Defence specialist leads Trailblazer

A leading defence industry specialist with more than 30 years’ experience in the sector has been appointed as Executive Director of the Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability. It is estimated that the project, a partnership between the University of Adelaide and the UNSW, will have a net economic benefit to the Australian economy of $1.5 billion over 10 years.  

Dr Sanjay Mazumdar is a proven chief executive and board director, who has had senior roles in general management, engineering management, business development and project management. 

Dr Mazumdar said that the chance to make a significant difference to the defence innovation system and drive sustainable cultural change within universities was too good to miss: “My initial focus will be to work with the team to ‘understand, plan and mobilise’ the project. We will understand the priorities for all the stakeholders, plan the programs to deliver on those priorities and mobilise the team to deliver at pace. 

“The four-year timeline for the program reflects the urgency of the strategic threat landscape as well as the urgency of the need for change within the innovation system. It also means we will need to be very focussed in the program and work at pace in an agile manner. 

“The Trailblazer team will aim to create a sustainable program that will exist beyond the initial four-year window.” 

Confirmation of the Federal Government investment in the Trailblazer Universities Program in the recent 2022-23 Budget will enable the two universities to work with industry partners to start work on the Defence Trailblazer program. 

During his career Dr Mazumdar has held senior positions in the defence sector. At BAE Systems Australia he was Head of Engineering Operations and Acting Engineering Director. Dr Mazumdar was the CEO of the Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre (D2D CRC Ltd) and founding Board Director of the D2D CRC's spinout companies - Fivecast and NQRY. D2D CRC was a $100m R&D centre that delivered AI powered advanced analytics solutions to the national security community. He was CEO of Defence Systems Innovation Centre and was an engineer/research scientist at Defence Science Technology Group.  

Defence Trailblazer aims to create a new trust-based cross-sector culture founded on shared risk, shared problem solving, shared success, and a shared sense of strategic urgency. 

“We are pleased that Dr Sanjay Mazumdar has been appointed as Executive Director of the Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability,” said the University of Adelaide’s Professor Anton Middelberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research). 

“Dr Mazumdar has extensive management experience and strong understanding of AI/machine learning, systems engineering, data analytics and cybersecurity. He will help bring together defence, industry and the research community to transition research IP from the “lab to the field” to solve some of defence’s highest priority and most complex needs.” 

Both the University of Adelaide and the UNSW have deep partnering arrangements with some of Australia’s largest defence companies and SMEs and new companies spun out of them. 

“As Executive Director of Defence Trailblazer Dr Mazumdar will lead a once-in-a-generation cultural change program to accelerate research translation and commercialisation and incentivise greater collaboration between academia and industry,” said Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise), UNSW. 

“The project will accelerate the development of sovereign dual-use capabilities in important areas such as quantum, AI, cyber, hypersonics, autonomous systems and space technology.” 

Ms Christine Zeitz, General Manager Asia Pacific, Northrup Grumman is Chair of the Governing Board of Defence Trailblazer. 

“With his extensive experience in senior management roles Dr Mazumdar is ideal to lead Defence Trailblazer,” she said. 

“One of the key factors in the program’s success is achieving true collaboration between the research partners – the University of Adelaide, UNSW, DST Group and CSIRO – and defence industry and the Australian Government’s Department of Defence. Dr Mazumdar is well placed to achieve this.” 

Dr Mazumdar joins the Defence Trailblazer from KPMG Australia where he was a Technology and Defence Industry Partner. He was also the inaugural Chief Data Officer for the firm, specialising in data and AI consulting and solutions. 

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