Innovation to keep the nation safe
Ellie Rice, security lead at the Defence and Security Accelerator, details why innovation should be at the forefront of national security for the UK and the importance of reaching out to a broad range of innovators to achieve this
The first duty of government is to keep citizens safe and the country secure. The evolving nature of the terrorist threat means that those working in the security services, law enforcement and wider government to deliver this duty need to embrace innovation to stay ahead of those wishing to do us harm.
The opportunities presented by science and technology are broad and growing but our adversaries are taking the same opportunities to fulfil their aims. The increasing accessibility of advanced technologies, such as cloud-enabled artificial intelligence and machine learning, and end-to-end encryption, lowers the barrier to entry for those who seek to infringe upon our democracy and way of life. Layered on top of this is the potential future impact of next generation technologies, such as synthetic biology.
Beyond terrorism, the return of great power competition and the race to develop vaccines against COVID-19 demonstrate the need for innovation as critical to the UK’s national security. So it is only by embracing innovation and leveraging new technology and novel ways of doing things that the UK can continue to keep citizens safe and the country secure. But while it is one thing to embrace this mind-set and understand that innovation can help the UK stay ahead of security threats, it is another to find and access the ideas and the innovators that will help us achieve this.
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) (http://www.gov.uk/DASA) was set up to help address this need and is a key pillar of the UK’s effort to tackle security challenges by helping government stakeholders identify and access innovative technology and approaches. DASA’s role is to find and fund exploitable innovation projects, working with those in the security services and across wider government to support the generation of new capabilities.
The Integrated Review, published in March 2021, not only states innovation is important – it says it is essential to success for national security and that government agencies need to work collaboratively in order to avoid duplication of effort. When it comes to innovation, DASA is an enabler for this, sharing the fruits of security innovation across government and its agencies.
In 2021, DASA developed the Security Rapid Impact Innovations Open Call (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/defence-and-security-accelera...) with the Home Office, Department for Transport and other government security stakeholders, specifically to find ideas that enhance our understanding of threats to UK security and safety, enable threat prevention, or enhance the threat response. This £20m initiative runs until March 2024 and enables government to work in partnership with the private sector and academia to find novel ideas that meet a security sector challenge, and offers competitive funding to support the development of the best ideas.
Innovation by its very nature requires diversity of thought, so it is only by accessing a wide range of innovators that security agencies can find the best solutions and gain access to new ideas. DASA understands that diversity and inclusion is a capability multiplier for innovation – we need to be able to draw upon the talents of as wide a pool of individuals as possible to help keep the UK secure – and we have the capability to do this.
DASA has an Outreach Team of Innovation Partners, who are located across the economic regions of the UK, enabling us to interact with and tap into local ecosystems. This ensures that innovators – including those who may have not worked with government or the security sector before – are aware of how to access UK innovation support, can understand national security challenges and identify which innovation projects might align with security requirements.
For established suppliers and those new to government, working with DASA represents an attractive opportunity. DASA provides full funding of innovation projects and straightforward contracting mechanisms and innovators retain full ownership of background and foreground IP.
DASA’s security team works closely with both innovators and security stakeholders across the public and private sector to help inform innovation projects – ensuring that end-user needs are considered early in the product development lifecycle. This co-creation approach supports the delivery of results that are fit-for-purpose and able to integrate with other government-operated systems - enabling the best innovations to protect our people and prosperity and future-proof the supply chain.
This is all backed up by a range of post-contract services to support commercialisation, scale-up and routes to market. We believe that building the business behind the innovation is also critical to ensuring a sustainable security innovation ecosystem. Many small businesses lack follow-on funding and require guidance on the commercial aspects of their ambitions, not just technical guidance and operational insight from users.
DASA’s Access to Mentoring and Finance team help innovators who wish to grow their businesses through mentorship, links to business networks and access to investors, such as venture capitalists and angel investors, to help raise capital. Many innovators funded through DASA are small or micro enterprises, so the business mentoring programme offered by the DASA Access to Mentoring and Finance team is invaluable in helping small organisations think about how they can scale up.
Innovative ideas are all around us, but we need to find and harness the best of these and realise their benefits. Innovation is critical to tackling threats to the defence and security of the UK and ensuring a safer future for us all. DASA is a key route to achieving this.
Contact DASA if you have an innovative idea for an in-confidence discussion with your local Innovation Partner. If you are in government, please get in touch to work with DASA to identify relevant innovation projects and help us to assess proposals, ensuring that we choose the most impactful innovation projects.
DASA will be exhibiting at International Security Expo 2022, Stand B-82. Hear from Ellie Rice, Security Lead at the Defence and Security Accelerator at International Security Expo 2022, 28th September, 1200 – 1230 on Why Innovation Should be at the Forefront of National Security : https://www.internationalsecurityexpo.com/international-security-expo-20...