Between the sandbox and the silicon: where grit transforms innovation

Tim Stringer

Head of Defence Business Development

“Digital technologies have the capacity to revolutionise every aspect of how governments function, contributing to increased efficiency in the delivery of public services.”

- UK Government, Dec 23

Last week I had the pleasure of attending an excellent roundtable discussion in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Ukraine Early Reconstruction and Redevelopment Department (UERRD), hosted by @PUBLIC, as part of a larger three day visit for a delegation of digital government ministers and senior officials from Ukraine and Estonia.

The primary purpose of the visit was to support and build upon the trilateral programme of activity on e-governance and digitalisation between His Majesty’s Government and the Ukrainian and Estonian governments, which was affirmed in the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the three countries in December 2023. For Skyral, this was an opportunity to share the powerful value that Digital Twins approaches and technology can bring as a contributor to governance, security, resilience, development, and reconstruction.

The event provided a superb opportunity for representatives of the UK SME community to share their insights and experiences working within sandbox programmes, identifying the many positives aspects, but also the significant challenges, of the current innovation ecosystem and pipeline in the UK. This was particularly pertinent as Ukraine approaches the launch of its Innovation Strategy and the unleashing of its developing Hi-Tech Sandbox.

UK SMEs – covering topics from healthcare and social welfare through to lidar, AI, and Synthetic Environments – spoke about their development journeys and market adoption, providing tangible use-cases to accompany the high-level elements of the discussion. For Skyral, we shared our work on Decision Support, and perhaps most significantly for this audience, Digital Twins.

At Skyral, we intimately understand the value of Digital Twins. Our work in this space has seen us tackle the complexities of the MOD’s Next Generation Communication Network, explore the implications of economic shocks to the International Monetary System, challenge assumptions around the introduction of alternative energy sources in the UK, investigate societal responses and population dynamics in both military and civilian contexts, and contribute to the UK’s COVID response effort…and the list goes on.

MOD Crown Copyright 2024

In short, a Digital Twin serves as a virtual representation of physical objects, processes and systems, enabling a representation of the real world in which an unlimited spectrum of conditions and scenarios can be modelled and simulated. The Digital Twin is a synthetic environment of sorts that allows the ‘as is’ world-state to be used as a foundation to project forward and explore the ‘so what’ and ‘what ifs’ of the future. When delivered using accurate datasets, robust models, machine learning techniques and applied science, the environment can elicit emergent behaviours, imperceptible vulnerabilities, and the crucial ‘unknown unknowns’. These are environments that allow users to plan and experiment with different courses of action in the digital domain before taking action in the real world.

While we’ve seen the immense value of the Digital Twin at Skyral, one can only imagine the breadth and depth of possibilities that this technology could offer when applied to the context of rebuilding Ukraine. Given the country’s aptitude for harnessing novel technologies and innovation, they are expertly placed to apply them to the demands of efficient and resilient reconstruction.

MOD Crown Copyright 2024

The event also provided an excellent opportunity for UK representatives across government and industry to learn from the bold and pioneering progress being made by our Estonian and Ukrainian partners. Rapid advancements in digitalisation have created systems that cut through bureaucracy like a warm knife through butter. As our Estonian counterparts highlighted; they might not ever find themselves as a global tax-haven but they can certainly see themselves as a global admin-haven. They are already far down the path on this journey and refreshingly willing to share the benefit of their wisdom.  Our Ukrainian partners are also equally comfortable at the vanguard of digital transformation. Their government is undoubtedly spurred by demands of the ongoing conflict, but clearly willing to reinforce themselves with masterful agility and resilience – it was, as ever, an enormous privilege to share the room with them.

Once again, huge thanks to the FCDO’s Ukraine Early Reconstruction and Redevelopment Department and our colleagues at PUBLIC for facilitating this excellent and most important engagement.

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