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DSEI 2017: Joint Forces Command fosters ‘miltech’ industry

13th September 2017 - 05:09 GMT | by Alice Budge in London

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The head of Joint Forces Command (JFC) has laid out an ambition for his command to become the ‘information command’ as he continues efforts to foster growth of a UK ‘miltech’ industry.

Gen Chris Deverell, Commander of JFC, used his keynote address at DSEI to set out the command’s strategy for exploiting technology and information services already in use in the commercial banking and finance sectors as well as emerging technology ahead of other UK services.

‘Information is very important for us, other commands their USP is not information. They have a heritage which is essentially platform based and kinetic…we want to see ourselves as the information command and to really focus on that.’

The requirement for the British forces to more effectively and proactively exploit emerging technologies has been a prominent theme at DSEI and Deverell’s ambitions are focused primarily on digital acceleration through the development and industrialisation of a UK miltech industry.

‘The things that are transforming financial services and banking are capabilities that as yet the Ministry of Defence (MoD)… has not yet grasped… we want to industrialise, we want the miltech industry to be developed in the UK to satisfy this requirement ,’ he explained.

Taking his inspiration from the US’s algorithmic warfare approach, which identifies how big data, analytics, machine learning and visualisation tools can provide armed forces with an advantage, Deverell’s solution is to establish an innovation ecosystem within the UK.

‘Why is it that in the rest of the world you are seeing empires rise and fall on the strength of this technology and we should stand isolated and apart from it?’

The innovation ecosystem is one way in which he believes the UK can end its ‘isolation’. Already JFC has established a new unit called JHub, operating in Aldgate East that Deverell described as the ‘tech city in London’.

The unit is designed to ‘reach out to those industries pursuing innovation… acting as a broker between user challenges and business solutions’.

The Commander also stated that a change of approach towards risk taking is essential to providing the armed forces with the flexibility necessary to fully exploit innovative opportunities.

Central to this is the issue of how to manage the risk of failure when trialling new technologies taken from the commercial sector.

‘The issue of failure is a very awkward thing in the public sector. How do you take the risks you need to take to really deliver innovation if all the time you’re absolutely trying to ensure to the upmost degree against the possibility of failure?’

The answer, he believes, is to adopt an approach of high tolerance for failure at the individual project level but a very low risk tolerance towards failure at the whole innovation portfolio level.

In order to prevent the UK from falling behind both competitors and allies, Deverell believes that a new approach to the acquisition process needs to be trialled in a number of niece areas, such as information exploitation. 

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