Using Innovation Models to Harness New Solutions for Defence


Photo by Marilyn Nieves/iStockPhoto


The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is interested in innovation models and the ways in which they can be used to better harness and absorb innovation from external sources. To this end, the MOD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) commissioned RAND Europe to conduct a study of innovation models and make recommendations on changes the MOD could make.


The MOD Chief Scientific Adviser through Dstl commissioned the study to help the MOD enhance the benefit and value that its science and technology programme obtains from external sources of innovation. To this end, the study aimed to identify ways in which the MOD can better harness and absorb innovation from actors across academia, industry and the public sector. The goal of the study was to deliver a set of evidence-based recommendations that could lead to improved outcomes for the MOD’s science and technology research investment, considering both the national and global innovation ecosystems.


Our research confirmed that innovation is a complex system with many interacting factors, which means that ‘magic bullet’ solutions do not exist to enhance the innovation process. Instead, our analysis identified eight key factors that can be used to understand innovation systems and to focus effort on being able to harness innovation (illustrated in Fig.1).

Figure 1: The eight factors of the innovation framework

We considered options to improve performance against each of the factors of our innovation framework and concluded that there are four main areas of the defence innovation system that should be addressed in order to develop a comprehensive and effective innovation model.


We recommend four thematic levels of change that the MOD should undertake to harness innovation. The four recommendations can be pursued in a cumulative manner as ‘building blocks’ towards an effective innovation system, starting with basic internal changes to the MOD and eventually reaching more radical development of external shared spaces. The cumulative direction suggested here is intended to produce the strongest foundation for a thriving MOD innovation model (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: A tiered approach to improve the MOD’s innovation model

Project Team

Jon Freeman
Tess Hellgren
Michele Mastroeni
Giacomo Persi Paoli
Kate Robertson
James Black