£1m innovation boost for service personnel’s welfare and training

Impression of artificial intelligence, psychological, and neuroscience tools and technology

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is funding seven projects aimed at improving the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, it can today be announced.

Nearly £1m is being invested to further develop and trial cutting-edge artificial intelligence, psychological, and neuroscience tools and technology such as brain scanners in a bid to boost the training, wellbeing, and mental health support offered to personnel.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said:

We welcome this £1m investment from DASA aimed at improving the welfare of Armed Forces personnel.

Our Armed Forces serve this country to an exceptional standard and help to keep us safe, so it’s only right that they receive the best possible training and support.

Chief of Defence People Lieutenant General Richard Nugee said:

Defence innovation is about more than just the kit our Armed Forces use. It’s also about our men and women who serve our country.

This £1m investment will see seven projects developed from improving training methods to boosting the pastoral care and mental health support we offer our people.

The funding is part of the second phase of DASA’s Defence People Innovation Challenge funded by the Defence Innovation Fund which is managed by the MOD’s Defence Innovation Unit; and sponsored by MOD’s Chief of Defence People.

DASA – the Ministry of Defence’s innovation hub – finds and funds exploitable technology to give Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and UK security a strategic advantage over adversaries while supporting the nation’s prosperity.

The first phase of funding to this competition in 2018 saw nearly £1.5m of innovation contracts awarded to nine suppliers to develop their initial ideas, meaning nearly £2.5m has been awarded in total.The competition finds innovative solutions to boost recruitment, skills and training, retention, motivation, and rehabilitation.

The projects winning funding in phase 2 are:

  • Affect In Ltd has been awarded around £140,000 to test technology measuring cognitive loading to be trialled with Air Traffic Control and for Air Battle Management training at RAF Shawbury. The technology uses easily worn and harmless brain scanning technology to provide real-time feedback on how well the training is achieving its aims.
  • Affect In Ltd has also been awarded around £108,000 using similar technology as above to improve foreign language training courses. The project will be delivered with the Joint Force Command’s Defence Academy in Shrivenham.
  • The University of Kent has been awarded around £141,000 to begin brain endurance training trials with the RAF to counter fatigue experienced by pilots and other military personnel by combining physical activity with cognitive tasks
  • The University of Kent has also been awarded around £150,000 to further trial with the British Army brain endurance training to counter fatigue experienced by soldiers performing multiple tasks in different military environments. It will provide MOD with more robust tools which can be used across many commands.
  • DIEM Analytics has been awarded around £150,000 to further develop a ‘voicebot’ which will carry out interviews with service personnel which can give analysis of the experiences of troops. This has potential to save on costs and time of manually scheduling and carrying out thousands of one-to-one interviews. It also has the potential to improve the quality of data when personnel are more comfortable talking to a computer about some issues than a human.
  • QinetiQ has been awarded around £150,000 to pilot with the British Army an automated system gathering troops’ views and feeding back the results in real-time. This aims to reduce the time it takes to identify any issues experienced by personnel to allow solutions to be put in place quicker and to maintain staff morale.
  • Daden Ltd has been awarded around £150,000 to pilot a virtual life coach which can help with day-to-day personal, employment, and career issues with an aim to maintain motivation and supporting retention. The system will also track satisfaction, stress and help personnel set long-term personal and career goals. The system will be trialled at RAF Fylingdales.

Dr Adam Staines, DASA Competition lead, said:

DASA is working with businesses of all shapes and sizes and academia to find and fund the latest innovations to benefit UK defence and security.

Building on the successful first phase of this competition we are continuing to mesh cognitive science, artificial intelligence (AI) and the latest technologies to develop tools to support MOD personnel across their working lives.

/Public Release. View in full here.