LONDON — Britain is launching an innovation initiative aimed at fast-tracking futuristic defense technology to the front line, the Ministry of Defence will announce Aug 12.
Individuals and companies will be invited to pitch possible future technology solutions to an investment panel in a bid to secure cash from a £800 million ($1.04 billion) innovation fund available over the next 10 years, said the MoD in a statement.
Sensors that can survey underground tunnels in minutes, developed by Birmingham University, and Animal Dynamics' work on tiny drones inspired by dragonflies are among the projects that could benefit from the new innovation initiative, said the MoD.
The intention to launch the initiative was first mentioned in the 2015 strategic defence and security review and is part of an effort to change the MoD's culture toward the rapid introduction of cutting edge.
In some ways the scheme echoes the Pentagon's initiative to tap into high-technology developments in Silicon Valley and elsewhere through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DUIx) scheme.
Part of the British effort involves setting up an innovation and research-insights unit to anticipate emerging technology trends and analyze the implications for UK defense and security
"Once strategy and investment decisions have been taken, a dedicated hub will act as a defense and security accelerator, ensuring that innovative solutions to our most pressing national security challenges are developed at pace to stay ahead of our adversaries," said the British statement.
The government announced July 11 that it will consult with industry, academia and others for ideas over how the innovation accelerator hub might work best.
"The plan will transform how defense deals with the challenges of tomorrow, to gain critical advantage for our defense and security forces," said the MoD.
A MoD spokesman declined to say whether the £800 million or so being invested in the scheme was new money but said that further details of the plan would be provided when the initiative is fully launched next month.
Paul Everitt, the CEO of the British trade body ADS, said the initiative has the potential to deliver big benefits for industry here.
"The changing threat landscape requires an agile domestic industrial base to adapt rapidly and to deliver the changing requirements; by taking this approach the MoD looks set to encourage industrial breakthroughs that will deliver major benefits to the UK's security and prosperity," he said.
The scheme is one of several initiatives being pursued by the British to bring new technology systems to the market.
In particular, the so-called Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) was put in place in 2014 with 16 leading defense industry companies here to advance innovations for domestic and export markets.
Its Centre for Defence Enterprise currently funds British innovation initiatives.
The MoD has already funded innovation-challenge competitions through the DGP and tomorrow will announce that, together with the Home Office, it will launch a challenge to design robots or unmanned aircraft to assess chemical or biological hazards.
This is in addition to the July announcement that said the UK was joining with the US to run an innovation challenge to speed up the impact robotic and autonomous systems could having on resupplying troops.
The MoD spokesman said the new initiative is separate to the DGP scheme.
"This is an MoD-led initiative and is not part of the DGP which sits within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). However, we are working with BEIS to ensure that interactions with DGP maximise the opportunities for growth from novel defence and security solutions," he said.
Part of the initiative will involve the creation of an innovation and research-insights unit aimed at anticipating emerging technology trends and analyzing the implications for the British defense and security sector.
"This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy with our brightest brains and keeping us ahead of our adversaries" said Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.