The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has funded trials of advanced tools and technology to support welfare and training, it announced on 24 October.
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is funding seven projects to the tune of almost £1 million (€1.1 million) to further develop and trial cutting-edge AI, psychological, and neuroscience tools and technology such as brain scanners in a bid to boost the training, wellbeing, and mental health support offered to personnel.
“Defence innovation is about more than just the kit our armed forces use. It’s also about our men and women who serve our country […] This £1 million investment will see seven projects developed from improving training methods to boosting the pastoral care and mental health support we offer our people,” stated Chief of Defence People (CDP), Lt-Gen Richard Nugee.
The funding is part of the second phase of DASA’s Defence People Innovation Challenge, funded by the Defence Innovation Fund, which is managed by the MoD’s Defence Innovation Unit and sponsored by CDP. The first phase of funding, in 2018, saw nearly £1.5m of innovation contracts awarded to nine suppliers to develop their initial ideas. The competition finds innovative solutions to boost recruitment, skills and training, retention, motivation, and rehabilitation.
The projects winning funding in phase 2 are:
• Affect In Ltd has been awarded around £140,000 to test technology measuring cognitive loading to be trialled with Air Traffic Control and for Air Battle Management training at RAF Shawbury. The technology uses easily worn and harmless brain scanning technology to provide real-time feedback on how well the training is achieving its aims.
• Affect In Ltd has also been awarded around £108,000 using similar technology as above to improve foreign language training courses. The project will be delivered with the Joint Force Command’s Defence Academy in Shrivenham.
• The University of Kent has been awarded around £141,000 to begin brain endurance training trials with the RAF to counter fatigue experienced by pilots and other military personnel by combining physical activity with cognitive tasks.
• The University of Kent has also been awarded around £150,000 to further trial with the British Army brain endurance training to counter fatigue experienced by soldiers performing multiple tasks in different military environments. It will provide MOD with more robust tools which can be used across many commands.
• DIEM Analytics has been awarded around £150,000 to further develop a ‘voicebot’ which will carry out interviews with service personnel which can give analysis of the experiences of troops. This has potential to save on costs and time of manually scheduling and carrying out thousands of one-to-one interviews. It also has the potential to improve the quality of data when personnel are more comfortable talking to a computer about some issues than a human.
• QinetiQ has been awarded around £150,000 to pilot with the British Army an automated system gathering troops’ views and feeding back the results in real-time. This aims to reduce the time it takes to identify any issues experienced by personnel to allow solutions to be put in place quicker and to maintain staff morale.
• Daden Ltd has been awarded around £150,000 to pilot a virtual life coach which can help with day-to-day personal, employment, and career issues with an aim to maintain motivation and supporting retention. The system will also track satisfaction, stress and help personnel set long-term personal and career goals. The system will be trialled at RAF Fylingdales.
“DASA is working with businesses of all shapes and sizes and academia to find and fund the latest innovations to benefit UK defence and security […] Building on the successful first phase of this competition, we are continuing to mesh cognitive science, AI and the latest technologies to develop tools to support MoD personnel across their working lives,” commented DASA competition lead Dr Adam Staines.