AI and Machine Learning for Defence at the D&S Accelerator

On 6th September Dstl hosted their first ‘Accelerator Fast-Track Stakeholder Demonstration Event’ in London. techUK was delighted to see that the first challenge run by Dstl’s Defence and Security Accelerator was to progress Defence’s engagement with companies developing the latest in AI and machine-learning (ML) applications.

The first phase themed competition is the challenge to ‘revolutionise the human relationship for Defence’, the £6million programme involves collaboration between Dstl, ISS and DE&S. Heather Goldstraw, Director of Technology Delivery, DE&S highlighted the key aim to map technology procurement in a way that aligns technology readiness with business and enterprise. Programmes such as this can certainly help with
the aim of improving the efficiency of procurement processes across the MOD, highlighting where emerging innovations could complement defence work streams and bring together suppliers with end users.

Innovations came from the seven fast-track suppliers (more funding, less time) representing a wide variety of organisations from the private sector, SMEs and academia after an initial bidding process. Submissions included a deep learning alerts triage system utilising AI technology to increase situational awareness which would reduce the necessary workforce by highlighting only the most relevant information. Another focused on an aircraft performance modelling system providing foresight for maintenance tasks which highlights the many potential avenues where  information technology can make the most difference. The variety of innovations on show offered real potential for a multitude of functions relevant to defence which could see improved capability and efficiency.

techUK believes that it is in those roles and processes that are often categorised as ‘dull’, and which often involve simple but time consuming, repetitive processes, where new AI and ML technologies can currently make the most difference. At a time when budgets are constrained, emerging technologies like AI and analytics tools offer real potential in terms of improving effectiveness, improving capability, and efficiency, increasing capacity and reducing workloads.

It was also encouraging to see that all seven suppliers were collaborating and in discussions with industry with a view to implementing real world systems which bodes well for the future of all the projects. Going forward this collaboration will be key, particularly for those projects that don’t make it further in the accelerator process. As many of the projects could relay into other functions outside Defence the MOD could consider them again when they are more developed and it’s a positive that those ultimately unsuccessful projects could find further funding and purpose in other sectors. The D&S Accelerator has the opportunity to place itself in the middle of the Government’s innovation landscape and act as both a destination for innovative thought as well as a communications node for solutions that could benefit other areas of the public sector.

techUK looks forward to seeing these projects develop onto the next stage of the themed competition and eventually, into real solutions for the MOD.

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