As a global organisation, Thales understands that it has a responsibility to support the creation of a mutually beneficial ecosystem made up of Australian SMEs and academic research institutions. There is a clear understanding across our business that we cannot and should not do everything ourselves and instead, we have a responsibility to collaborate with and promote local SMEs and academic institutions who have the right technologies or are researching into new technologies that will benefit an existing product, program or customer.
The Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation that was signed between the Australian Space Agency and Thales in December 2019 was an important step in the federal government’s plan to create opportunities for Australian industry and new local jobs. Space is very much an international game and for Australia to succeed we need to play to our strengths and have our businesses and researchers working co-operatively.
Partnering with Australian SMEs
Thales Australia encourages Australian SMEs to get involved to contribute both to the Australian Space industry, and also identify opportunities to carve out a place in the international space supply chain.
For SMEs, working with large multinational companies can expose them to opportunities that they may not otherwise have access to. “The space industry in Australia is still in its infancy and for any SME wanting to grow its business and be sustainable in the long run, it should look to international markets”, says Matt Dawson, Director Space Business, Thales Australia. As a multinational company, this is where Thales can help SMEs ‘hook’ into global supply chains.
“We have people on the ground in countries around the world whose job it is to find out what technologies are needed, and then search for and promote Australian SMEs to fulfil that demand”.
Thales is currently engaging a number of Australian SME’s, including Titomic and Fortifyedge.
Titomic: Titomic is a Melbourne based SME specialising in digital manufacturing, and now has a global presence expanding into the defence and aerospace industry. Titomic signed an agreement with Thales Australia in 2020 to develop advanced additive manufacturing methods towards next-generation soldier weapons systems for the Australian Defence Force. Their additive manufacturing process enabled them to manufacture lighter, stronger and better performing soldier system components.
Following on from this success, the Thales Australia Global Supply Chain program has connected Titomic with Thales Alenia Space to explore the potential of using their advanced manufacturing capability to develop critical space components such as radiation shielding, rocket nozzles, lightweight components, and more. This venture at Titomic has highlighted the immense potential for Australian companies and entrepreneurs to contribute significantly to the rapidly growing space sector.
Fortifyedge: Fortifyedge is a Tasmanian technology start-up that has developed a low power ‘on-device’ Zero-Trust cybersecurity software solution to improve trust of the identity of users. By deploying Artificial Intelligence within the software in a fast and efficient manner, Fortifyedge is able to assure identity and learn a user’s ‘pattern of life’ activity – thus providing zero-touch multi-factor authentication and alerts of imposter attack anomalies.
Thales Australia, Microsoft and Fortifyedge – have established a project called Nexium Defence Cloud to address the issue of confirming that Defence personnel are who they say they are. Central to the ‘zero trust’ authentication capability is tiny machine learning (ML) technology that can be embedded into body-worn devices such as a smartwatch or parts of a uniform, for instance.
PWR Advanced Cooling Technology:
PWR Advanced Cooling Technology, based in Ormeau Queensland, turned their passion for motorsports into an innovative, well-respected, and global brand. Their team designs, manufactures and distributes radiators, oil coolers and intercoolers for a range of vehicles including formula one racing cars. Their continual investment into emerging technologies, has seen PWR make the move from focusing solely on high-performance vehicles in the racing industry to expansion into new markets such as industrial, aerospace and defence. Their achievements caught the eye of Thales’ Global Supply Chain team who have worked with PWR to explore new areas where thermal heat management is a critical enabler such as: rifles, Underwater Systems and most recently Space, where PWR have been introduced to Thales Alenia Space in Italy (TAS-I) to explore the potential of adapting PWR’s advanced thermal solutions for use in the Space environment.
Collaborating with research institutions
Thales also collaborates closely with Australian research institutions by sponsoring and supporting research projects that could be beneficial to enhance Australia’s sovereign interests and national security.
“Research partnerships between Academia and corporates help breathe life into a research project by taking a concept and bringing it to market” Dawson says.
“Taking a product to market involves lengthy and costly processes that require funding support by companies in partnership with university to scale, prototype, test and validate, redesign, test further and finally, productise to take to market. It is important that organisations like Thales work with Academia, moving ideas and concepts along the maturity curve to help bring them to life.”
Currently, Thales is working with Western Sydney University (WSU) to deliver an entirely sovereign sensor solution, the AstrositeTM. WSU developed the core intellectual property associated with the use of event-based sensing technology for Thales’s Space Domain Awareness (SDA) sensor capability. Astrosite uses neuromorphic vision sensors that mimic the way that humans detect and process visual input. They outperform existing optical sensor technology and have the potential to see what other sensors cannot. Testing reveals numerous technological advantages over conventional optical sensors, including:
Higher dynamic range
Greater temporal resolution
An optimised data output stream that focuses on the motion features of the image
Dramatic reduction of the processing load associated with extracting individual observations. This avoids the exceptionally high CPU/GPU processing needs and power consumption that is typical for conventional video processing systems.
AstrositeTM could provide a new capability to Defence’s portfolio of sensor data sources and it can readily be used for cross-cueing with other sensors. It could provide Defence with situational awareness from and in space, which is vital for navigation, timing and communication required for contemporary military operations. We have already had significant interest in its capability from international space operators. Read more here.
Thales is also an active participant in the SmartSat CRC, that fosters close collaboration between Industry and Academia, and provides strong support for SME involvement. Thales has participated in several SmartSat projects and is the lead industry participant on a current major project in free space optical communications that is close to completion. Thales also provides industry co-supervision for two PhD students, and has one new project in the final stages of approval.
Creating space related jobs for the future
The Australian Space Agency set out in its Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation that its goal is to triple the size of the space sector and create up to 20,000 new Australian jobs by 2030. Already employing over 3,800 staff across 35 sites in Australia, Thales hopes that more jobs will be created to meet the Agency’s target and to meet the future needs of the growing space economy.