• Toby Irwin

DASA Announces First Wave of Funding for Innovative UK Military Technologies

Back in summer 2019, the government announced a competition inviting firms to bid for funding in order to develop future technologies for use on warships. Among other elements, the competition highlighted interest in the development of automation, autonomy, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The ultimate aim being to revolutionise the future fleet and provide military advantage.

Increasing amounts of data flows on operations are placing strains on crew communication efforts. It is hoped that the innovative technologies will allow more rapid analysis, by filtering and presenting relevant data, as well as the consequential speed-up of decision-making. They ultimately also offer a means for the Ministry of Defence to save on both funding (in the long run) and manpower. As one government document noted, there is a need "to more effectively and more efficiently use human-based analytical and decision making skills in conjunction with greater machine intelligence and automation, to both increase military advantage while not over-stretching human commanders". The technologies in question are expected to enter service around the 2040s.

Funding for the this competition is to arrive in phases. The first of which is an invitation for proposals regarding novel and innovative technologies and new possible approaches. The first wave of funding arrived yesterday on the 14th of January, with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) announcing £4 million. Julia Tagg, technical lead at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) noted:

"This DASA competition has the potential to lead the transformation of our defence platforms, leading to a sea change in the relationships between AI and human teams. This will ensure UK defence remains an effective, capable force for good in a rapidly changing technological landscape."

This round of funding is to be followed by more rounds in the future, as favourable firms win out on contracts.



Cover photo courtesy of Geograph.org.uk (labelled for re-use).

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.