Innovation in Defence and Security: In Conversation with DASA
Farzana Haque, 22 June 2023
With a reputation for catalysing innovation and collaboration, the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is an integral part of the UK Ministry of Defence. DASA works in partnership with industry, academia and government to bring together a diverse range of expertise to address the most pressing challenges faced by defence and security communities. Since 2016, DASA has funded over 1300 projects—averaging one contract every two days since its launch— as well as pouring over £230m into innovative ideas.
As with many accelerators, they are also Beauhurst customers! So, when our recent report on defence technology (in collaboration with MD One Ventures) attracted a lot of media attention, we knew exactly who to talk to. We sat down with DASA to bring you an insight into innovations within the defence sector.
Read on to learn directly from DASA about the current challenges and key trends within the industry.
Firstly, what does DASA do?
DASA finds and funds exploitable innovation to support UK defence and security quickly and effectively, and support UK prosperity. We have a wide remit across all of defence and security. We are interested in all fields of science and technology, better ways of working, better services, or any innovation that will make defence and security more effective.
Defence innovation includes new technologies and ideas that enhance the effectiveness of the Armed Forces in any capacity. It involves finding new ways to gain an advantage over adversaries while also improving the safety of military personnel.
National security innovation refers to any innovations or ideas that enhance public safety and the safety of security and policing personnel, in areas such as transport, emergency services, policing, and public spaces, by staying ahead of threats and also identifying potential national security issues before they become major problems.
What role do science and technology play in this industry?
The opportunities presented by science and technology are broad and growing but our adversaries are taking the same opportunities to fulfil their aims. For example, the increasing accessibility of advanced technologies, such as cloud-enabled artificial intelligence and machine learning, and end-to-end encryption, lowers the barrier to entry for those who seek to infringe upon our democracy and way of life.
Layered on top of this is the potential future impact of next-generation technologies, such as synthetic biology. However, this is exactly why DASA was established – to find innovative ideas to help the UK seize the opportunities presented by science and technology developments and maintain a strategic advantage.
What projects are DASA currently focused on?
- We uphold a critical link for defence and security innovations to be pulled through quickly and effectively, keeping the UK ahead of the threats it faces by maintaining strategic advantage through the most innovative capabilities in the world.
- At any one time, DASA runs different Themed Competitions. This is in addition to the Defence Open Call and Security Open Call which run at all times. Themed Competitions offer suppliers the opportunity to submit proposals around specific government areas of interest. Competitions are open for submissions for around 6 weeks. Recent examples of competitions we have run include:
Innovation Focus Areas (IFAs) provide an opportunity for innovators to submit proposals to address more specific enduring challenges faced by our defence and security customers. Recent examples include:
Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP)Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP):
We also offer the Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP). Supported by Innovate UK, DTEP is designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK to develop innovative materials, technologies and processes, and to enhance defence supply chains.
DTEP aims to inspire companies to win new business, develop industrial capabilities, and provide new cutting-edge answers to defence problems at home and abroad. The programme offers up to 50% grant funding to collaborations between UK-registered Lower Tier Suppliers and Higher Tier Suppliers.
What are some of the most innovative projects that DASA has funded to date?
DASA’s proactive stance enables innovators to progress their ideas quickly and effectively, keeping the UK ahead of the threats it faces by maintaining strategic advantage through the most innovative capabilities in the world.
Over 1300 projects have so far received DASA funding and support, so there are many to choose from. For example:
London-based SME, Trilateral Research, has developed an ethical AI application called Honeycomb that can help organisations make sense of human behaviour and case data to quickly implement safeguarding measures for crimes such as human trafficking.
Northern Ireland-based SME, Kinsetsu, has developed a resilient and scalable platform to accurately account for and locate personnel on Royal Navy ships, providing immediate insight into all souls on board, as well as visitors to ships.
DASA funding has helped SimCentric develop a virtual reality based-training system for military personnel. Built on the commercial gaming engine, Unreal Engine 4, the system uses state-of-the-art gaming technology to provide cost-efficient, effective and highly engaging training at the point of need.
Are there any regions leading in defence innovation?
We particularly want to highlight the innovations we are seeing from Scotland and Wales-based innovators, which have reached £15 million and £5 million in DASA funding respectively.
Key areas that received funding in Scotland include space technologies, photonics, artificial intelligence and robotics. And for Wales, semiconductors, life sciences, cyber, optics and space.
How does DASA work with companies to help them commercialize their innovations and bring them to market?
We don’t stop at finding the ideas. We work with suppliers to help them pull through their ideas into capability supporting both exploitation and commercialisation.
DASA is focused on increasing the pull-through of innovative ideas and supporting the impact and commercialisation of solutions into capability. DASA’s Access to Mentoring and Finance (A2MF) team supports this, providing a business growth service to innovators looking to commercialise and grow their business into the Defence & Security markets.
Working closely with innovators to understand their business needs and aspirations, A2MF is designed to help companies become business, investment, and supply-chain ready. This offering is unique in Defence, acting as a vital, value-add service in helping DASA achieve its aim of not just finding ideas but realising impact.
One of DASA’s main financial mechanisms to support business readiness and the commercialisation of innovations is through the Defence Innovation Loans programme. Run in partnership with Innovate UK, these are designed to help growth-minded SMEs develop and commercialise their mature defence solutions and in doing so, tackle some of the challenges businesses face in moving from technology development to product and company scale-up.
Defence Innovation Loans Key points:
How does DASA ensure that it stays up to date with the latest trends and developments in the defence and security technology space?
DASA partners are embedded in the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, Strategic Command, Defence Equipment and Support and Defence Digital, Security Departments and their innovation hubs, to provide a link with users and bridge from a promising idea to an impactful product ready to enter service.
We work closely with customers to identify current problems and predict future ones, and through our services, we find innovations that will help solve different challenge areas.
DASA’s Innovation Partners also act as “technology scouts”, finding and attracting the best ideas to DASA. They interact with and tap into local ecosystems, have well-established relationships with academic institutions, industry, Local Enterprise Partnerships and trade bodies, and continue to grow their networks of innovators in all sectors.
Working with Beauhurst
We love supporting organisations like DASA in everything from finding innovative companies to measuring the impact of initiatives with data points such as comprehensive fundraising history and investor involvement.
While we pride ourselves on the quantity and quality of the data we provide, we also take a great amount of care over the way we work with our clients after they come onboard, providing personalised insights and support to make sure you utilise the Beauhurst platform to the best ability.
To learn more about how our data could help your business succeed, book a demo with one of our experts today.
Grow your business.
Get access to unrivalled data on all the companies you need to know about, so you can approach the right leads, at the right time.
Book a demo today to see all of the key features of our platforms, as well as the depth and breadth of data available.
An associate will work with you to build a sophisticated search, returning a dynamic list of organisations that match your ideal customer profile.