views on the role of technology. 
 
This coupled with the pace of the change, highlights some of the concerns regarding the role of technology: a fear of the unknown consequences, fear of the replacement of jobs and roles, a fear regarding control.
 
Just as we have seen with the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, the issue of jobs being replaced by technology is frequently debated. Often the debate takes place at the extremes of possibilities, those who focus on the potential gains and those who focus on the potential dangers. 
 
Technology will change jobs, it will create jobs, and it will remove jobs. 
 
The real challenge is to find the right balance, to make informed decisions on the use and engagement of technology, and build understanding and awareness. 
 
I believe that public and political acceptance of technologies such as autonomous systems is essential if we are to grasp the opportunities available to us.
 
We have to work to ensure that there is an understanding that the use of technology does not mean the removal of the human – the loss of command to technology, or the abdication of responsibility for decisions. Humans remain in control and are the ultimate decision makers.
 
 

3. Collaboration to deliver advances in technology

 
This leads me to my third point for discussion. That of the need for increased collaboration.
 
The highly complex nature of the modern defence environment means that real capability breakthroughs require a collaborative, cross-disciplinary research effort. 
 
As I mentioned earlier, technology is driving change at a pace not experienced before, and we need to keep up.
 
When we bring people with different experiences together, the diversity of thought and perspectives allows us to really capitalise and progress our research efforts. 
 
Take the work that we have supported in recent years with ‘Intelligent Textiles’, a small cutting edge company in the field of e-textiles. Together we developed Broadsword Spine, an intelligent wearable that reduces combat load and gives soldiers greater manoeuvrability and stamina in the field. 
 
This collaboration brought together the agility of a small nimble business and the global reach and access to market of a prime. 
 
Large companies, primes, often have a longer event horizons compared to smaller ones. And smaller ones often have a greater barrier to entry to Defence contracting.
 
That is why companies like BAE Systems Australia who have experience working in Australia continue to work to support the development of technology by smaller companies or academic and research institutions. 
 
Another great example of this is the work we are doing with a company called Carbon Revolution. Today we are supporting them develop and apply technology to reduce the weight of armoured vehicles. The end result is better vehicles offering better protection, and ultimately a better result for the Australian Defence Force. 
 
Today, we are also using technology to support a closer collaboration with our customers and suppliers. Through the creation of digital virtual environments we are inputting and sharing the data required to construct, modify and maintain every system and sub-system. 
 
People are connected in their place of work to readily understandable information and are working to evidence-based information in real-time.
 
Digital environments, such as a digital shipyard and data visualisation suite that we are using in the development of Australia’s Global Combat Ship for SEA 5000 is just one example of this. 
 
This is an example of taking world leading technology and not only bringing it to Australia, but making it Australian. 
 
This technology will ensure that every aspect during the design, build and service life is live and accessible to the crew, as well as all those involved in the maintenance and upgrades of the fleet and approved suppliers. 
 
This approach can help the Royal Australia Navy in maintaining configuration control and therefore ensuring sea worthiness of the vessels through-life. 
 
It also demonstrates how technology is supporting a greater level of collaboration and inherent trust between all of the involved parties.
 
And critically, it will ensure that we build ships that will be the best we have ever built in Australia. 
 
Ensuring Australia has world leading technology is a first step in ensuring we are recognised as world leading – and make no mistake, if you want an export industry in Australia – world leading is what you need to be. 
 
The digital design environment we are bringing to SEA 5000 will do just that. 
 
Collaboration between partners is also important. Particularly on mega programs such as SEA 5000. 
 
That is why we are working in partnership with Ultra and Thales on anti-submarine warfare design. 
 
You really need to bring together the best if you want to be a world leader in ASW. And in ASW there is no point in being second best.  
 
 

4. The opportunities through investing in technology

 
Now, let me turn to the role of industry.
 
I believe that Australian industry has the expertise and capacity to contribute to the ongoing advancement of defence technologies, both domestically and globally. 
 
This is not and cannot be a domain that other nations have ownership of. 
 
The value generated by the Australian Defence industry must be better understood by all. 
 
We are today a highly productive industry, employing many thousands of highly-skilled professionals and together we are a growing contributor to our national economy.
 
We must collectively do a better job at telling this story. It cannot be the responsibility of the Minister and Prime Minister alone. 
 
The investment in a sovereign Australian Defence industry delivers greater value for the tax payer. 
 
At BAE Systems Australia our productivity is 40% higher when compared to the national average. 
 
If characterised as a stand-alone industry this ranks fifth highest in Australia. A highly skilled and productive workforce, such as that in the defence industry, can support a more balanced and sustainable economy and for many of our employees, most importantly, help to drive wages growth.
 
And as Minister Pyne announced in recent weeks, the export industry can be a driver of technology investment. 
 
The best way to grow and develop our Australian Defence Industry and the jobs that come it is through exports. 
 
But why exports? What do they really do? 
 
Our approach to Land 400 can help answer this question.
 
If successful on this program, our plan is to not only manufacture armoured vehicles for Australia but to ultimately create a regional hub in Australia for building armoured vehicles. 
 
A manufacturing hub in Australia, delivered by Australians. 
 
And with the benefit of BAE Systems bringing to Australia world leading technology and skills employed in advanced manufacturing centres around the world. 
 
Bringing to Australia world leading technology and world leading IP from our business and our global supply chain. 
 
Bringing it here, making it Australian, and in doing so growing the capability of Australian industry.
 
It is this approach that has the potential to grow the size of the pie for Australian industry.
 
And at BAE Systems Australia, we’ve got a track record of doing this. In fact … we have a 65 year track record.
 
Export markets are critical to growth. 
 
They promote innovation, skills, technology development and employment. And they help build our relationship with allies through partner country capability and interoperability - as we have seen with Nulka. 
 
The Nulka decoy system is one of Australia’s biggest and most successful defence exports, generating over 1 billion dollars in export revenue and creating more than 200 jobs.
 
Our work on Nulka, one of the most effective intelligent systems currently in-service on Western warships, is the foundation of much of the work and advances we have seen in recent times on autonomous technologies. 
 
As I said, we’re not just talking about delivering exports to grow the Australian economy. We’ve got a track record of doing just that. One I’m very proud of.
 
 

5. Future technologists

 
As an engineer and now the Chief Executive of a technology company, I am enthused and inspired by the opportunities technology is creating for us. 
 
Likewise when I talk to my colleagues and employees who are working on these projects, who are championing these new technologies and pushing the boundaries of possibilities, I cannot help but be consumed by their enthusiasm and passion.
 
Now, why would we not share and encourage this for our future generations?
 
We employ some of the most skilled people in Australia working with unique systems and solutions to solve complex problems, to support our service men and women, and pioneer new technologies. 
 
We have to help young Australians understand all of the opportunities the Defence Industry can offer. 
 
STEM based roles make up 60% of our workforce in Australia. Not only are these talent pools in scarce supply globally, they are predicted to shrink further. Sourcing talent is difficult, but sourcing diverse STEM talent is even more challenging. That’s why our focus on contributing to the development of diverse STEM talent is so vital to our future success.
 
At BAE Systems Australia we are proudly building capacity in jobs of the future through employing and training employees … and participating in early career programs to help Australia keep pace with the growing demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 
 
Just this month nearly 40 new graduates started at work with BAE Systems Australia. 
 
Isn’t that our role as industry? To bring these bright, talented and energetic new people into our business to help our companies and our customer do even better.
 
Of course it is!
 
But we need to do more. All of us need to do more. 
 
Together we need to identify the industrial areas where we can be competitive. 
 
Where can we compete globally? 
 
Where do we have world-leading capability or expertise?  
 
And through our academic institutions we must drive specialisation in these identified areas – to create a real depth of expertise that the world envies.
 
As an industry - as a nation - we need to look at the skills we are developing at school – university – and TAFE and assess whether we are training enough people in the right skills needed for the employment market.
 
Are we creating work ready and resilient graduates, with commercial and leadership skills?
 
Are we supporting the transition from education to industry?
 
Great questions for all of us.
 
 

Conclusion

 
So to summarise:
 
We have always worked in partnership with technology to achieve more.
 
My view is that we are entering into a new era of collaboration with technology - from how we interact with technology, to the development of new technologies and with academia to develop the engineer and technologists of the future.
 
It is these collaborations that will provide the Australian Defence Force with the capability they need to maintain an edge and keep our nation safe.
 
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today. I’m very pleased to be amongst you. 
 
And I look forward to helping BAE Systems Australia build on its 65 years of service to the nation. We want to be here in 65 years time. And the work to deliver that future is I assure you well under way. 
 
Finally, Kath, ADM, thank you for supporting the collaboration and dialogue amongst the community – opportunities like this are important for our industry and community to network, share our thoughts and  insights and ensure we highlight our successes and progress for the benefit of our nation.
 
Thank you.