In Australia investment in innovation and technology is a critical ingredient in the recipe for job creation and economic growth. As a nation we are constantly seeking to improve our standard of living, to do so we must improve our income as well as our productivity. Both are essential if we are to continue to grow the economy in a sustainable way.
An increased focus on high skilled industries can help our economy achieve this dual objective.
These industries place a high reliance on innovation and technology. Whether it is the manufacture of goods, or the provision of services, the use of technology and innovative processes can work together to improve our nation’s productivity, balancing the impact of high labour costs and thereby improving Australia’s competitiveness.
In industries where technology and innovation is already an important element for success, such as Defence, Medical and Telecommunications, the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers is very high – around 70:30 in the case of the Defence industry. Our high standard of education and resultant highly skilled workforce is positioned well to stay competitive in these sectors. To do so there needs to be a sustained commitment to continual investment in innovation and in the technologies that underpin these sectors.
Australia is a small economy, compared to the likes of the USA and UK. When it comes to the funding available for investment in innovation and technology, we have proven many times that when we focus on niche areas we can become world leaders.
BAE Systems Australia is no exception. Our investments have resulted in products that are world leaders.
The combination of Autonomy and Electronic Warfare (EW) resulted in the development of the Nulka Active Missile Decoy System used by the US and Australian Navies as protection against Anti-Ship Missiles. Our guidance and control technology controlled the leading edge HiFiRE Hypersonic flight vehicle which was trialled in Australia last year. Our High Frequency Surveillance technologies are at the core of the Over the Horizon Radar systems for Australia and other countries.
In 2017 BAE Systems Australia’s investment in innovation and technology totalled $17m, bringing the total investment since 2012 to $295m. This equates to 10% of our Gross Domestic Product contribution in Australia – nearly five times that of the Australian industry average. And we are planning to increase this further in the coming years in recognition of the benefit such investment brings to the future of the business.
But it’s not just Defence that benefits from these types of technologies.
The sector’s investment in EW technologies to provide capability for our Defence Forces has resulted in a vast range of products that benefit our every-day life, such as simple sensors that help us park our cars or turn our lights on when we walk up to our front door in the dark. The radars that provide pilots and air-traffic controllers the information they need to ensure our safe travels around Australia and the world also originated from the Defence sector.
The investment in autonomous technologies that has proven so successful in keeping our soldiers and pilots out of harm’s way in hostile, conflict environments, have also provided benefit outside Defence. The ability to fully automate mining operations has provided our mining companies with improved efficiencies and increased the safety for those working in the mines. We can also expect to see autonomy developed initially for defence purposes create opportunity for driverless cars, unmanned cargo ships and planes and countless other applications. And the continual development of autonomy in the area of artificial intelligence will improve the utility and capability of these systems.