On May 18th, we launched our inaugural roundtable event in the 2023 Minds in Motion series. We gathered representatives from organisations including Realise Design, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, ZEISS Group, Amplified.me, and esteemed defence consultants AACE Ltd to delve into a series of compelling topics.
The event drew inspiration from a candid talk given earlier in the year by Jeegar Kakkad, the Director of Policy at the Tony Blair Institute, who provided a lucid perspective on the UK's economic landscape.
The discussion began around the prevalence and speed of technological innovation within the private sector and the question of how we can foster similar shifts within aerospace and defence organisations as well as government led institutions. How can we simplify and accelerate their transition towards a more agile approach to the latest technology? There was unanimous agreement that convening such dialogues was already a significant stride towards our goal and Colin Turner celebrated the fact that we were all in a room together having this conversation in the first place.
Throughout the conversations a resounding consensus emerged among the attendees: the rapid pace of innovation and the integration of cutting-edge technologies seen within private organisations shifting into government departments cannot be accomplished by a single entity or a small group of individuals. It became abundantly clear that a collective effort on a large scale is essential to turn this ambitious vision into a reality. The discussions highlighted the need for collaboration, unity, and shared responsibility as we strive to usher in a new era of transformative advancements.
Steve O’Brien made a particularly good point, that in today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, fostering cross-sector communication and collaboration has never been more crucial. A 'common language' in technology can act as a powerful tool to bridge the gap between different sectors, from defence and aerospace to medtech and circular economy, and this involves creating shared terminologies, concepts, and practices that are universally understood and applied, regardless of the specific discipline or sector. We discussed how these lessons gleaned from cross-sector collaboration can be put into practice and we questioned how nimble, technologically advanced companies might help accelerate and drive growth in sectors such as aerospace and defence sectors.
It was agreed that a common language would certainly contribute to more effective and efficient work processes in the future. It would break down the silos that often hinder innovation and collaboration, allowing for a multidisciplinary approach where diverse sectors can work cohesively towards shared goals. With a shared technological language, different sectors can understand each other's processes, tools, and methodologies better, thus enabling better cooperation, interoperability, and problem-solving. All too often companies are left dealing with a sea of “technical jargon” that they simply cannot make sense of.
The room was in agreement that in today's complex world, traditional hierarchical structures are giving way to more collaborative, flat organisational models. A common language allows for a greater diversity of voices in the room, breaking down barriers of understanding, and ensuring that everyone, regardless of their discipline, can contribute meaningfully to the conversation. It empowers more disciplines to have a seat at the table, and participate in the process of innovation and decision-making.
A common technological language can pave the way for the future, where better cross-sector cooperation, multidisciplinary approaches, and non-hierarchical structures are viewed as the norm. It's a stepping stone towards a more interconnected and inclusive technological world.
During the morning session we also touched upon the intriguing subject of AI integration and how best to approach this within various sectors, all of which have their own issues and reservations regarding this complex area. It is such a large topic we agreed that this was an entire session in itself but we did briefly touch upon some key points.
The integration of AI within the aerospace and defence sectors is not a straightforward task, a significant amount of strategic planning is required as well as robust collaboration, and continued innovation. However, by implementing some specific steps this adoption could help in a number of ways. The first and most important step is to identify where AI can be most beneficial. This could be anything from autonomous flight and navigation to predictive maintenance, threat detection, and decision support systems. A number of key themes appeared throughout the discussion that we were able to highlight:
Data Infrastructure, data is the lifeblood of AI, therefore it is crucial to have robust data infrastructure in place that allows for secure and efficient collection, storage, processing, and analysis of data.
Collaboration and partnerships, working with AI technology providers, academic institutions, and other relevant stakeholders can accelerate the adoption of AI. These collaborations can help in sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices.
Regulatory compliance, given the sensitive nature of the aerospace and defence sectors, it's important to ensure that any AI application complies with relevant laws, regulations, and safety standards.
Training and workforce development, employees need to be trained to work alongside AI. This includes both technical training for those developing and maintaining AI systems, and broader education for all staff to understand the potential and limitations of AI.
Cross-sector collaboration can provide valuable insights into effective AI adoption. For example, the healthcare sector's use of AI for diagnosis can inspire similar AI applications in aerospace for predictive maintenance. The finance sector's use of AI in fraud detection can be adapted for threat detection in defence. In these cross-sector collaborations, lessons can be learned about handling data privacy and security issues, maintaining safety standards, and ensuring regulatory compliance. Furthermore, successful collaboration can highlight the importance of interdisciplinary teams, combining expertise from diverse fields such as data science, engineering, and cybersecurity, something we have been privileged to witness first hand.
The room agreed that in order to foster cross-sector innovation the UK generally needs to cultivate a culture that embraces collaboration and not shy away from it. Risk taking such as that seen by the SpaceX exploration mission and continuous learning needs to be made a priority. As a group we hoped that this event was the starting point for sectors working, talking and learning from one another - albeit a big task, you need to start somewhere.
Furthermore, the education system should be geared towards nurturing creativity and critical thinking, and organisations should be encouraged to invest in continual learning and development. Andrew from Realise Design felt particularly passionate about this point coming from a design focussed company.
It was appreciated within the room that it is easier said than done to try to implement these fundamental starting points within sectors, however you can but try. There is appetite across sectors such as aerospace and defence to start to innovate at a greater pace and learn from other sectors.
Newicon is proud to have facilitated the first of many events providing small steps towards opening the doors towards a more collaborative working environment , and recognises the importance of continuing in our efforts to drive change and provide a platform for more collaboration.
The next event scheduled for September aims to take a deeper dive into a more specific topic area that affects companies of all sizes and sectors, so watch this space for more information coming soon…https://newicon.net/blog/category/events
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