IDEaS Innovation for Defence and Security

May 22, 2018

The IDEaS program from the Department of National Defence (DND) has been rolled out and confirmed with $1.6 billion in funding over the next 20 years, with $313 million over the first 5 years. The initiative addresses the new and dynamic shift facing the future of defence and security in Canada, and seeks to utilize new contacts and personnel outside of the typical defence world. 

IDEaS pushes challenges not currently met, or unsolved within the industry, and seeks “outside the box” solutions. 

In an exclusive interview, Eric Fournier, the Director General for the IDEaS program at DND headquarters in Ottawa told FrontLine that “IDEaS was designed to cover each step of TRL to fruition […] starting with the challenge presented from the DND.” 

The program can fund projects – at all nine Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) – that strive to provide solutions to the challenges issued by DND. For the lower end levels, it’s designed to engage ideas or solutions with merit, and drive them forward to possible fruition. In the middle tiers, it offers support and collaborative efforts, networks, and the ability to present a prototype to the DND. In the higher Technology Readiness Levels, IDEaS offers a rapid prototype trial run within the military, to gather more conclusive data and potentially begin the stages of procurement.

The concept was originally announced in June 2017 with the release of “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, Canada’s defence policy. IDEaS was launched in April 2018, and its inaugural public call for proposals includes 16 defence and security challenges covering many domains – and many more are still to come, in both the defence and security sectors. 

No contracts have been awarded yet, meaning every dollar available to the program is still up for grabs. Through IDEaS, DND will reach out to Canada’s most innovative and creative minds, whether they are inventors, academics in university labs, or scientists in small and major corporations, even individuals working out of the proverbial garage. These innovative thinkers will provide the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Canada’s safety and security communities with unique solutions to today’s challenges. 

The intent of IDEaS is to stimulate innovation through a range of activities including competitions, networks, and sandboxes to field-test concepts.

The Sandbox theory combines two high TLR tools (levels 6 and up): Demonstrative Solutions and Prototype Success. The first involving a successful test and paid demonstration of the unique technologies meeting the specific challenges announced on the DND buy and sell, and the latter introducing the finalized prototype to deploy into the military under a trial run. These are massive leaps for the companies, academia, scientists, and individuals reaching this milestone, as the doorways to Defence and Security are opened and critical challenges are being solved through outside the box solutions. The entire program revolves on getting new, bright minds and technologies to this level, and should be the end game for companies competing for the opportunity to receive funding, networking, and innovation assessment and implementation. 

As Minister Sajjan put it, “The IDEaS Program […] will help put those solutions into the hands of the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces. This investment will support the growth and expansion of Canada’s innovation community.” 

This is a Canada-wide call to arms, and an open invitation to come forward and get noticed. FrontLine’s unique stand on Innovation and Technological Advancement in Security and Defence will allow companies, academia, industry, and individuals increased exposure as their unique visions seek to solve challenges in the world of Defence and Security. 

Under the new FrontLine (FLIP) campaign, announced in the Editor’s Corner, we intend to recognize these individuals and promote their ideas. 

Adrian Obst is FrontLine’s BD correspondent