UNSW Sydney first Australian university to join global national security innovation network

UNSW Sydney is the first Australian partner of BMNT Inc. and its non-profit arm, The Common Mission Project (CMP), and will launch the first Australian expansion of a global program that fosters mission-driven entrepreneurship.

Students in university lecture theatre

The ‘Hacking for National Security’ program offers students the opportunity to learn and apply entrepreneurial skills. Photo: Rod Searcey, Stanford News Service.

UNSW’s launch of the “Hacking for National Security” (H4NS) program sees Australia join leading universities from the US and UK who are using modern innovation tools and techniques to make the world a safer place.

“As Australia’s most entrepreneurial university, it’s natural for UNSW to take the lead in bringing H4NS to Australia”, says David Burt, Director of Entrepreneurship, UNSW.

“The H4NS program has a proven ability to bring together a powerful coalition of government, industry, and university representatives to confront and address real national security issues. Through hosting H4NS at UNSW, we offer students the opportunity to learn and apply entrepreneurial skills to develop innovation solutions and connect them to the deep links of the existing US and UK Common Mission Project networks.”

H4NS is based on the Hacking for Defense® (H4D) program which was created in the US in 2016 by Steve Blank, founder of the Lean Startup movement; Joe Felter, a retired U.S. Army Colonel (former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia); and Peter Newell, CEO of BMNT, Chairman of the Board of CMP, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former Director of the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. It teaches university students how to apply entrepreneurial processes such as the Lean Startup methodology and Problem Curation techniques to quickly solve critical national security and intelligence community problems.

Currently taught at 40 leading US universities like Stanford (where the course originated), Columbia, Duke and NYU and seven in the UK, including PluS Alliance collaborator, King’s College, the course has helped create a national security innovation pipeline in both countries. Students have tackled a wide variety of problem topics like finding ways to safely evacuate special forces under fire, power radios for downed pilots, developing applications to track and manage mass casualty triage in the field, detecting and countering drones, protecting IoT devices, developing innovative applications for artificial intelligence, and predicting and preventing cyber threats.

Two notable US alumni are Capella Space, the synthetic aperture radar imagery company and Lumineye, through-wall sensing for first responders which won the Army’s xTechsearch competition.

“This proven methodology is already used at UNSW to address non-national security problems like improving mental health as a collaboration with the Black Dog Institute, and finding solutions for Circular Cities, the focus of the recent PLuS Alliance Circular Economy ResourCE Hack,” says Burt. “The H4NS program, delivered at a Master level, provides us with the opportunity to further expand our expertise in this space.”

UNSW will collaborate with CMP Australia to deliver H4NS.

“We are excited to be partnering with UNSW to bring this program to Australia and provide our defence forces with the proven benefits of exposing national security issues in an unclassified way for non-traditional innovators to solve,” says Jamie Watson, CMP Australia director and director of BMNT Australia, who has spent more than three decades within the Defence and National Security sector.

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