A bid to establish a space industry-focused Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), aimed at catapulting the nation in the global space industry through collaborative research and development, has been officially launched.

The SmartSat CRC bid, led by the University of South Australia and Nova Group, is supported by 55 participants, including industry, government and academia, who have committed $46 million towards the national venture.

The CRC, if successful, would be headquartered in Adelaide, bringing together participants to collaborate on R&D-focused initiatives in niche areas of intelligent satellite systems, advanced communications and analytics over seven years.  

Bid co-leader Andy Koronios said the CRC was an important initiative for Australia’s space industry and would drive the development of game-changing technologies, create new businesses and high-tech jobs.

He was delighted to reach a key milestone in the SmartSat CRC proposal, after successfully submitting a bid application to the Australian Government, under stage one of the bid process.  

“The bid has been very well supported and I am grateful to all of the partners, the Chair of the Board and members of the Bid Steering Committee, who have provided their support to the bid,” he said.

“It is an exciting opportunity to leverage our existing space capabilities, boost collaborative R&D and the development of next-generation space technologies.     

“It will spawn new businesses and start-ups, underpin the next wave of growth in critical industries, such as agriculture and mining, and strengthen our nation’s defence and security.”

South Australian Space Industry Centre Chief Executive Richard Price said the CRC will boost the growth of Australia’s space industry and our reputation as a hub for space, nationally and internationally

“The CRC will not only help grow Australia’s economy through space activity, but it will inspire young Australians to pursue their STEM-based careers in the space sector locally,” he said.   

The CRC has already secured support from Australian companies and start-ups, major universities and research organisations, including Defence Science & Technology and CSIRONova Group and Shoal Group. It has also been backed by large global companies, including AirbusBAE Systems Australia and Italian satellite company SITAEL, which recently established its Australian presence in Adelaide. 

Airbus, founding member of the SmartSat CRC, will further the CRC’s research agenda, particularly in intelligent satellite systems – a theme that aligns with Airbus’ strategy for building resilient and autonomous space-based systems.

Nicolas Chamussy, head of Space Systems Airbus, said the partnership was a sign if the company’s long-term commitment to the Australian space sector.

“Airbus has identified strategic space opportunities in Australia including leveraging Australia’s R&D expertise and potential partnerships with industry on space-based applications,” he said  

An announcement regarding progress to stage two is expected to be made by September.