MoD chiefs call on garden shed scientists to lead weapon development

Backyard boffins – your country needs you.

Ministry of Defence mandarins are on the hunt for garden shed scientists and engineers to help develop the latest generation of weapon and defence systems.

The clarion call was given by Rachel Crease, manager of Futures Labs – the MoD’s cutting-edge design hub which was launched two years ago.

Operated by UK Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the lab already brings together the best and the brightest minds from academia, science and the corporate world.

But now the net has been cast wider, targeting those knowledgeable enthusiasts who are propelled by the love of discovery to uncover the latest advances.

Writing in the MoD’s Desider magazine, Ms Cease said: “If there’s a person working away in a shed somewhere who is the right fit, we want to hear from them.

“Everyone’s opinion is valid. Our motto is: leave your badge at the door. We get everyone working together to get the best possible product.”

What that product can be depends on whatever front line Commanders and military planners say they need – or think they will need ten years from now.

Last year Futures Lab ran a project on the Robotic Enhanced Air Assault Force, using a team from 15 different organisations which included specialists in robotics and autonomous systems, reservists and drone pilots.

But projects come in all shapes and sizes stacking anything from digital solutions to designing and manufacturing physical products that enhance existing equipment.

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Since 2018 the Army has been carrying out an annual Autonomous Warrior exercise, intended to push the boundaries when it comes to fusing the use of manned and unmanned vehicles in combat.

6 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team is set to be the first Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) enhanced brigade in the British Army – which comes complete with futuristic, mechanical dogs. Another priority is for the so-called last mile: resupply in the heat of battle.

The Royal Navy’s equivalent, exercise Unmanned Warrior, is a showcase of autonomous robotic systems that perform a dazzling array of air, surface and subsurface tasking, from underwater surveying to mine countermeasures.

Once a requirement is identified, the Futures Lab team assembles a panel of experts. Usually, they hail from the private defence sector and universities.

Britain is certainly no stranger to innovation. From advances in agricultural equipment to the Industrial Revolution; the advent of the steam engine and radio; the computer and World Wide Web, Britain has consistently punched above its weight in the realms of scientific, technological and engineering prowess.

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Today, the UK’s space industry alone accounts for an astonishing £1 of every £300 of GDP.

And the number of companies which innovate is increasing. According to the most recent UK innovation survey, some
45 percent of UK businesses were considered “ innovation active” in 2021 – compared with 38 per cent in 2018.

Last night a spokesman for UK Research and Innovation applauded the call for garden shed boffins, adding; “The UK is a great place to innovate and do business.

It is home to world-leading scientists and to world-class businesses in sectors including aerospace, automotive, health, infrastructure and construction, manufacturing, agriculture and food, design and creative industries, high value services, and in the enabling and emerging technologies.

“In the Innovation Strategy, the UK government stated its commitment to increase direct public expenditure on R&D to £22 billion per year. We must ensure that the environment is right for the country to achieve this and for UK businesses to capitalise on the opportunities.”

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