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10 March 2021

War Studies alumni found successful start-up inspired by their MA module Hacking 4 Ministry of Defence

A group of War Studies students who took the hands-on module turned their findings into a new business

H4D pic

A team of former War Studies MA students have built a new start-up business inspired by an initiative they developed as part of a special module they took during their degree.

Based in the US, the alumni have received funding to further develop their new company - Ox Intel. It 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.

The students were part of the first ever cohort to take part in the inaugural 10-week Hacking for MoD (H4MoD) programme in 2020. H4MoD is an accredited MA module open to all MA students in the Department of War Studies, which pairs teams of postgraduate students with sponsors from the UK Ministry of Defence to tackle critical national security challenges.

At the beginning of the programme the team were given an identified problem by their sponsor, RAF Leeming:

In an era where intelligence officers face the daunting task of analysing terabytes of data to inform national security decision-making, there is a need to systematically account for subjectivity in intelligence analysis.

Following initial investigations using a process known as beneficiary discovery, the team explored ways to automate parts of the process and negate the capacity constraints of human analysts. During this process, they discovered several barriers to automation, mainly the requirement for human judgment, which is a science that cannot be taught to machines.

As a result, the team increased their outreach to identify the key issues with the existing grading system and decided to change direction. Their primary focus became designing a solution that provides a more uniform framework for intelligence analysis based on established indicators of reliability and they began developing their new start-up idea in consultation with data scientists, informatics specialists, applied mathematicians, and instructors of intelligence analysis.

The team successfully overcame challenges and concluded the H4MoD programme with a final presentation to an audience of beneficiaries across the MoD. The sustained interest in the concept prompted continuing work with RAF Leeming and other members of the UK and US intelligence communities and has resulted in the transition from academia into forming their business, Ox Intel.

This module was the hallmark of my MA. Most of the lessons and skills that I gained through my MA – and that will remain within me over the long term – stemmed from this module. To my eyes, this module is what justified my master’s degree. I could feel this was a different kind of module where simply sitting in the classroom and listening to a professor wasn’t enough. “ Similar to the professional world, we had to be fully invested if we were to succeed. We had to be recursive, organised, and autonomous. To me, this module was the exact kind of course I was looking for to transition from the academic world to the professional world.

Alicia Rémont Ospina, Co-founder Ox Intel

H4MoD definitely fulfilled my desire for more practical engagement with the subject of my degree: intelligence and international security. I came to King’s with a background in intelligence production from the private sector, so was excited to simultaneously apply what I was learning in the course of my Master’s to intelligence-related problems relevant to the public sector.

Lila Ghosh, Co-founder & CEO Ox Intel

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Hacking 4 Ministry of Defence

Hacking 4 Ministry of Defence