As the Australian Government continues to focus strongly on domestic and international military initiatives, institutions are taking advantage of the defence industry's growth.
As part of this trend, the University of South Australia has appointed a defence expert to drive engagement between educators and the defence industry. Former Australian Army Officer and Head of Industry Engagement at Saab Australia Matt Opie will take up his new position of Defence Director in December of 2017.
Opie has experience across a range of disciplines, including strategic management and business development. He has also worked on projects around the world, from Australia and the Asia-Pacific to the United States and Europe.
“I’ll be dedicated to improving the way university research and industry collaboration can develop and deliver what the Australian Defence Force needs,” he said.
“That involves a clear understanding what end-users need – from the kinds of graduates industry requires to complete and improve defence industry projects, to the types of research projects that will truly inform advancement in defence capability and deliver solutions.”
“UniSA is approaching the opportunities presented by the growth in the defence industry with energy and I see my new role as a vital nexus between industry, academia and government,” he says.
Together with the University of Adelaide and Flinders University, the University of South Australia earlier this year partnered with TAFE SA and peak industry body the Defence Teaming Centre to help deliver a defence-ready, and especially maritime-ready, workforce with skills in engineering, information and computer technology, and a range of trades.
The new Defence Industry Education and Skills Consortium will work closely with multinational, national and local defence companies to ensure Australian jobs are at the forefront in defence projects worth $195 billion over the next 20 years. This includes the Australian Government’s $89 billion investment in naval ships and submarines, the bulk of which are expected to be built at Techport Australia in Adelaide.
UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research, Professor Tanya Monro said Opie would bring high calibre skills to the new role and a powerful knowledge of what the defence industry needed from universities.
“Matt’s appointment signals the university’s strategic intention to provide the most effective and supportive collaboration to support defence industry development, growth and leadership in South Australia,” Prof Monro said.
“The breadth of his experience in defence industry, coupled with an intimate knowledge of the Australian Defence Force gained from 15 years’ service in the Australian Army, will help to ensure UniSA brings the right elements to the table to work with the defence industry.
“His long career working in project management and developing teams will be invaluable in ensuring the University strengthens its multidisciplinary, cross-institutional and industry-collaborative approach to research and engagement, underpinning defence industry growth in the state and the nation.”
In May, UniSA announced it would partner with Saab Australia to open a defence technologies institute in Adelaide to provide a key education and research pipeline for highly skilled systems engineers.
The moves comes at a time when the defence industry, particularly shipbuilding, is facing a “Valley of Death” as the Air Warfare Destroyer project (AWD) nears completion while the next wave of construction work including the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), Future Frigates and DCNS submarine projects are still in planning stages.
Earlier this year the Federal Government also announced it would invest $25 million in a maritime technical college to be headquartered in Adelaide.