Data Driven Futures

MoD to explore AI and 3D printing tech

Written by Hannah McGrath

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that it will consider emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing as key concepts in its new approach to innovation and technological change.

Two strategy documents published today - the Defence Technology Framework (DTF) and the Defence Innovation Priorities (DIP) - outline the MoD’s strategy for coping with the accelerating pace of technological change in the defence space, with the arrival of drones, cyber warfare and automated threat detection.

The documents are intended as a response to the Modernising Defence Programme’s three central objectives: to mobilise to tackle today’s challenges; modernise to meet future threats; and transform to become an agile and innovative organisation.

The Defence Technology Framework sets out an assessment of the technology areas with the greatest potential to transform military capabilities.

The ‘seven families’ of technology identified in the document - from AI and advanced materials to energy storage and cutting-edge sensors - have the potential to revolutionise defence and will shape collaboration with international partners and the UK’s academic and industrial base.

Possible applications cited include: 3D printing, space tracking and communications, enhanced Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber defence and automated logistics.

The Transformation Fund, announced as part of the Modernising Defence Programme, will deploy £160 million on fast-tracking new military capabilities onto the frontline.

Projects already funded include blood clotting technology which should save lives on the battlefield, and two new autonomous minehunter vessels which will give the Royal Navy more flexibility in the face of rapidly changing underwater threats.

The government has also invested around £100 million in the Defence Innovation Fund, primarily in small and medium-sized enterprises, in programmes in the non-military sector which could have a transformative effect in the defence sector.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: “We live in an era of extraordinary technological change and we must make sure we are harnessing the power of innovation by working as efficiently and effectively with industry as possible.

“Our transformed approach to using and procuring technology will not only help us secure our military advantage, but will help drive prosperity and create jobs across the country.”