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29 June 2022

Security Studies students tackle real-world security challenges for the Ministry of Defence

The MA module challenges students to solve real-world security and defence challenges in just 10 weeks

Hacking for MoD student presentations

Masters students from the Defence Studies and War Studies Departments were tasked by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and NATO with tackling some of UK’s most pressing security threats.

The courses, run by Dr Susan Martin and Professor Matthew Moran for War Studies and by a team at Defence Studies that has included  Dr Andy Corbett, Dr Ellen Hallams, Dr Bence Nemeth, Professor Matt Uttley and Dr Chris Tuck, encourage students to develop strategies at the speed of a start-up, with the aim of solving real world national security and defence problems. From finding ways to securely share information on international cyber threats to attracting more women recruits in the Royal Marines to identifying early warning indicators in areas of potential crises, the wide and varied problems challenge students to think innovatively about existing government and security issues, and develop concrete solution ideas that can be scaled up.

During the courses, teams of four to five students apply Lean Start-up methodology to understand, validate, and potentially solve a national security or defence problem, working alongside an MoD ‘problem sponsor’ who has knowledge of the problem area.

As part of the module, some students were invited to present their solution ideas to NATO and Allied armaments experts at the ‘Hacking for CNAD’ (Conference of National Armaments Directors) event organised by NATO. Students were tasked with coming up with fresh and innovative perspectives to some of NATO’s biggest technology challenges.

The MA Students who have undertaken the HDP and H4MoD courses have benefited not only from a deeper understanding of defence and security issues but have also significantly developed the practical skills, experience and confidence, to succeed in their future careers.

Dr Geoffrey Chapman, a Research Associate in the Department of War Studies and Lecturer on the Hacking Defence Problems course, said:

It is a privilege to teach the Hacking Defence Problems course; the innovative programme enables students to use their analytical skills to make rapid research progress, advance their professional development and acquire subject matter expertise. It’s remarkable how much the course helps students develop confidence in developing and presenting their ideas to tackle real security challenges.

Dr Geoffrey Chapman

MA student Emily Glynn begins a new role with BAE Systems in September 2022 as a Security Consultant and credits her experience on Hacking Defence Problems as the inspiration for this. She said:

Hacking Defence Problems served as an answer to almost all of the competency-based questions we are asked in interview. Whether that be teamwork, decision making, or leadership, the Hacking Defence Problems course offered a tangible example of each, and more generally served as an impressive talking point in all my interviews.

MA student Emily Glynn

Similarly, a group of former students from the Department of War Studies, who undertook the inaugural 'Hacking Defense Problems' module at King’s, developed their findings to build a start-up business. Their company, Ox Intel, works with senior stakeholders across the US and UK intelligence communities to design, develop, and deploy technology to improve and scale human-led decision-making.

Another former student and co-founder of the start-up Trovalo, Giorgia Tomasello said:

I can’t emphasise enough the difference H4MoD has made on my career choice. I wouldn’t have founded my startup if I hadn't taken H4MoD. I remember the day I had to choose whether to take the H4MoD module or not, and I thought that I need to put the effort in to get more out of life, so I’m so glad I chose this.

Giorgia Tomasello

Mission Driven Entrepreneurship: Hacking for MoD’ is powered by the Common Mission Project (CMP), a registered UK charity that works with the UK Government, academia and industry to deliver its innovative ‘Hacking for’ academic courses. CMP launched its first ‘Hacking for MoD’ Pilot in June 2019, and in partnership with the MoD is scaling this Mission Driven Entrepreneurship course to 24 universities by 2024.