Back to the futures The latest innovation scoreboards, such as the one released in June by the European Commission, show us where pockets of innovation brilliance can be found in the international economy. According to this scoreboard, the UK is deemed mostly ‘strong’ at innovation (and is a nice bright green colour on the map), Spain is ‘modest’ or ‘moderate’ (yellow) and Germany is, in part, hailed as an innovation ‘leader’ (blue).
These scoreboards often use indicators like broadband penetration, patent application levels and investment as a means of calculating ‘innovation’. A valid formula, certainly, but in the Futures team at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, and in my role as Head of Futures, we like to think about innovation differently.

So what is Futures all about?

You might well be thinking “what does ‘Futures’ mean at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence?” and “how can anyone be ‘head’ of it?” And I wouldn’t blame you.
Well, myself and the team have the exciting task of innovating to help organisations fight the threats of the future. And we are working with our own formula and score boarding system to do so.
Our activities are allowing BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to, in the words of Aite Group who recently took a close look at our work, “think about future possibilities while remaining focused on the present.”
We are by no means a normal incubator group. We’ve taken inspiration from Eric Reis’s The Lean Start-Up, and the techniques used by venture capital businesses and accelerators such as CyLon, to develop our own unique problem-centric approach.
Our work is about more than just blue-sky thinking (or green or orange thinking for that matter), playing with new tech, or launching more of the same. We think innovation needs to be less about patents and investment, and more about hunting for the persistent problems that are – or will soon be – bringing harm to organisations.
By asking unflinching questions, we hone in on the next generation of digital risks – and we have built game-changing innovations such as SOC.OS and EdwinSecure as a result.

Applied intelligence, actionable innovation

If you were following the progress of the G20 summit at Osaka last month, you will know that fighting money laundering is high on the agenda for world leaders. Well, at Futures, this kind of challenge is just the thing we are here to help address, and we have a particular strand of this problem on our agenda too. 
Our latest eight-week research programme has unearthed 300 problems around how society currently tackles a near-invisible form of money laundering – trade-based money laundering (TBML) – one of the biggest financial crime challenges in the world.
The issues we identified have been transformed into 25 new concept opportunities during an ideation week, and a shortlist of four of these has been prioritised.
Informed by our experiences in the anti-money laundering and compliance world, these concepts are now being evaluated and tested with potential customers. Only the most compelling will be brought to market.

Our mission – challenging challenges

TBML is just one example of the issues we are exploring on our mission to make the future a safer place for us all to live and work. Why not join our innovation community? We don’t have a colour coded map, but we do have a formula for innovation, and we will be able to make sure you’re among the first to experience our pioneering developments.
Find out more about the ventures we’re currently working on and join the community today – drop us an email on and we’ll get right back in touch with you.
Sang, L, June 2019, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s Search for Innovation: Looking to the Futures, Aite Group, accessed 9 June, 2019.

Matt Boyd

Head of Futures, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence