The Government of Australia has launched a new programme to encourage ‘innovative’ projects that have the potential to bolster the capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.

The Defence Industry Competitive Evaluation Research Agreement (Icera ) is designed to fund local small businesses involved in the development of such projects.

According to the Australian Department of Defence, the programme will provide up to A$300,000 per proposal for 18 months.

The first round of the ICERA initiative aims to fund projects that will help in improving cyber defence and cyber security capabilities.

In the subsequent rounds, ICERA is expected to focus on other priority areas, such as integrated intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, medical countermeasures, space, and trusted autonomous systems.

Australian Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said: “Australia’s strategic context is changing significantly and our defence strategy is responding to these changes.

“This change is something which has been clearly highlighted in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update that was released recently.

“Our small business sector has a more important role than ever in contributing to defence’s science and technology research priorities that support ADF capability needs.

“Which is why I welcome that the first focus of the ICERA initiative is targeting on cyber defence and cyber security.”

The ICERA support will be provided through Defence’s Next Generation Technologies Fund.

The Australian Government recently ramped up its investments in the defence industry in a bid to expedite economic recovery post-Covid-19.

Earlier this week, the government extended a contract with BAE Systems Australia involving the delivery of technical support services for the army’s armoured personnel carrier (APC) fleet.