Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), the world-leading event that brings together the global defence and security sector to innovate and share knowledge, returns to London ExCeL on 12-15 September 2017. Here, defence features writer Robert Atherton looks at the launch of the dedicated Innovation Hub, hosted by the Defence and Security Accelerator.
There has been a resurgence in defence innovation in recent times. The Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, has brought innovation back to the table, thanks in part to the Defence Innovation Initiative announced last September.
His endorsement has helped underscore the overriding importance of technology to the UK’s defence capabilities, and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2017 now looks to do the same through the launch of the very first Innovation Hub.
Hosted by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Innovation Hub is an exciting new platform intended to encourage “imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship” in the defence sector.
Here, prospective innovators will be able to pitch their ideas to Accelerator staff on the lookout for the next game-changing innovation, while DASA demonstrates some of the technologies that it has matured through the Government’s £800 million Innovation Fund.
Crucially, the Accelerator – alongside Innovation Hub partners jHub, Innovate UK, Knowledge Transfer Network and techUK – will be on-hand to advise on R&D initiatives, funding opportunities and potential routes to market.
“We are continually looking for new ways to develop DSEI to best reflect the needs of the event’s global audience,” said Duncan Reid, Event Director. “The Innovation Hub will complement the offering from DSEI’s established exhibitor base while helping other suppliers to break into the defence sector.
“Acting as a ‘marketplace’ for business, the Innovation Hub will assist those from the frontline commands who are, in some instances, seeking to deliver military capability with solutions from companies whose expertise lies beyond defence.”
For Alexandra Russell, Accelerator Engagement Lead at DASA, it’s a valuable opportunity for innovators and the Accelerator both.
“From our perspective, the Innovation Hub gives us an opportunity to demonstrate some of the products and services that have been through the Accelerator,” said Russell. “But it’s a networking opportunity as well. We want to encourage engagement between SMEs and Dstl and we are bringing in military advisors, so it’s a good chance to meet end users.”
According to Russell, DASA is seeking input from “anyone who has an idea that might benefit UK defence and security”. It’s a wide-ranging remit. The hope now is that innovators of all shapes and sizes will have a sounding board to test the strength of their ideas.
“We are keen to encourage engagement and collaboration going forward,” confirmed Russell. “We want to hear from absolutely anybody, whether they’re a one-man band or a prime contractor that has engaged with the Defence and Security Accelerator before.”
Beyond the Innovation Hub, DASA has planned a series of networking events and in-depth discussions. Big announcements will be made during the four-day exhibition, and the Accelerator will chair an afternoon panel on Wednesday 13 September, exploring the defence innovation ecosystem.
It’s an exciting time for the defence community. Attitudes are changing, and the Accelerator is helping to drive innovation across the sector. Russell concluded: “We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of defence colleagues wanting to engage with the projects that we are working on. Some would even like to be our ‘customer’, for us to deliver a competition on their behalf, and hopefully there’s a lot more of that to come!”
For more information, visit: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/defence-and-security-accelerator
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