Forging a fresh vision for defence support

19 Aug 2021

Adelaide technology firm Voxon Photonics is teaming with BAE Systems using 3D visualisation to support naval systems research in Australia and the UK.

Pictured: Gavin Smith

Defence giant BAE Systems is teaming with a “great South Australian success story” to help bring a fresh vision to its naval system research.

Adelaide technology company Voxon Photonics was earlier this year contracted by BAE Systems to include Voxon’s world-leading glasses-free 3D volumetric display tech in its research. Voxon’s bespoke displays will help test situational awareness, systems integration and specialist engineering design applications relating to the Hunter-class frigate project in Adelaide and BAE’s UK submarine business.

The partnership came about through BAE Systems’ Global Access Program, which was established about a decade ago to create export opportunities for Australian businesses across the company’s $17 billion global supply chain.

BAE Systems Australia business development manager Jeremy Satchell says Voxon – which last year completed the world’s first international volumetric video call – is a “great SA success story at the beginning of an exciting future”.

“Voxon came to our attention at an event in 2019 where Australian industry was invited to showcase new technologies,” Satchell says. “We were really impressed with Voxon and the technology and could see immediately the potential it had as a collaborative tool for use in the defence industry. Voxon provides truly disruptive, world-leading technology and since that time we have looked to support them to identify market opportunities which would enable development and growth.”

In 2020, BAE Systems, Voxon, Flinders University and the University of South Australia won a Defence Innovation Partnership grant to support the development of Voxon’s technology to enable better decision-making through battlespace visualisation.

“This project is progressing well and will establish a foundation for follow-on activities,” Satchell says, adding that further opportunities for incorporating Voxon’s technology across BAE programs will also be explored. Involvement in the Global Access Program is also leading to new initiatives that will help step up Voxon’s research and development efforts.

Voxon chief executive officer and co-founder Gavin Smith says the support from BAE Systems has been outstanding.

“The access program is a visionary way for a giant like BAE Systems to access innovative technologies that will deliver a first-mover advantage to the defence market,” he says.

“Moreover, it enables companies like Voxon to access broader global markets in specialist areas that would have been very difficult or impossible to access on our own.”

Smith says BAE Systems has assisted Voxon in shaping the scope of its research and development to meet the “potential strategic use cases” of its technology.

“The support from BAE Systems here, and internationally has been fantastic,” Smith says.

“The Defence Innovation Partnership grant project we are now undertaking would not have been possible without BAE’s involvement, and they are continuing to support our R&D efforts into other areas in defence where further project grant opportunities lie.”

Smith also highlights Defence SA and the Office of the Agent General for South Australia for their engagement and help in fostering international markets.

The Voxon display is based at Tonsley’s Pilot Line Zero facility, which BAE Systems Maritime Australia’s continuous naval shipbuilding strategy director Sharon Wilson describes essentially as an “R&D sandpit” – allowing lab-developed solutions to be trialled in a semi-industrial environment.

“At this pop-up facility – established in collaboration with Flinders University – we are collaborating with researchers, academics and Australian businesses to test and trial advanced technologies in a controlled environment, before ultimately adapting them to the world-class Osborne Naval Shipyard, where the nine Hunter class frigates will be built.

Sourced from: ‘Space & Creative Industries, Future Industries Jobs of Today’, Sunday Mail, 1 August 2021, p.5.