Innovation is Key for Royal Air Force in 2016

17 February 2016

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Innovation is a key theme for the Royal Air Force in 2016, and was kick-started in February with an ‘Air Innovation Event’ aiming to enhance the delivery of capability to the front line.

The event organiser Air Cdre 'Rocky' Rochelle aimed to break away from the typical conference themes and instead provide a space for discussion and debate. Referring to the event and beyond he said “communicating is my primary intent".

Personnel taking part in the event

“Innovation is more than just introducing 5th generation aircraft; it is about becoming a 5th generation Air Force”. Now is the time for initiative and although we will succeed with some and fail with others, I can promise that innovation will not drop of the RAF's agenda”.

HQ Air Command, the centre of the RAF’s senior leadership, held the two-day event involving military, industry and academia to explore innovative approaches to developing and delivering new capabilities. More so it was an opportunity for a variety of experts to discuss generating, operating and sustaining these capabilities in the long term.

Will Jessett, Director of Strategic Planning, spoke about Defence Innovation, saying “half of innovation is in science and technology, which means half isn't.”

“It equally involves new approaches to people, culture, operational concepts and strategic planning. We need to continually ask what is defence for? We need to break the mould of like-for-like replacement, and encourage innovation at all levels.”

Presentations for innovation day at RAF High Wycombe

Prof Neil Stansfield from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory spoke about harnessing and exploiting disruptive technologies, and Dr Simon Harwood from Cranfield gave an academic perspective, in part exploring how austerity results in the acceleration of innovation.

The two days also used discussion forums with a range of themes to allow the 60 attendees to explore new concepts and ways of thinking. Separate groups talked about barriers and accelerators, being effective whilst reducing costs, and air innovation concepts.

Air Marshal Sir ‘Baz’ North, Air Member for Personnel and Capability, ended the event by reinforcing the RAF’s desire to engage with industry, answering a variety of tough questions with frank answers. He said to the audience “we cannot do our job without you, and in return the RAF is a unique and highly respected entity in the world. Working well together can be mutually beneficial, and innovation is key”.

Editor: Flt Lt Andy Keeley

Photographs: Cpl Jimmy Wise

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