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Innovation transforms our lives – it is central to breakthrough discoveries, boosting productivity, creating jobs and generating economic and social wellbeing.

For the final instalment of the 2022 NYSF Connect Webinar series, an inspiring group of panellists discussed the importance of innovation, and how Australia’s Defence capability is driving innovation that has flow-on benefits for society more broadly.

Joining us were Captain Amy Power (Aeronautical Engineer, officer in the Australian Army), Matthew Yuen (Engineering Business & Improvement Lead, Science & Technology Lead, ASC) and Lily Taylor (Optoelectronic Specialist, Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG)). Our host for the evening was Prachi Dave, NYSF Alum (2021) and NYSF Student Staff Leader (2022/23).

Tech innovation: Life at the cutting edge of STEM - content image

Captain Amy Power provided an insight into how innovation is encouraged and nurtured within the Australian Defence Force.

“We foster innovation at both an organisational level and an individual level. Across the military, we have working groups where people can bring their ideas to discuss with others. There are formal processes in place as well, where any employee can submit ideas directly to the engineer that oversees a particular piece of equipment. We also have innovation forums, where you can apply for funding to progress an idea that you have.

“Innovation is also about culture. It’s about instilling people in your organisation with the confidence to bring an idea forward, and then ensuring that the decision makers are open to listening and to try new things. At every level of an organisation, it is really important to instil a culture of innovation.”

Matthew encouraged the audience to back themselves and pursue their ideas, and to not be discouraged if things don’t go to plan.

“Failure is always an option; it is just a part of the learning experience. In my role in R&D, we have to take risks – if we are just doing what we did yesterday, we’re not advancing. So we really do have to push the envelope. That can be challenging at times, but when that light bulb moment happens and you find something that does work, then you can take that next step, and you feel the excitement.”

Lily agreed with this sentiment of seeing failure as a learning opportunity, and spoke about the process she goes through with research.

“In experiments, things almost never go right! Quite often it’s 10% of the time things will go according to plan, and then 90% of the time you are learning and evolving and changing your methods. As a researcher, you have to ask, ‘why didn’t the experiment work?’ You try to find something that will fix that error. Or you might find that it is not an error, and you were expecting a result that was incorrect. When things don’t go to plan, it’s all about the learning.”

Responses from the post-webinar survey showed the alumni audience were inspired by the panellists discussion:

“What was really interesting to hear about was the whole range of technology that is available in defence and allied industries, and the skills required for a successful career”

“It was a great topic for discussion, I loved how passionate and dedicated each of the presenters were about their respective fields”

A huge thank you to our panellists – their expertise and insights, as well as their enthusiasm and passion for STEM innovation, created an engaging and valuable event for our alumni.

The NYSF would also like to extend a special thanks to Defence Science Technology Group, Defence Force Recruiting, and the Naval Shipbuilding College, all valued partner organisations of the NYSF, who provided our panel guests.

And that officially wraps up the NYSF Connect webinar series for 2022!

We hope that no matter what your interests are in STEM, there has been something for everyone in this year’s webinar series. We hope that you have learnt heaps, expanded your horizons, and taken inspiration from the amazing range of speakers that have joined us for the webinar discussions this year.

Keep an eye on your emails and the NYSF social channels for details about NYSF alumni events coming up in 2023 – there are some exciting plans in the works!