What a remarkable year it has been for technology innovation.
Despite the challenges, the industry as a whole has collectively taken significant strides in collaborating and delivering solutions to some of the most pressing global issues at a rapid pace. No mean feat!
And whilst there's certainly more to be done, we feel privileged to have played a small role in propelling this progress, working alongside some of the most disruptive, incredible thinkers in the industry. From academia to tech, to government and finance, the team at has had the privilege to collaborate across the board in 2023.
Thanks to all our partners who have supported us throughout – we're eagerly anticipating further success in 2024! In review of the year, here are top 5 most insightful reads of 2023:
1) How To Ensure AI Capability Excellence in National Security
Gearoid O'Connor is Head of Information Security UK at Helsing, the largest European AI defence technology startup. Gearoid provides a clear articulation of what matters when it comes to the security of AI. More specifically, ensuring it is Secure by Design so that it can be readily deployable and adaptable in the National Security space.
What is Secure by Design (SbD) and how does it begin to factor into how AI is being developed for defence and wider government? In short, SbD is a risk-based approach to managing the cyber risk of capabilities delivered to defence (and govt as a whole). Implied in that statement is the need to focus on a greater understanding of the capability’s context, use and threats, and so in turn enable meaningful management of its risks with them being either designed out, or the necessary controls being designed into what is ultimately delivered. Easier said than done. But at the heart of it all is one core aspect up front. Accountability. Through proper implementation of the appropriate roles and responsibilities with the related governance, a program is far more likely to succeed than the outcome of any of the other principles can achieve in their own right.
There are plenty of new facets to consider regarding AI, but fundamentally there is the need to understand the context of how it will be trained and used and to plan for the threats those scenarios present. Conducting a workshop that involves all the key players in the capability delivery to ensure the context and threats are understood and answer “how do we deal with them”, will mean that much of the work is done to ensure the capability of Secure by Design can flow from there. You will already have smart and technically capable people in the room. Having posed the basic but right questions should lead to the basic but necessary answers to achieve the secure outcome.
2) Overcoming the threat of misinformation in National security
Dr. Rupert Small is a specialist in complex systems and the founder of Egregious, an AI start-up dedicated to understanding online narratives. Rupert explains how we need systems and applications that help us understand and mitigate the misuse or weaponisation of information supply chains. Without them, misinformation, deception, and polarisation will continue to flourish. Civilians, incited or misinformed by online content, will increasingly be at risk of being drawn into active warzones, while men and women in uniform and public office face a crisis of orientation and decision-making due to the exponentially increasing volume and velocity of deceptive or irrelevant signals.
The MOD’s Joint Concept Note on Information Advantage made clear, that our ability to defend the freedoms and liberties afforded by open information supply chains, to help and serve audiences in a globally connected world, and to keep citizens secure from cyberattacks, scams and harassment will depend on an integrated response.
The nation’s fleet of academic institutions, research organisations, start-ups, and policy frameworks is both well established and growing rapidly. Singular tools and technologies will not be enough. Information resilience will need to be sustained not by a single organisation but by a robust ecosystem of capabilities across government, defence, academia and industry. In a world which is dangerously polarised and contested there is, as ever, an opportunity in crisis. Global Britain’s ability to create and export resilient information supply chains will determine our prosperity and security for the decades to come.
3) A thought experiment in AI decision making
Karl Eze is CEO of Point Zenith, a national security and defence company supporting disruptive startups, defence primes and government agencies to develop and deliver game-changing future sensor, uncrewed system and AI capabilities.
Karl describes how Specific artificial intelligence is permeating military decision making through the enhancement of traditional geospatial and temporal ‘map-based’ command and control software, linking up sensors to decision makers and ‘shooters’ (or knitted together in kill webs); this is well understood and documented in theory and increasingly practised in modern conflicts in the first half of the 21st century.
Specific AI is designed for specific tasks and lacks the ability to generalise, while general AI aims to replicate human-like intelligence, possessing the ability to understand, learn and apply knowledge across multiple domains. So let us unencumber our minds and go on a thought experiment as to how general artificial intelligence might affect military decision-making in the battlespaces of the second half of the 21st century.
The evolution of military decision-making is poised for significant transformation over the next 50 years. Nature is full of biological arms races, of predator and prey, action, counter and counter-counter. Adversaries will find new ways to influence, deceive and wage war in a post-specific AI era of general AI, with its potential to replicate human-like intelligence. Ever faster OODA loops, ever more capable general AIs, meta-decision making. The continuous advancement of technology will shape the future of military decision-making, requiring careful considerations of ethical, legal, strategic, and political implications.
4) Navigating Defence procurement for start up success
As Karve’s Defence & Security Director outlined, navigating the challenging landscape of start-up success can often feel like embarking on a journey without a map. Shockingly, 20% of businesses fail within the first year, and a staggering 60% meet their demise within the first three. When it comes to start-ups reliant on government contracts, the risks only intensify. Interestingly, failure is not limited to poorly run businesses with subpar products. Even exceptional start-ups, led by extraordinary individuals, frequently fall into this treacherous trap.
One major obstacle lies in short runways that lead to cash flow problems. Misunderstood capabilities or purposes can also hinder progress, as can an over-reliance on tenuous and unreliable innovation grants. Additionally, the inability to connect with the right people further compounds the challenges. What further complicates matters in the public sector is the lack of a level playing field. Dominant market leaders often tilt the system in their favour, overshadowing small and innovative start-ups. How can a new and ground-breaking military business hope to compete with the likes of BAE Systems?
Karve presents five tips for successfully delivering innovative technology into the Defence & Security market, and while not exhaustive, they certainly increase the chances of success:
• Find a mandate then align to an operational risk
• Commercial pathways
• Gaining end-user buy-in
• Ensuring scalability
• Layered funding sources.
While success does not come with guaranteed shortcuts, developing a meticulously crafted and intelligent strategy for scaling your technology can greatly improve your chances of achieving it.
5) Is OSINT the answer to UK National Security Challenges?
Intelligence Analyst Matthew Lawrence explains how private sector OSINT, or Open Source Intelligence, refers to the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information from publicly available sources by private organizations or individuals.
There are huge opportunities for the private sector OSINT industry, but those opportunities seem to be clouded by a fog of differences in opinion on what OSINT is and what it can offer national security. That fog thickens further when companies attempt to meet national security needs through data science alone, placing the non-trivial task of fusing that insight with traditional intelligence flows at the feet of Government intelligencers. As those intelligencers drown in a sea of products vying for their attention, is it any wonder that vapourware and snake oil slip through the net?
In order to unlock the power of OSINT for national security, the sector must increase its understanding of existing government intelligence disciplines and processes. This will force more coherent private sector language around standards, shift the burden of translation away from Government, and remove the grey areas in which the cheats lurk.
Whatever the use, the focus should be on creating a class of private sector intelligencers who are capable of bridging the gap between the innovation that the private sector brings and the established safeguards that Government intelligence mechanisms require. In so doing, the murky grey areas in which the snake-oil salesmen lurk are removed and those with something truly worthwhile to offer to national security can step forward.
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