Lockheed Martin’s advanced research centre in Melbourne will focus on innovation in automation, radar systems, hypersonics and quantum computing, to name a few.
Expanding its footprint beyond defence and aerospace, Lockheed Martin is investing $13 million over the next three years on a new research centre in the Melbourne CBD, close to RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
The STELaR Lab, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering Leadership and Research Laboratory, will be headed by an Australian scientist, and involve local doctoral research students and up to 20 scientists.
The company said one of the big drivers of research and development is talent, and the centre’s proximity to the Melbourne universities will allow it to tap into graduate and PhD students.
This will allow the company to quickly ramp up R&D activities by providing some direction to the students to research in areas that are of particular interest to Lockheed Martin.
The centre will also seek to build an ecosystem for innovation and research and development, by investing in small startup companies and partnering with companies both large and small, in order to leverage their technological capabilities.
The aim for the centre will be long-term high-tech research, with a focus on trying to anticipate needs up to three decades into the future. The research developed there will not be necessarily focused on near-term programs in the defence and aerospace sectors, although the technologies created at the centre might also help advance some immediate programs.
“I think the technologies that we’re looking at are certainly going to be of interest to Australian security and defence,” said Dr Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s Chief Technology Officer.
“We have a very rapidly growing energy business in the United States and we’re looking to extend that internationally as well, so the technologies around energy grids, grid management, renewable energies and some new generation technologies like ocean thermo-energy conversion are important to the corporation and in the long term, could be areas of interest here in Australia.”
Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin Australia New Zealand Raydon Gates highlighted that this initiative is also about taking advantage of technologies where Australia is a world leader, such as hypersonics or ground-based radar and over the horizon radar networks.
“Where can we take this next by using Australian expertise and then feed some of this back into the United States? It is very much a collaboration in that whole partnership,” Gates said.
STELaR Lab will be Lockheed Martin’s first multi-disciplinary research and development centre outside the US, taking inspiration from the company’s Skunk Works, a facility in California which was responsible for the development of famous aircraft designs, including the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F117 Nighthawk, and the F-22 Raptor.
Jackson said the STELaR lab will be an Australian-driven enterprise, and the facility will be capable of the transformational long-term research represented by Skunk Works.
“We recognise that the key technologies that will drive Lockheed Martin’s future for the decades to come are both global and to be found in places in Australia which are leading innovation beyond the borders of the United States,” Jackson said.
“We think the environment and culture as well as the talent are here to enable that kind of a Skunk Works vision.”