Melbourne has been confirmed as the location for a leading-edge multi-disciplinary research & development (R&D) facility by leading global technology company Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin will invest an initial $13m over three years to establish a Science Technology Engineering Leadership and Research Laboratory (STELaR Lab) to undertake R&D to solve the technology challenges of the future, and work in the art of the possible. STELaR Lab, the first leading edge multi-disciplinary facility to be established by Lockheed Martin outside the US, will be situated in the heart of Melbourne’s emerging technology district between University of Melbourne and RMIT. It will constitute Lockheed Martin’s national R&D operations centre for its current research portfolio in Australia, and undertake additional internal R&D programs.

Scheduled to open in early 2017, STELaR Lab researchers will explore several fields, including hypersonics, autonomy, robotics and command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Lockheed Martin confirmed the strategic investment in Australia’s future research and development program will create premium jobs for science and technology graduates, with STELaR Lab anticipated to grow to over 20 employees within three years.

Speaking at an event in Melbourne on 1 August to announce the decision, Dr Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s Chief Technology Officer, confirmed Melbourne’s growing international reputation for research was a key factor in the consideration of a location for the Laboratory.

“The decision to establish a multi-disciplinary R&D facility in Australia was partly based on Lockheed Martin’s own track record of Research & Development success with Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and Australian Universities over the last 20 years,” said Jackson. “Lockheed Martin laboratories operate on the frontline of applied research and development, and have been responsible for many advanced technology breakthroughs. It is our vision that STELaR Lab will add to that unparalleled legacy of technological excellence, and contribute to the advancement of human knowledge.”

Engineers Australia hosted the initiative’s announcement, which was attended by Greg Hunt, federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Victorian Minister for Industry & Employment Wade Noonan, and Stephen Conroy, Senator for Victoria.

“This multi-faceted facility will represent a significant step forward for research and development once it is up and running,” said Engineers Australia Executive General Manager for Commercial Services, Ben Leaver. “One of the most effective ways of progressing Australia’s innovation agenda is for there to be closer alignment between researchers and business leaders. Big businesses playing a more active role in research and development will help with overcoming this challenge.”

Raydon Gates AO, Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin ANZ, confirmed STELaR Lab marked a significant step change in Lockheed Martin’s capabilities in Australia, paving the way for deeper collaboration with partners and customers.

“Lockheed Martin technologies and best practice capabilities ensure our local partners can meet the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly changing world,” said Gates. “The establishment of STELaR Lab further reinforces our position as an industry leader in defence and technology, and we are proud of our ability to bring best practice and leading edge concepts to Australia to support growth and innovation.”