MoD to harness AI and 3D printing in new relationship with industry

Ministry of Defence sign
Ministry of Defence sign

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled a new approach to harnessing emerging technologies like AI and 3D printing.

The Defence Technology Framework and Defence Innovation Priorities have set out how the Government will address the accelerating pace of technological change in the years to come.

This includes identifying technologies that can revolutionise defence as well as outlining a more sophisticated relationship with industry.

The documents respond to the Modernising Defence Programme, which was launched in January 2018, and outlined its conclusions later that year.

Technology to transform UK defence

The Defence Technology Framework assessed the technology areas with the greatest potential to transform military capabilities.

The ‘seven families’ of technology – from artificial intelligence and advanced materials to energy storage and cutting-edge sensors – have the potential to revolutionise defence and will shape collaboration with international partners and the UK’s academic and industrial base.

Possible applications include deployed 3D printing, space tracking and communications, enhanced Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), cyber defence, and automated logistics.

A new relationship with industry

The Defence Innovation Priorities identifies where collaboration with the civil sector can help with UK Defence's most pressing problems. The priorities define defence’s new relationship with industry, driving cultural change within both parties to ensure the benefits of private sector innovation are translated effectively into the public sphere.

The document outlines five priority areas for collaboration with the civil sector, including how the MoD can access the people with the right skills and experience and how the complexity of the battlefields of the future can be simulated in training.

MoD has made a series of recent investments aimed at harnessing the potential of the UK’s world-leading scientific and industrial base.

The Transformation Fund, announced as part of the Modernising Defence Programme, will deploy £160 million on fast-tracking new military capabilities onto the frontline.

More than £100 million has already been invested from in innovation, including from the Defence Innovation Fund, primarily in SME enterprises, in pioneering programmes in the non-military sector which could have a transformative effect in defence.

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), the MOD’s innovation hub, leads on finding and funding these programmes.

These initiatives are underpinned by a comprehensive Defence Industrial Policy, refreshed in December 2017, which outlines the MOD’s plan to sustain an internationally competitive, innovative and secure defence industry in the UK. The MOD has also published sector-specific strategies on shipbuilding and combat air which help industry to become more resilient and productive by allowing companies to plan ahead.

The MoD spent almost £19 billion with 16,000 UK suppliers last year, supporting 260,000 jobs.

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