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Australia’s AI community rises to the challenge

6 November 2020

Australia’s artificial intelligence (AI) community has rallied to a call from Defence and the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) for solutions to key Defence and security challenges.

The call was part of the ‘Artificial Intelligence for Decision Making’ (AIDM) initiative, aimed at growing Australia’s AI capability and fostering a national community focussed on developing innovative AI solutions for Defence and national security.

More than 200 proposals were received.

Dr Tim McKay of the Department of Defence said the response was overwhelming and demonstrated the depth and breadth of AI expertise across Australia.

"The quality of the submissions was excellent; far above what we expected,” he said.

Over half the submissions were from universities; a quarter came from industry, and the remainder came mostly from individuals, with a small number coming from publicly funded research organisations.

"Through this process, we’ve managed to uncover talent and expertise that we may otherwise never have discovered," he said.

Peter Vamplew, Associate Professor in the School of Engineering at Federation University which has a number of researchers involved in AIDM-funded projects, concurs.

“In my view, the AIDM initiative has achieved exactly what it was intended to, in that it has led to an expanded, cross-university project that involves staff without prior defence collaborations,” he said.

For some, the opportunity to work on a Defence-related project may influence the trajectory of their career.

Scott Johnson, a student at Federation University described the opportunity as ‘rewarding and quite possibly life-changing’, exposing him to ideas and people that have ignited a revived interest in AI research.

"What was once something I'd only read about may become my future career," he said.

For the Office of National Intelligence, the initiative has provided an opportunity to engage with new, high-quality partners on meaningful data challenges.

“Intelligence is a highly data-driven business,” an ONI spokesperson said.

“Appropriately harnessing artificial intelligence and machine learning has great potential to support the important work of the national intelligence community’s world-class analysts.”

Defence and ONI are currently exploring a second round of the AI for Decision Making initiative and hope to be able to make an announcement on any future opportunities before the end of the year.