Gas masks first used in the First World War. Walkie-talkies expediting communications in Second World War. The turboprop—one of history's most reliable and best-selling aircraft engines—still serving today. Stryker armoured vehicles protecting troops on battlefields everywhere. These are just a few joint NRC and DND innovations that have transformed the defence industry in Canada and beyond.
An evolutionary memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and one of its largest collaborators, the Department of National Defence (DND), was signed on November 22, 2021. This renewed agreement strengthens a long-standing collaboration between the organizations and accelerates innovation and technological development, domestic manufacturing, supply chain growth, and exports in the defence and security industry. The military has often been an early adopter of new technologies.
"The renewal of this MoU signals a strong desire from DND to continue to work with the NRC to support Canadian defence capabilities and related Canadian industrial potential, in the face of rapidly evolving threats and a globalized science and technology landscape."
Collaborating for success
Over the past 5 years alone, the NRC and DND, and various parts of the defence portfolio including: DRDC, DND Materiel Acquisition, and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), have conducted more than 800 projects together and co-published more than 60 scientific and technical articles. This work has drawn on NRC capabilities from a number of its 14 research centres, gaining international acclaim and interest from new partners. Together, they have developed solutions for air, land and sea operations that increase vehicle efficiency, safety and longevity, as well as improve working and living conditions for military personnel in addition to reducing DND's environmental footprint. These include:
improving the effectiveness and performance of armoured systems
extending vehicle service life and increasing ground fleet efficiency
making critical infrastructure and buildings safer and more secure
developing tools and technologies to assist with search and rescue missions
Recent success stories and areas of near-term promise include:
Using sophisticated sensors, cutting-edge algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, the Aerospace Research Centre, in partnership with DND, is developing the capabilities for a fully autonomous flight including takeoff and landing, which could be used to operate in situations where a human pilot may not be able to do so safely. The NRC is leading the way in the autonomous flight system development in Canada and preparing to support this new ecosystem with the creation of the NRC Autonomous X-Aircraft over the next 3 years.
Beginning in 1989, the Aerospace Research Centre also conducted an extensive structural life extension program for the RCAF CF-18 fighter jet fleet to help gain years of aircraft usage life while ensuring flight safety. This was critical to maintaining fleet operational readiness while also significantly reducing maintenance and replacement costs. This partnership has led to ongoing projects to validate, certify and support the life extension of the CF-18 fleet to at least 2032 in order to ensure continuous fleet operation. This NRC–RCAF collaboration also directly supports Canadian private-sector clients such as L3 Harris and partnerships with key international military allies.
Disruptive technology for self-driving vehicles fine-tuned bythe Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre has proven to be an essential tool for DND field and satellite communications. For example, light detection and ranging (liDAR) solutions forecast the vibrations that heavy vehicles experience on unfamiliar terrains and show the effects on occupants and technology.
The Security and Disruptive Technologies Research Centre, in collaboration with the Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre, is helping develop the next generation of multifunctional and protective materials for the military and first responders. These materials are lighter, stronger and tougher than current counterparts while being capable of sensing, EMI (electromagnetic interference) shielding, resisting fire and other useful functions that reduce weight and complexity while increasing performance of defence and security systems.
The Construction Research Centre is supporting DND in achieving its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets through projects implementing energy- and cost-saving measures and smart technologies in new building design and operation. The Energy, Mining and Environment Research Centre is also working with DND on the Advanced Microgrids towards Arctic Zero Emissions (AMAZE) project. These targets aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from federal operations:
by 40% by 2030 (with an aspiration to achieve this target by 2025)
by 80% by 2050 relative to 2005 levels (with an aspiration to be carbon neutral)
Forward-looking research in defence and security
In the near future, DND and the NRC will be co-investing in quantum cybersecurity with technology such as quantum sensing and quantum communications. "This strategic collaboration aligns our respective strengths for the benefit of technology innovation in defence while simultaneously developing highly qualified personnel necessary to support this burgeoning field," said Geneviève Tanguay, the NRC's Vice-President of Emerging Technologies and executive sponsor for the agreement.
"This renewed 25-year arrangement reiterates the importance of sustainability and national strategic defence capabilities at a time where disruptive innovations, such as quantum and AI, have become key differentiators for nations. Built on more than 100 years of collaboration, the NRC–DND strategic partnership will become even more critical to Canada's defence forces, the defence and security industry, and Canadians."
"DRDC will continue to cooperate with the NRC in areas where scientific excellence builds on each other's strengths to the benefit of DND's Defence and Security S&T Program."