A Dragons' Den-style panel with a fund of around �800m will operate for the next 10 years and hear pitches for new military technologies

�800m MoD fund to back new military technologies

Laser weapons, virtual-reality helmets and dragonfly-inspired surveillance drones are among futuristic technology set to be backed by the government's new defence innovation initiative.

The scheme, which launched today, will transform how the Armed Forces deal with the defence and security challenges of tomorrow.

It is hoped that it will boost creative thinking in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in order to maintain its technological advantage over other nations.

The initiative will support cutting-edge technology such as sensors that use gravity to survey underground structures in minutes and mobile robots that can inspect incidents involving chemical materials.

It will also encourage individuals and companies to pitch ideas to a Dragons' Den-style panel, which has a fund of around £800m over 10 years.

There will be a defence and security accelerator to ensure that solutions to national security challenges are in development quickly, while an Innovation and Research Insights Unit will anticipate emerging trends in technology and analyse their implications.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "This new approach will help to keep Britain safe while supporting our economy, with our brightest brains keeping us ahead of our adversaries.

"Backed by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, it will ensure that the UK maintains its military advantage in an increasingly dangerous world."

Last year, the MoD's Neil Stansfield, who heads its Knowledge, Innovation and Futures Enterprise programme, said the UK government needed greater engagement with the country’s scientists and engineers or it would fall behind the capabilities of its enemies.

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