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AU: Federal gov't shortlists $200m SmartSat CRC proposal

An ambitious proposal to establish a $200 million space industry-focused cooperative research centre in Adelaide is one of just six proposals to be shortlisted and advanced to stage two of the CRC selection process.

While a inal decision will not be made until next year, bid co-leader Andy Koronios told a workshop in Melbourne this week that the proposal had already attracted over 60 industry and research partners and cash commitments approaching $50 million.

Stage two submissions are due by November and the SmartSat CRC is expecting an ask of $55 million from the government, which is matched by industry and also by inkind contributions for an overall $200 million research effort over the seven-year life of the CRC.

The six shortlisted applicants for the $731 million CRC program were announced this week by Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, who said the initiative supports business-research engagement.

“CRCs play a vital role in bringing together businesses and researchers from Australia and overseas to solve major industry challenges,” Andrews said. “CRCs demonstrate how industry partnerships with the research community can deliver high-value outcomes that improve competitiveness and productivity.

The SmartCRC bid was irst proposed towards the end of last year and is being led by the University of South Australia and Adelaide-based defence and space irm Nova Group. All of the six bids will now proceed to the next stage of assessment, which includes developing a business case and attending an interview with the CRC Advisory Committee.

In an outline of the bid progress in Melbourne, Koronios said a major focus of the CRC would be on advanced satellite communications, connectivity and earth observation rather than deep space activity.

“It's very much about how we can communicate better and how can we leverage and exploit the technologies that we have,” he said.

“At the same time, we are in a unique situation where we also have an additional opportunity as a CRC . . . for us to help build the space industry in Australia. A few years ago you would probably count the space-related SMES and startups on one hand, but there are over 100 companies now and many have already joined the journey of the CRC.”

He also noted that the Defence Department has been an enthusiastic supporter of the CRC proposal and has already invested $12 million in cash. “We are quite excited that Defence would use this CRC for some of their needs, not so much only for the Defence work but also for building that industrial base, because that industrial base is so important for building indigenous capability for Australia in the area of space,” Koronios said.

STARTUP ENCOURAGEMENT: Meanwhile, Peter Nikoloff – bid coleader and executive director of Nova Systems – said that for successful commercial outcomes, the government is looking for industry input and leadership. A key aspect of the CRC setup will also involve the startup sector, which will be given a voice in the organisation.

“We will be looking for some quick wins to give people conidence that we're doing well and ultimately if we can get some world-leading technologies out there and into our industry and globally distributed, that would be a fantastic way to go,” Nikoloff said.

“Importantly, and the big growth for Australia, will be the startups. And we've got a huge number of startups that are interested and what we want to do is give them a voice, because they're not going to be able to invest like the core partners are,” he added.

The inal outcome of the SmartSat CRC bid is expected to be announced early next year, with funding to commence, if successful, by mid-2019. Successful applicants must contribute at least the same amount in cash or in-kind contributions as they receive in government funding. Geoff Long, Commsday


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