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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War

VI After The Joint Project

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Transfer Of Research And Development

After the CSIRO, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, or its predecessor the Australian Defence Scientific Service (ADSS), is the largest singly managed research facility in the country. It is to be expected, therefore, that it will have assisted in the development of industry. While it has done this, it should be remembered that its remit is primarily to assist defence and the closely allied industries. Nevertheless, there have been transfers in a direct way as well as in spin-off activities.

In their developmental projects, the laboratories have utilised not only the most modern concepts, but also the most advanced technologies. The process of transfer of projects from laboratory to factory has naturally led to these 'state of the art' technologies flowing into industry generally. Projects, beginning with Ikara, introduced into industry the techniques of micro-electronics, and the very demanding marine and space technologies. Particularly in the period immediately post the Second World War they engendered new attitudes to quality control and reliability analysis.

Defence requirements initiated computer aided design at WRE, and it was transferred to industry before the commercial systems became available. Some applications of the work of the engineering laboratories turn up in unusual places, such as a component of the bionic ear.

Defence science is able to contribute to diplomatic initiatives of the Australian Government. Its years of work on protection from chemical agents in war enabled Australia to participate in United Nations investigations. One of these was the 1984 study of the battlefront of the Iran-Iraq conflict, in which P. Dunn of MRL participated. Another MRL scientist, S. Freeman, is a member of the UN group working on the abolition of inhumane weapons.

There are many areas in which the transfer to the civil community has been natural and effective. The aeronautics work on aircraft structural safety (safe life prediction and extension, and accident analysis) began with civil applications in mind. It was, however, its development in the defence context which has made it so valuable in the civil world today.

Material research, particularly at MRL and ARL, has been important for and communicated to industry. Considerable impetus was given to this extension by F. A. Fox when in charge of MRL and by L. P. Coombes at ARL. Consultations and experimental work of an industrial nature were undertaken in the fields of light alloys, ultra high strength steels, high temperature ceramics and welding. Thermocouples developed at MRL are now in use world wide: another loss to Australian commercial opportunities. An example of national importance was that corrosion chemists and metallurgists combined to restore successfully the recovered cannons jettisoned by Captain Cook.

Research on lasers which began in Australia at Maribyrnong and Salisbury has produced new techniques which have been transferred to several industrial organizations. The oceanographic, hydrodynamic and hydrographic work have contributed to the solution of shipping and even conservation problems.

Not every development in the defence area, much less every discovery, has gone to production. Sometimes this has been due to changing military requirements, but more often it has been because they have failed to pass the tests of timeliness, cost, and international acceptability. The Australian defence force is so small that it is often unable to produce production orders sufficiently large to make the production cost economic. Sales overseas have been inhibited by the reluctance of Australian governments -of no matter what ideology -to enter into the commerce of international arms. The only form acceptable has been co-operative production with a friendly country. Reference was made earlier to the missed opportunity of Australian industry to take up the Xerography discoveries of Metcalfe. Several such opportunities have been lost because of lack of adventure in industry. A most remarkable one was the 'black box' flight recorder conceived and made by D. Warren at ARL. This was the precursor of the black box which is now carried by every commercial aircraft and which is so indispensable in every post-accident analysis.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Aeronautical Research Laboratories; Australia. Department of Supply; Australian Defence Scientific Service (A.D.S.S.); Defence Science and Technology Organisation (D.S.T.O.)

People in Bright Sparcs - Cook, James; Coombes, Laurie P.; Dunn, Dr P.; Fox, F. A.; Freeman, S.; Metcalfe, K. A.; Warren, Dr Dave

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 970 - 971, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher