The fund dubbed ‘IRIS’, short for the innovation and research insights unit, is intended to put money behind risky and emerging defence technologies.
We understand that new institutions will be launched in the wake of the funding announcement to advance defence technology.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said:
“This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries.
“Backed by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, it will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world.”
According to a press release, surveillance drones inspired by dragonflies, laser weapons, mobile robots that can inspect incidents involving chemical materials, sensors that use gravity to survey underground structures in minutes, and virtual reality helmets to practice calling in simulated air strikes are all the type of thing that is to be encouraged.
“These are the types of futuristic technology that along with other smart solutions are set to be backed by the government’s new defence innovation initiative, which launches today.”
The press release continues, the plan will transform how defence deals with the challenges of tomorrow, to gain critical advantage for our defence and security forces:
- “An Innovation and Research Insights Unit (IRIS) will anticipate emerging trends in technology and analyse the implications for UK Defence and Security, informing critical decisions to maintain our military advantage and protect the UK.”
- “The best and brightest individuals and companies will be invited to pitch to a dragon’s den style panel, backed by a fund of around £800m over 10 years. It will involve taking more risks in backing ideas, with a fast-track for truly novel ideas to match the pace of smaller firms.”
- “Once strategy and investment decisions have been taken, a dedicated hub will act as a ‘defence and security accelerator’, ensuring that innovative solutions to our most pressing national security challenges are developed at pace to stay ahead of our adversaries.”
The Ministry of Defence currently spends up to 20% of its Science and Technology budget on cutting edge “disruptive capability” projects. Disruptive capabilities displace an established technology and shake up industry.
According to the MoD, current projects include:
- “A tiny Unmanned Aerial System with flapping wings inspired by the biology of a dragonfly, currently in development with Animal Dynamics. The ‘micro-drone’ will use cutting edge micro-engineering for unparalleled levels of performance. This has the potential to have a huge impact on intelligence-gathering in future operations in complex urban environments.”
- “A new Quantum Gravimeter developed with the University of Birmingham could allow us to survey underground structures in minutes rather than weeks. This portable gravity sensing system uses cold atom quantum technology and two gravimeters coupled together for the first time to allow for higher sensitivity and reliability when carrying out surveys, enhanced robustness to external noise sources and drastically reduced measurement time. Applications for our Armed Forces range from spotting enemy tunnels to supporting disaster relief.”
- “And we are developing a capability demonstrator with industry that will investigate the potential of laser weapons to target and defeat aerial threats.”
IRIS will run for 10 years and the official call for investment opportunities will be in September. Individuals and companies will then be invited to pitch their ideas.