Blog Post

June 16, 2022

AWS Defence Accelerator Spotlight: Transforming defence towards a greener future

UK defence accounts for 50% of central government’s emissions, an enormous figure, but one that makes sense when you consider the human, infrastructural, and geographic footprint of the Ministry of Defence.

From the tens of thousands of people it employs and houses, to the large bases and training areas it manages and maintains, to the fleets of aircraft, ships, and vehicles it runs, the challenges defence faces in addressing its environmental impact are vast.

Beyond the direct carbon footprint, there are other pressing sustainability concerns for Defence. Maintaining technological superiority through new greener technologies, including the logistical and tactical benefits that come from moving away from carbon fuels, is vital. As is being prepared and equipped to deal with a world subject to the impact of climate change, from large-scale weather events to migration.

Fortunately, these pressures are not lost on leadership within government or wider defence, and the strategic vision and ambition are both in place and unambivalent. As Lt. Gen Richard Nugee states in the MoD’s Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach report, “The climate change and sustainability strategic approach is about embracing essential elements of this modernisation which Defence cannot afford to ignore. The imperative could not be clearer: Defence must and will act now”. Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston has even committed to the RAF achieving net zero by 2040, a full ten years ahead of the central government target.

Due to political will, as well as, identifiable strategic and financial advantage, there is both enormous need and appetite for a greener defence sector, be it the MOD itself or those supplying it. The UK has set out its intent to be a leader in the sustainable defence space. It is critical therefore that those SMEs with the capability to deliver the change required are not only engaged by defence, but are given the information and tools necessary to successfully grow their business within the sector. It is one of reasons that the newly launched Defence Accelerator created with Amazon Web Services (AWS) identifies sustainability as one of the key challenges for its cohort to tackle. We are enormously excited by the prospect of helping startups that participate in the programme to accelerate their impact on greening defence.

Now, almost all necessary technologies required in defence are dual-use, with widespread applicability in other markets. The accelerator will make it easier for startups to explore the opportunities that “greening” defence might provide, without having to pivot to do so. 

Sustainability startups already successfully operating in the UK defence space include Signol, a behavioural interpretation software business, Reds10, a modular construction business, Makersite, an enterprise digital twins company, Plyable, a custom composite mould manufacturer, and Improbable, creators of multi-domain synthetic environments. 

Supporting other innovative startups like them with programs like the AWS defence accelerator is key to tackling sustainability challenges in the defence sector worldwide. 

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Matthew Long

Former Team Member

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