Photograph looking up at skyscrapers and tall buildings in Calgary CanadaFunding for longer-term innovation and resilience against future threats

A slew of UK government grant funding has been released in the wake of the realisation that the economy needs bolstering and a robust, resilient foundation. Sentiment among economic advisors and think tanks is that the economy needs to be adaptive to future crises and be able to cope effectively with new, previously unknown stressors. Times of change are often opportune moments for new ideas and models to take hold. Indeed, proponents of alternative economic systems are advocating their adoption in the road to recovery post coronavirus.

DASA shifts focus towards enhanced cybersecurity 

A fund has recently been launched by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to help mitigate future threats. The £1 million fund is aimed at protecting UK military systems against cyber threats.

Robert Hammond-Smith, DASA Delivery Manager, explained that: “This DASA competition is bringing together the best minds in industry and academia with the brightest Government scientists and talent from the Armed Forces to innovate for a safer future for everyone in the UK.”

DASA was established as part of investment strategies to place innovation at the forefront of national defence. The cross-party organisation facilitates collaborative efforts between the UK government, private enterprise and academic institutions. In its first two years, DASA has successfully run 26 innovation competitions whereby they have invested £42.1m in 278 separate projects.

The cross-government organisation has also facilitated rapid response during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, DASA opened applications for rapid sanitising technology in a bid to accelerate ambulance cleaning times. The open proposal attracted over 200 applications in its first week.

On discussing the organisation’s latest fund, Rebecca Duncan, DASA Project Manager, said that: “Cybersecurity has been in an arms race for decades, with hackers continuously exploiting new vulnerabilities while developers race to patch them. This DASA competition looks to get the UK ahead of these threats and better prepare us against — and even predict — future cyber-attacks. As our understanding of adversaries and attack patterns improves, increased computing power and data growth continues to drive the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution with multiple new possibilities emerging to keep the UK safe and prosperous.”

The fund is aimed at driving innovative technological solutions to predict and even counter cyber-attacks in a bid by the Ministry of Defence to anticipate and mitigate their effects.

Fund opens to kickstart resilience innovation

A £20m government fund has recently opened in a bid to bolster the economy against potential future threats and sudden, unexpected changes. In partnership with Innovate UK, the country’s innovation agency, the fund is designed to promote economic and technological resilience, particularly in the face of economic hardship post COVID-19. The fund is seeking innovative technology to help mitigate the impact of future disruptions. Areas of focus include: ensuring productivity across key industries; boosting economic resilience to protect against future threats; and innovating in specific sectors such as delivery, food, retail and transport.

Dr. Ian Campbell, Executive Chair at Innovate UK, said: “The COVID-19 situation is not just a health emergency, but also one that affects the economy and society. With that in mind, Innovate UK has launched this rapid response competition seeking smart ideas from innovators. These could be proposals to help the distribution of goods, educate children remotely, keep families digitally connected and even new ideas to stream music and entertainment. The UK needs a great national effort and Innovate UK is helping by unleashing the power of innovation for people and businesses in need.”

The fund welcomes new ideas to address specific pain points in industry and society. These include: technology that enables retailers to be more responsive to changes in consumer demand; ways for families to stay connected, especially with elderly and vulnerable members; and remote learning tools for education.

Growing need for economic resilience

Questions loom over whether current government initiatives go far enough in promoting major economic reform. Great change often arises from times of upheaval. With this in mind, many advocate for a refreshed approach to entire economic systems as countries around the globe emerge from lockdown and begin efforts to rekindle their economies.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a supporter of the “circular economy” whereby products and materials are kept in perpetual use with waste and pollution nullified.

Jocelyn Bleriot, Executive Lead Institutions, Governments and Cities, stresses the importance of cross-institutional and sustained collaboration on the road to recovery. In a recent blog post, Mr. Bleriot stressed that “it is fundamental to recognise that the effort will need to be sustained and that its success will rely on the involvement of all stakeholders, working in a logic of co-creation. As governments step up to address the most pressing issues, setting a clear direction and enabling private sector circular innovation to reach scale will allow us to combine economic regeneration, better societal outcomes and climate ambitions.”

The foundation works with businesses, government and academic institutions to develop the framework for a restorative and regenerative-by-design economy.

There is growing sentiment that now is the appropriate time to lay the groundwork for a more sustainable, resilient and fair economic model. The COVID-19 pandemic has indeed highlighted many weaknesses in the current economic system, with many pushing for resilience against future disruptions, shocks and stressors. Through all of this, one thing is abundantly clear, that long-term collaborative efforts will form the cornerstone of driving future growth as well as forming the necessary steps towards establishing greater economic resilience.