Making defence research partnerships work

Making defence research partnerships work

Becoming an industry partner of choice requires several key ingredients, writes RMIT aerospace and defence research centre director Professor Michelle Gee.

Aerospace and Defence industries do not always speak the same language as the university sector, I know because I’ve worked in both.

But I also know how productive these partnerships can be, when done properly.  

Together, we can advance knowledge, technology and capability in quantum leaps, and not just for the sake of our defence forces but also the wide range of civilian applications that inevitably flow on.  

Becoming an industry partner of choice requires several key ingredients. These include a solid understanding of sector needs, priorities and ways of working; flexibility to meet those needs; mutual trust; a commitment to excellence; strong networks of expertise and the facilities to deliver.

11 June 2019


Professor Michelle Gee leads RMIT's Sir Lawrence Wackett Centre for aerospace and defence research. Professor Michelle Gee, Director of RMIT's Sir Lawrence Wackett Centre for aerospace and defence research.

RMIT University has a longstanding and trusted relationship with Aerospace and Defence industries and government, including the Defence Science and Technology Group.

It was partly due to RMIT University’s service to defence that saw Queen Elizabeth II award royal patronage to the university in 1954.

In our previous incarnation as the Working Man’s College, we provided vocational training for more than 1,500 returned servicemen between 1917-1919, then contributed to the war effort between 1939 -1945, training more than 20,000 servicemen and women in communications.  

We continue in this tradition today by delivering relevant and engaged programs for upskilling the workforce.

In recent decades, RMIT University has been there at the forefront of rapid technological development and remained responsive to the changing needs of Aerospace and Defence industries.

We make it our business to understand industry needs and priorities and seek alignment with our world-class expertise.

We have expertise in every stage of product development from concept, design and testing through to policy and implementation. 

The calibre and diversity of this expertise attracts researchers and students from around the world who undertake fellowships, postgraduate studies and internships with us.

The Australian Research Council rates our engineering disciplines as well above world standard. Our artificial intelligence research and other areas of computer science are also rated as above world standard.

The university has just been named Geospatial Research Institute of the Year for 2019 by the Geospatial World Forum, while our industry-led research to 3D print steel tools for defence manufacturers won a top innovation prize at this year’s Australian International Airshow as well as an Engineering industry Endeavour Award.

11 June 2019


Award-winning defence research: PhD student Jimmy Toton inspects his 3D printed steel tool. Award-winning defence research: PhD student Jimmy Toton inspects his 3D printed steel tool, developed at RMIT's Advanced Manufacturing Precinct in collaboration with DMTC and Sutton Tools.

But our capability goes much further. 

We have outstanding capability in electronic and telecommunications engineering, advanced sensors and power systems. 

We also bring expertise in high-strength fabrics for combat clothing and have a proud history of developing vaccine technologies and wound management innovations.

Then there are the complementary capabilities in logistics, project management, policy, ethics and law, which we see as essential to inform a wholistic and ethical approach to defence research.

But all this expertise amounts to little unless it can be brought together in a way that works for industry.

RMIT University’s Sir Lawrence Wackett Centre, named after the celebrated Australian aviation pioneer, brings together defence and aerospace research from across the university. 

The centre is vertically integrated across the university, allowing us to be more responsive, agile and adaptable to industry partners and ADF research needs. 

This agility is crucial, as is our commitment to collaboration.

RMIT University has a proud history in major collaborations and is one of the most participatory universities in the collaborative research centre program.

Defence uniforms developed at RMIT's Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion in collaboration with DMTC. Defence uniforms developed at RMIT's Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion in collaboration with DMTC.

Our cutting-edge facilities enable us to deliver for our partners. 

We have a flight dynamics facility including wind tunnels and simulators for aerospace and aviation research. 

Our Advanced Manufacturing Precinct is truly world class, specialising in metal and polymer additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, systems. 

The MicroNano Research Facility has extensive equipment for the design and fabrication of micro-nano-scale devices, while the Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion manufactures high strength and anti-ballistic fabrics, including uniforms for defence personnel.

We have all the ingredients to deliver cutting-edge and relevant solutions for Aerospace and Defence industries and have invested in the future of our signature defence centre that is bringing these strands together.

Researcher in RMIT's MicroNano Research Facility. Researchers in RMIT's MicroNano Research Facility, where micro and nano scale devices are designed and fabricated.

Our strategic and enterprise-wide commitment to defence has set us up to play a major role in supporting the rapid industry transformation and innovation that is currently underway.

Through our commitment to industry best practice, transdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships, we are supporting the growth of Australia’s high-tech economy empowered by the Defence and Aerospace industries.

It’s how we’re managing to continue delivering on our proud tradition of defence collaboration, whether that be via high quality technological, policy and business solutions, expert advice or supporting capability development where and when it’s needed by our partners.

We continue to invite new collaborations from forward-thinking companies and research organisations of all sizes in this important space. 

  • Research
  • Aerospace & Aviation
  • Science and technology
  • Industry
  • Defence

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