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MoD launches £800m futuristic tech fund

The Ministry of Defence plans a Dragons’ Den-type competition for futuristic technology ideas such as dragonfly drones, mobile robots and laser weapons

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a competition to allow developers of new military and defence technologies to share an £800m prize fund. 

The fund will run for 10 years. The aim is to transform the creative culture of the ministry and the way in which defence collaborates with industry and academia.  

The prize money will be on offer to companies and individuals developing disruptive technologies such as sensors that use gravity to survey underground structures, virtual reality helmets, and surveillance drones inspired by dragonflies.

Those with the best ideas and technology will then pitch to a Dragons’ Den-style panel to win some of the £800m funding.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon said the new approach “will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries”. 

Maintaining military advantage

He added: “Backed by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, it will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world.”

The fund will officially launch next month, and once investment decisions have been made, the MoD will set up a defence and security accelerator hub to take the projects forward.

The MoD spends around 20% of its science and technology budget on disruptive technology. It already funds projects such as a micro drone being developed by Animal Dynamics. The ministry is also working on a project to investigate the potential of laser weapons to defeat airborne threats.

Read more about drones

The MoD in collaboration with the Home Office has also launched a competition for up to £1m phase-one research funding to design unmanned systems such as robots and aircrafts.

The use of drones for a series of tasks is gaining traction in the UK. The government is also working with Amazon to look at the viability of using drone technology to deliver online orders. 

An agreement with the government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will allow Amazon to test flying drones beyond line of sight, overcoming one of the biggest barriers to drones flying across UK airspace. The CAA hopes this will help inform future policy and approach to drone technology.

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