Australian AI sector seizes Defence, ONI opportunity

Tuesday, 10 November, 2020

Australian AI sector seizes Defence, ONI opportunity

The Department of Defence and the Office of National Intelligence have received more than 200 proposals from Australia’s artificial intelligence (AI) community, in response to a call for solutions to key defence and security challenges.

The call was part of the ‘Artificial Intelligence for Decision Making’ (AIDM) initiative, aimed at growing Australia’s AI capability and fostering a national community focused on developing innovative solutions for defence and national security.

Dr Tim McKay of the Department of Defence said the overwhelming response demonstrated the depth and breadth of AI expertise across Australia.

“The quality of the submissions was excellent; far above what we expected,” said Dr McKay.

Over half of the submissions were from universities, a quarter came from industry and the remainder came mostly from individuals, with a small number from publicly funded research organisations.

“Through this process, we’ve managed to uncover talent and expertise that we may otherwise never have discovered,” said Dr McKay.

Peter Vamplew, Associate Professor in the School of Engineering at Federation University, which has many researchers involved in AIDM-funded projects, noted that the AIDM initiative has led to an expanded, cross-university project that involves staff without prior defence collaborations.

For the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), the initiative has provided an opportunity to engage with new, high-quality partners on meaningful data challenges.

“Intelligence is a highly data-driven business. Appropriately harnessing artificial intelligence and machine learning has great potential to support the important work of the national intelligence community’s world-class analysts,” said an ONI spokesperson.

For some, the opportunity to work on a defence-related project may influence the trajectory of their career. Scott Johnson, a student at Federation University, described the opportunity as rewarding, exposing him to ideas and people that have ignited a revived interest in AI research.

“What was once something I’d only read about may become my future career,” said Johnson.

Defence and ONI are exploring a second round of the AIDM initiative and hope to announce future opportunities before the end of the year.

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