Hosting the first ever US-UK Defence Innovation Board meeting on 21 May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the launch of a new artificial intelligence (AI) hub. AI Lab will engage in high-level research on areas from autonomous vehicles to intelligent systems; from countering fake news to using information to deter and de-escalate conflicts; and from enhanced computer network defences to improved decision aids for commanders.
AI Lab will be a single flagship for AI, machine learning and data science in defence based at the MoD’s Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down. AI Lab will enhance and accelerate the UK’s world-class capability in the application of AI-related technologies to defence and security challenges. Dstl currently delivers more than £20 million in research related to AI and this is forecast to grow significantly.
The 21 May meeting provided the US Defense Innovation Board, a team of experts from across defence and industry, with an opportunity to meet with UK defence leaders to share experiences and innovation priorities. The team of American experts includes notable figures who have led transformational change in government or are acutely aware of the challenges the Department of Defense faces. Members include Dr Eric E Schmidt, former chair of Google Inc; Dr J Michael McQuade, Senior Vice President for Science and Technology at United Technologies; and Sally Donnelly, former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense.
“The relationship we have with our American partners is indispensable to both our nations. In the face of evolving global threats, we must harness new technologies and approaches to stay ahead of our adversaries and keep us safe,” commented Mr Williamson. “Today’s meeting of military and scientific minds from both sides of the Atlantic encourages our best and brightest to develop new capabilities in everything from Artificial Intelligence and autonomous weapons to advanced cyber and robotics.”
Building upon this hugely important area of research, the Defence Secretary also announced a reciprocal UK Defence Innovation Board visit to the US later this year, which will develop joint recommendations based on the needs of the MoD and its American partners.
The UK’s Defence External Advisory Panel published findings from its independent report which examines how the MoD can become ‘innovative by instinct’. The report highlights a requirement to expand capabilities in cyber defence and information technology systems, but also the need to streamline procurement processes and the implementation of ground-breaking abilities.
As the MoD carries out the Modernising Defence Programme review, US counterparts are also examining how to strengthen their armed forces in the face of intensifying threats. In a rapidly changing world, military planning must be agile to counter emerging challenges and the MOD must consult widely with our closest allies.
“UK defence has always been at the forefront of significant technological advances, from the development of radar systems crucial to our victory in the Battle of Britain to our HARRIER jump jets, which revolutionised our air capabilities in the Falkland and Iraq wars,” said Defence Minister Guto Bebb. “The UK has invested £800 million on boosting innovation over the next decade to meet future threats. This, coupled with our close working relationships with allies, provides us with the opportunity to maintain our military advantage for decades to come.”