MoD announces new £800m innovation drive

The Ministry of Defence has unveiled plans for an £800m programme designed to take advantage of the latest advances in science and technology.

(Credit: MOD)

A new Innovation and Research Insights Unit (IRIS) will be set up to anticipate emerging technological trends and assess what impact they might have on UK defence and security.

The MoD currently spends up to a fifth of its Science and Technology budget on disruptive capability projects, such as an Unmanned Aerial System with flapping wings that has been inspired by the biology of a dragonfly. Currently in development with Animal Dynamics, the micro-drone has the potential to improve intelligence-gathering in complex urban environments. Another project is investigating the potential of laser weapons to target and defeat aerial threats.

For IRIS, individuals and companies will be invited to present their ideas in front of a ‘dragon’s den style panel’, which will see a dedicated fund of £800m dispersed over the next ten years. According to the MoD, the new approach will see the best ideas fast-tracked, with the Ministry taking more risks on cutting-edge technology than previously.

Once selected, applicants will work within a defence and security accelerator’, a dedicated hub that should speed up the time to market for the best ideas. The MoD claims the new project is designed to transform the creative culture in defence and security, and will fundamentally change the way the sector does business.

“This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries,” said defence secretary Michael Fallon.

“Backed by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, it will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world.”

Further details on the initiative are due to be released in September, when the MoD will launch a prospectus, hold exhibitions, and reveal how industry can apply to be part of the programme.

This week the MoD also announced plans for a Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) competition inviting proposals for autonomous systems for use in hazardous environments. Further details will be provided later in the month, with a briefing to follow at a CDE Innovation Network event on Thursday 22 September.

In The rise of the micro air vehicle Jon Excell explores the development of tiny unmanned air vehicles that are able to peer around corners, fly into buildings and generally keep troops out of harm’s way.