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Royal Navy and RAF Fellows return to ranks to drive digital innovation

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This week the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and US Navy welcome back 45 graduates of the Percy Hobart Fellowship, following 12 weeks of immersive education in technology and innovation. The Percy Hobart Fellowship convenes defence personnel in a unique learning environment to equip them with an understanding of the powers and practicalities of new technologies to help champion innovation within a unified defence sector. This year, PUBLIC adapted the curriculum for 2021 to reflect the UK Government’s Integrated Review, aiming to “embrace innovation in science and technology to boost national prosperity and strategic advantage”.Those taking part were selected in a competitive process from across the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and Civil Service, and from all ranks. Three members of the US Navy also took part. Following this intense course, Fellows will now return to their ranks with a sophisticated awareness of the fundamentals of technology and entrepreneurship. Fellows were introduced to a diverse range of viewpoints, including the perspectives of innovation-focused entities such as the jHub and DASA, sessions led by serial entrepreneurs, as well as the challenges of running civilian-startups. Taking learnings from innovation within the private and public sector, Fellows developed projects tackling specific challenges within defence including training, physical and mental health, and procurement. Subjects covered during the course included:

  • Emerging technologies and their applications in defence;
  • The importance of understanding end-user needs;
  • Shifting traditional attitudes toward Defence Innovation;

Fellows were unanimously positive about their experiences, with a number stating what they would take away from the Fellowship: “The Fellowship has changed my mind about digital transformation – seeing technology developed and deployed quickly, effectively and with users at the centre of design across the public sector means I am no longer willing to accept ways of working that don’t embrace this mindset. We can do better and I'm optimistic we will succeed.”“The Fellowship has shown me that by combining Mission Command and accountability with a startup’s flexibility and openness to change, we can harness a potent force for growth in an organisation that empowers its people to take risks, fail and iterate ideas without fear of reprimand - a vital end-state if we are serious about innovation in the UK Armed Forces.”“An incredibly brave and enlightened concept, the Percy Hobart Fellowship has provided a welcome space to rapidly learn about startup innovation culture and hear from some of the brightest minds in this space. I hope to return to Defence and grow the community of ‘Innovation Seeking’ individuals looking for fast paced developments”Fellows will have the opportunity to continue their engagement with the scheme via the Percy Hobart Fellowship Alumni programme. First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin said: “The Percy Hobart Fellowship goes from strength to strength, taking Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Marines and USN personnel, developing their digital skills and immersing our people in the very latest in technology and innovation. I am immensely proud of all that the Fellows have achieved during their time in the programme, and look forward to seeing how they take their new skills forward as they return to the Service. My thanks go, once again, to PUBLIC for facilitating this programme, and to the tech startups which have so generously given up their time, to empower our people.” Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: “I’m pleased to welcome back our inaugural RAF Percy Hobart Fellows following their 12-week secondment with industry. I’m keen to capitalise on their newly-acquired innovation skills and experience as we continue to build the Next Generation Royal Air Force through Astra.”Daniel Korski, PUBLIC’s CEO, said:“Tomorrow’s armed forces will require personnel as able to work with technology as they are with traditional armaments, who can champion new ways of working, and drive innovation no matter their rank. The Percy Hobart Fellowship has equipped personnel with the necessary skills to create change – from understanding how to address challenges to building innovative solutions. It has been fantastic to see the Percy Hobart Fellows’ commitment and dedication during the programme and I look forward to following their progress as they return to their ranks. I’m particularly grateful to the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Air Staff for continuing their forces’ long tradition of innovation in this space through programmes such as the Percy Hobart Fellowship.”For more information, email PUBLIC’s communications team on Press@PUBLIC.io or call +44 (0) 7868786295

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Sep 20, 2021