Australian university students could be the key to delivering nuclear submarines as part of the AUKUS agreement.
The chief executive of the tertiary sector peak body Universities Australia, Catriona Jackson, is set to fly to Washington for crucial talks on how universities could help with the security partnership.
The alliance between Australia, the US and the UK will enable Australia to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines by the 2050s.
The details of the security deal were announced last month, with Australia set to spend up to $368 billion on the vessels over the coming decades.
Ms Jackson said the agreement would lead to many research and national security partnerships between Australian universities and industries in the US and UK.
“AUKUS is one of the biggest industrial challenges in our history,” she said.
“Universities have a major role to play in developing the capability needed to deliver the project, including through the provision of skilled workers and world-class research and development.”
The chief executive is set to meet with national security officials from the US State Department, along with representatives from the National Science Foundation
Other meetings with higher education groups from the US, UK, Canada, Germany and New Zealand will also take place.
“We are focused on upskilling the current workforce and training the next generation to support Australia’s national security,” Ms Jackson said.
“We’ve already had close discussions with our government and AUKUS partner governments about how universities can help. We’re in Washington this week to turn those ideas into reality.”
Ms Jackson said she hoped the talks would expand Australian university partnerships, with more than 10,000 formal partnerships already in place with fellow institutions around the world.
The visit follows assurances from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that the AUKUS alliance will remain strong regardless of the outcome of next year’s US presidential election.
With the possibility Donald Trump may return to the White House in 2024, Mr Albanese said the security pact would be in place no matter who the leader is.
“Our relationship with the United States is a relationship between nations, between people, not just leaders,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“Australia and the United States share common values, I work very closely with President (Joe) Biden.”