Scots tech firms urged to join defence industry push

HMS Forth outside the BAE shipyard in Govan. Two more offshore patrol vessels will be built at the same complex. Picture: Bob Shaw/BAE
HMS Forth outside the BAE shipyard in Govan. Two more offshore patrol vessels will be built at the same complex. Picture: Bob Shaw/BAE
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Ministers have launched a drive to encourage small hi-tech businesses to join larger firms in creating an innovative future for the UK defence industry.

Harriett Baldwin, minister for defence procurement, unveiled the Defence and Security Accelerator to encourage small firms, academics and defence experts to use the latest technology to give the UK the edge.

The Maritime Enterprise Innovation Scotland Conference asked 300 delegates at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow to help the UK save lives and money, and win battles in the information age.

Ms Baldwin said: “The defence innovation initiative and £800 million defence innovation fund aim to encourage imagination, ingenuity and entrepreneurship in pursuit of maintaining a military advantage in the future.

“This innovation challenge calls for innovators to develop new technologies to improve the UK’s ability to analyse and exploit data in order to inform decision-making.

“With a rising defence budget and a £178 billion equipment plan, our commitment to collaboration will deliver a safer and more prosperous Britain.”

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The £3 million Accelerator competition, backed by an £800 million Ministry of Defence innovation fund, hopes to use new technologies to improve the way the defence industry uses data and makes decisions.

The Royal Navy hopes innovative use of sensors and artificial intelligence created by new technology will give its commanders the edge on battlefield.

The conference was attended by firms including BAE Systems, Thales UK, Rolls Royce and Lockheed Martin.

It was keen to collaborate with smaller firms such as Vert Rotors in Edinburgh and Glasgow-based Amethyst Research which had already benefited from funding.

Rear Admiral John Weale, a career submariner and the Royal Navy’s flag officer Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “Scotland and the Royal Navy have been joined at the hip and Scotland is hugely influential to the Royal Navy.

“We are going through an era of technological change as we build sophisticated warships we need innovation to give us the technological and competitive advantage.”

Ms Baldwin later visited the Govan shipyard to cut steel on two of the Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vehicles (OPV).

The OPV programme provides about 800 Scottish shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde and hundreds of others in 113 companies in the UK supply chain.