Defence, opportunity and strategy

Defence, opportunity and strategy: why the time is right to innovate in cyber security and defence

The Indo-Pacific is emerging as a critical geopolitical area for this century. In terms of economic, technological and resources capability, the area is crucial to continued growth and prosperity for the global community.

However, despite almost 80 years of relative peace, this area is now under threat due to increasing displays of regional aggression.

Australia’s role in the region has never been more essential to preserving hard won peace, securing economic gains and driving technological advancement.

As a nation, we must not shy away from emerging threats to peace in our region, instead we should use it as a catalyst to drive change, both at home and regionally.

We have a real opportunity to use the current regional uncertainty to bolster our own capability and innovation within the defence and cyber security sectors, which will have positive flow on effects for all Australians.

These include improving our own independence by building capacity across critical infrastructure, harnessing the power of new technology and properly funding startups that show promise in key sectors.

Advanced and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, combined with operational concepts that harness them in innovative and unexpected ways, are creating new opportunities to bolster our cyber and actual security.

Australian’s ingenuity for inventing solutions for some of our most vexing problems is celebrated the world over, including the electronic pacemaker, cochlear implants, the Gardasil vaccine and wi-fi.

And while Australians invented wi-fi, we missed the boat in truly monetising it. We believe that by investing in innovation, particularly in cybersecurity and defence, similar future opportunities will not be missed.

Despite our past successes in the innovation space, we lack the collective confidence to back ourselves and take risks in investing in early-stage technology.

This mindset needs to change.

Imagine an Australia where the best and brightest are properly funded in the startup stages. The depth of our collective capability would be nurtured and celebrated and its applications for the wider community would lead to significant progress.

Areas like quantum computing and hypersonics are already unlocking capabilities that were, until recently, deemed impossible.

Another key factor is the separation that exists within the minds of Australian people between defence tech and “everyday” technology. We need to communicate how investing in defence technology can benefit everyone’s lives, for example, using technology to generate unlimited clean nuclear energy, providing rapid transport with little to no impact on the environment and deploying rapid-build accommodation.

Technology gained from defence has been crucial in propelling all industries but particularly transportation, healthcare, technology and agriculture . A good example of this is the Australian tech company Advanced Navigation. Thought to now have unicorn status, the tech start-up developed Artificial Intelligence-based inertial navigation technology for space exploration, morphing to defence applications and is now powering driverless trucks transporting cargo between warehouses. These technologies, and building successful technology companies, present Australia’s best hope for a prosperous, peaceful future beyond regional tensions.

Emerging technologies including AI, are showing real promise across a range of industries, despite some challenges. As the Australian people become more comfortable with AI, they will be better able to understand how it can be applied to cyber and defence sectors and the flow on benefits to their own lives, notwithstanding improved defence and cyber capabilities.

At a business level, Azcende has taken on the responsibility to lead the development of a National Security Innovation Ecosystem (NSIE) for Australia and directly connect it with the US. The NSIE is about identifying tech entrepreneurs, experts and other broader stakeholders who have a desire to drive greater security, self-reliance and efficiency in water, utilities, defence and other critical infrastructure.

As a result of Azcende’s investment fund, we attract a number of startups that could be vital in their ability to address the national security risks including supply chain integrity. We advise boards and executives to understand which technologies could address these national security risks to maintain resilience through any major geopolitical instability.

This service pre-empts geopolitical risks, something invaluable to a country like Australia whose key allies are literally oceans away.


About the author
Alok Patel, Chief Executive & Managing Partner Azcende – Vaxa Bureau Associate

Alok is a technology and strategy executive with more than 20 years’ experience across numerous industries including defence , infrastructure, engineering, real estate and investment banking. He has developed leading technology initiatives across industry and government that leverage software and the Internet of Things for the operation of critical assets. Alok is also a Staff Officer at Warfare Innovation with the Australian Navy, working on AI, cyber warfare and autonomous systems. In addition, the Harvard Business School Alumnus has built a successful management consulting firm valued at $25m.