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dmi:Design Value Award Winner - University of Sydney - Jericho Smart Sensing Laboratory
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dmi:Design Value Award Winner




Australia’s Defense Capabilities Using Design Innovation Methods

University of Sydney - Jericho Smart Sensing Laboratory (JSSL): Strategic Design, Design Thinking, Industrial Design, Photonics, Engineering, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Chemistry, Royal Australian Air Force


A collaborative project between The University of Sydney, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and the Jericho Smart Sensing Laboratory (JSSL) in The Sydney Nano Institute brings together defense and science—two relatively traditional fields in their modes of operation—and challenges the status quo by embedding a design thinking approach. Over a two-year engagement, the JSSL’s aim was to enable the design, development, and integration of future generation smart sensing technologies in order to strengthen Australia’s defense capabilities using design innovation methods. The JSSL utilized its expertise in SWaP (Size Weight and Power) core sensors and sensing data fusion to deliver a network of interconnected smart sensors to form a prototype of the Internet of Defence Things (IoDT).

The objective of bringing design into a nanoscience laboratory was to better understand the end user’s (RAAF) problems and frame the technology development toward building a tangible prototype that tests the ideas with the end user in field applications. This cross-disciplinary venture is unique in its collaboration and contrasts with the traditional, science-led, internally focused strategic planning processes in defense.

Significant cost savings can be accomplished with this disruptive approach by taking a fresh look at emerging technologies that enable lighter and more capable equipment, and that utilize alternative material choices and cost-effective manufacturing processes. Design also has a strategic benefit in accommodating a “fail fast and fail early” approach that is in contrast to traditional scientific research that can take decades to produce and fund. Over two years, the scientists and engineers developed high-end science capability while also learning and demonstrating how design can be applied to science, with the end user’s needs shaping that application. This approach highlighted that the novelty was not necessarily in the technology or the science, but rather in the potential for new opportunities and practical solutions through design innovation toward the initiatives on which the science was focused.

Design provides an opportunity to continually challenge and rethink existing systems, processes, and organizational structures to ensure that technical solutions are easily integrated and fully supported. It is a catalyst for organizational change in these fields by facilitating and promoting creativity, divergent thinking, problem solving, and innovative solutions. The social value of combining design and science is in ensuring that the problems tackled through high-end science are actually meeting real and tangible needs as opposed to solely focused on technological development. Design unlocks greater potential in scientific technological advancement that would otherwise be hidden and ensures that science does not remain as “pure knowledge”—rather it reaches society to meet real needs and deliver real value.

By working closely with the industry partner early in the design process, value was added to RAAF by ensuring that the right problems were being addressed. These methods fed into the “design” and “build and break” stages of the project where the scientific solutions were developed in close collaboration with end users for continual feedback and evaluation.

This approach can be used as a model to accelerate much of Australia’s sovereign, leading-edge science designed for the end user. In addition to the Air Force, it can be transferred to other domains; land, air, sea, space, and cyber arenas can all benefit from the results of this partnership.

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