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Background information Interscan - Australia leads the world

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There are few better examples than INTERSCAN - the new Australian Microwave Landing System - to illustrate the potential available to Australian industry in accepting the fundamental challenge to .

control the selection, design, development, manufacture and marketing of its own innovative products. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) earlier this month formally endorsed the recommendation that the principles underlying. INTERSCAN will form

the basis of all future world airport-landing guidance systems.

INTERSCAN was developed by the Department of Transport and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with support from industry. The project was initiated in response to an invitation by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to develop a new precision landing system that would serve the needs of international civil aviation for the next quarter century and beyond.

This achievement demonstrates the ability of Australia to develop m'ajor economic opportunities in which it can lead the world.

Whereas Australia has to date spent about $5.5m in developing and testing a microwave landing system, U.S. expenditure for the same purpose has exceeded $100m, with less substantial results. The scientific expertise, industrial base, and general knowhow developed as a result of the INTERSCAN project, puts Australia in a very good position to take commercial advantage of its technological lead.

An experimental model of the INTERSCAN system was in operation at Melbourne airport in 1976. However, the translation of that experimental hardware into cost effective commercial equipment was considered at that time as a major and difficult task. It was

at this stage that the Department of Productivity became involved. The Department possessed the experience and expertise necessary to successfully convert advanced scientific concepts into commercial hardware. In this regard it has been responsible for the engineering development and production of such major projects as the Ikara anti-submarine missile system. Ikara is another good example of Australian capability to design and develop superior and technologically advanced equipment, and to follow this up with successful production

to meet both local and overseas markets. The total value of sales exceeds $150m of which about $70m has come from overseas customers.

Having appreciated the innovative features of INTERSCAN and being aware that the commercial market for microwave landing systems over the next thirty years was likely to be of the order of $2 billion, the Department initiated in 1976 a program to take maximum advantage of INTERSCAN'S

commercial possibilities. In view of INTERSCAN'S apparent superiority over competing systems and the size of the market likely to develop, the question has been asked, why the further development of the system to a cost effective product has not yet beer, taken up by Australian

industry. There are a number of reasons for this.

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The expertise and experience associated with INTERSCAN'S development is spread over a wide area. Significant contributions from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Department of Transport and industry have been involved, and successful further development will depend on close government-industry

collaboration. Although the ultimate market for microwave landing systems will be large, it will be spread over at least thirty years, and will have a relatively slow start. The investment decision for the $7-8m three year development program involves consideration of this

long term recovery period and also the need for assurances from government of technical support. This support would be required from government agencies until industry is technically self sufficient.

Since the program cannot be justified on Australian requirements alone, it is essential that a significant overseas market is obtained. A superior and cost effective product does not necessarily guarantee acceptance by overseas customers. There is always the risk that sourcing decisions could be subject to domestic political considerations. Similar programs overseas are receiving appreciable financial support

from their respective governments.

The program initiated by the Department of Productivity is primarily designed to maintain Australia's technological lead, and to conserve the expertise and experience already built up in industry while these problems are overcome. The main tasks are:

. to re-engineer the experimental INTERSCAN system into a more cost effective form

. to develop less costly means of achieving specific functions within the system

. to co-ordinate the somewhat dispersed skills within the CSIRO and industry with particular emphasis on the transfer of operational and system knowledge to industry

. to introduce previously lacking knowledge and facilities associated with production and manufacturing processes to the industry design team

. to overcome the problem of arranging long term finance for development

. to develop a market strategy to ensure entry into overseas markets.

In carrying out this program, the major contracts for the work have bee placed with industry], with assistance from the Radio Physics Division of CSIRO. The Department of Transport has provided operational advice, and

the Department of Overseas Trade has given substantial assistance in carrying out a market survey.

Progress has been most encouraging. Industry has been in day to day contact with CSIRO, and an extremely well integrated team under the project management of the Department of Productivity has resulted. Project management by the Department of Productivity is not intended

to be a permanent feature of the project and will be transferred to industry as soon as the initial technical and financial problems are overcome. If is considered that the quality of the research and development has been outstanding. It has involved:

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. the initial development of an entirely new, novel and less expensive variant of INTERSCAN and test results are very satisfactory

. major studies on reliability and quality assurance

. the development of a detailed project plan providing details of the cost, time and effort to produce a competitive microwave landing system when the market opens in 1981 '

. performance and analysis of an initial market survey.

If this program is brought to a successful conclusion it will have achieved for Australia a number of significant benefits:

. a unique Australian invention will have not withered on the vine but have blossomed to the significant advantage of manufacturing industry .

. , valuable export income will be earned

. Australia will be recognised as a leader in air navigational systems and success in this area will promote sales in associated areas

. a return will be obtained on Australia's initial investment

. a pattern will be set for further co-operation in innovative research between government and industry '

. employment of highly skilled technologists and associated production workers will be maintained and expanded

. the market will justify the installation of advanced plant and .

machinery and will lead to improved competition in other areas

. Australia will have demonstrated the practical application of exploiting our comparative advantage in this specialised field through: the application of our natural inventiveness and technical skills; the development of product specialisation and market leadership; our ability to match the product to a competitive international market.


Further Information: contact Jon Gaul 47 9179 (w.) 95 2218 (h.)


Minister's Office 73 3233