The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)
DASA finds and exploits innovations which support the defense and security of the UK to help protect our people against our adversaries, faster and more effectively whilst generating economic value for the UK. We help businesses to grow and become successful. We provide funding and other support, helping people to access end-users, develop and test their products and linking our partners together.
The UK Government’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is a cross-Government organization, hosted by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). DASA was announced in the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015 for government to help the private sector, allies and academia turn ideas into innovative equipment and services faster for national security users. Following a public consultation, DASA was launched on 16 September 2016 by the Secretary of State for Defence as part of the Defence Innovation Initiative.
The Accelerator went live in December 2016. DASA’s aim and objectives DASA exists to help Government access innovative ideas, equipment and services faster for national security and military users, in order to help maintain security and military advantage over our adversaries, in order to protect people. We are also helping to build prosperity for the UK in line with the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. DASA’s mission is for the UK to have a strategic advantage through the most innovative defense and security capabilities in the world. We will find, fund and exploit innovations to support UK defense and security. DASA will seek to form key strategic partnerships with companies and organizations across the UK and internationally to help us achieve our mutual objectives. DASA’s objectives are to help defense and security customers to solve problems by:
a. Reach out and find ideas and opportunities by engaging widely to build networks with external organizations, private sector, academics, and individuals. We will encourage individuals and organizations to work with us who have not previously worked with defense and security.
b. Fund and support SMEs and academics to develop their ideas in partnership with front line stakeholders into workable demonstrators, products and services.
c. Work with defense and security stakeholders to exploit the best ideas, products, and services, in order to transfer them onto the operational front line and develop broader commercial and export potential.
d. Work collaboratively to form partnerships, co-ordinate and complement existing activity, and avoid any duplication, to enhance the overall innovation ecosystem.
e. Experiment with novel methodology and approaches in order to facilitate as wide a range of proposals as possible in order to find the best solutions.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
DASA replaces the previous Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) in Dstl. The Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) was the first point of contact for any external organization or individual with a research proposal for disruptive technology, a new process or new innovation that has a potential defense and security application. Most innovative science and technology investment now takes place in non-defense markets and CDE was a mechanism to use to tap into other markets. CDE engaged the broadest possible audience of potential science and technology providers, in particular small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia (university departments and spin-out companies) and individual innovators, to attract the best thinking in support of defense research and development. CDE provided 2 routes to proof-of-concept research funding:
◾themed competition CDE was successful and introduced new companies to defense and importantly new products to the benefit of Defence but it was limited in scope.
DASA is building on the Success of CDE to broaden the scope, depth, funding, and expertise available in order to innovate Defence and Security. The scope has been expanded to include Security customers at its core. The depth has been increased to include higher levels of technical readiness (up to preproduction) innovations and also conceptual ideas. The ways of working of DASA are in themselves innovative and have been improved since CDE. Each competition has pushed the barriers and tried out new ways of working (such as short form contracts). Importantly, DASA is building the innovation ecosystem to harness the full potential reaching out to including Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME), wider private sector, academics, start-ups and innovators, including those who have not worked with defense and/or security previously. Our Innovation Partners will be co-located with key partner organizations around the UK, linking us into existing hubs of expertise and networks.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The Government’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is a cross-Government organization, hosted by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). DASA was announced in the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in 2015 for government to help the private sector, allies and academia turn ideas into innovative equipment and services faster for national security users. Following a public consultation, was launched on 16 September 2016 by the Secretary of State for Defence as part of the Defence Innovation Initiative. The Accelerator went live in December 2016. DASA is intended to help defense and security stakeholders, industry, including Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME), and academics understand DASA and what we can do to help.
We find and exploit innovations which support the defense and security of the UK to help protect our people against our adversaries, faster and more effectively whilst generating economic value for the UK. We understand that building an innovation ecosystem is crucial to the generation of new ideas. Innovation will flourish if we can bring together like-minded people across government, private sector, and academia. We want to help businesses to grow and become successful. We provide funding and other support, such as helping people to access end-users, develop and test their products and help build the business case for procurement, and link our partners together. We aim to become the go-to place for the Government, private sector, third sector, and academia to find solutions to defense and security problems and needs. We aim to be the lead the way for finding ways to innovate, and will role model a new innovation culture across defense and security. We will do this by:
1. Identifying science and technology opportunities for exploitation.
2. Bringing together innovators and build connections.
3. Supporting the strongest opportunities.
4. Helping innovators build and grow successful businesses of benefit for the UK’s defense and security.
Collaborations & Partnerships
In partnership with people, companies, and organizations including internationally, we find and drive science and technology innovations, and support their rapid exploitation. We will work through partnerships with research institutes and innovation centers. We help the innovation ecosystem to thrive and grow, by providing opportunities for customers and suppliers to work together both physically and virtually. We will bring together a unique set of stakeholders to focus on generating solutions to key challenges, including SMEs, wider private sector, academics, start-ups, and innovators. We will encourage those who have not previously worked with defense and security, and seek to exploit solutions in parallel sectors. We will offer collaboration spaces which will act as safe environments where stakeholders can identify, experiment, incubate and demonstrate novel ideas and solutions. We work hand in- hand with Government procurement bodies to pull novel solutions into service.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Earlier we wrote about the ecosystem we are developing. We work in tandem with stakeholders helping with:
• money – we provide funding to develop promising and game-changing ideas • access – our networks and access to the customer and end users are invaluable.
• proactive – we scout for ideas and actively pursue them.
• contract terms – we offer quick, easy and beneficial contractual terms.
• events – we provide opportunities to explore challenges and network with Government officials in defense and security, such as hackathons, sandpits, pitch panels, competitions, and exhibitions.
• guidance – our Innovation Partners and team provide guidance for your idea.
• exploitation – we will help bridge the ‘valley of death’ and help get the best innovations through to exploitation.
• purpose – we want to keep our country and our people safe from our adversaries and support economic growth and prosperity • trust – we are open and fair and provide transparency data on our website.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The Defence and Security Accelerator officially launched on the 8 December 2016, since then we’ve received over 500 innovative proposals and funded 112 proposals from 87 different organizations.
Challenges and Failures
Resistance to change – generally, people are resistant to change. In many ways people liked the status quo, it had a trailed and tested process which had been proven to work within a limited scope. They were now being asked to work outside of comfort zones and push the boundaries. Strong leadership and senior level support helped to build the compelling case and sell the advantages and the case for change. Alongside, a transition project team was assembled to help form the new team and identify new ways of working. Broadening the scope (DASA has a wide remit across UK defense (air, sea, land, and space) and security including the security services, police, Border Force and emergency services)– adding security to DASA was initially met with resistance. As well as widespread briefing and an active communication plan, new members including the head of DASA were recruited from outside of Defence.
Conditions for Success
An Entreprise Colloboration System is needed to provide a networked online environment accessible from the internet and supporting framework for the rapid delivery of collaborative innovation to stakeholders and suppliers. Ideally, this will be provided by an integrated online cloud service. Work within commercial regulations and legislative framework. DASA is required to protect all third-party IP. A number of safeguards to protect your IP while also allowing proper scrutiny of your proposals by expert assessors and appropriate transparency of how public money is being spent. Provide strong and effective leadership is essential to make the change stick. Set straight forward but challenging objectives. Build a strong team that is prepared to work collaboratively to achieve the common goal. DASA has been successful because of the personal commitment and motivation of the team. Building on the ethos of the previous organisation they will go the extra mile to make DASA a success.
DASA could be replicated by other Governments if there is willingness to change and intent to pursue innovation. Key to success is clear governance and accountability with top down support. Importantly, funds need to be set aside for innovation and made available to support challenges and competitions. To work effectively, there needs to be a widespread believable communications campaign which can energize people, organisation’s and businesses to come forward and become part of the innovation eco-system. This can only be achieved if there is trust in DASA and a belief in what it is trying to achieve.
Spend time up front scoping out the innovation. Involve a broad audience of stakeholders in the early stages. Then focus on a plan with a smaller circle of interested people. Build the compelling case, ensure it has high level buy in and then launch from the top down. Don’t except the status quo, push boundaries but take along commercial colleagues from the start to keep it legal. Look for quick wins, demonstrate agility and a willingness to respond to events. Remember, the plan can always be changed. Have the courage to deliberately and consciously create a culture of calculated risk-taking and challenge, where failure is an accepted part of the learning process; Be open to try new ways of doing things, learning from mistakes and from others in the private sector and overseas and sharing our learning and approaches with others, including ensuring independent review of our performance. Operate with integrity taking a highly ethical approach to what you support and who you work with.