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DEF UK is DEF’s first international chapter. It was launched in 2015 with the following mission: identify and engage a network of disruptive thinkers in order to develop bottom-up ideas that will improve delivery of defence. Although DEF UK is independent of the British military, it is hoped that the creation of a marketplace of ideas will improve how the military operates. The primary vehicle for DEF UK is informal meetings in which iconoclastic service personnel come together to debate, learn, network and have fun. These can either be small DEF agoras, which are generally evening meetings, or longer format DEFx conferences.


The DEF model is to encourage and support defense entrepreneurs on their innovation journey. The onus is on you. Get outside your day job and become an entrepreneur. Find a few fellow disruptive thinkers and start a DEF chapter. We’ve published a guide on how to get started here.


As agoras highlight topics for discussion, we will post them here.


Iconic projects

Sep 2017 (Oxford). The Oxford chapter hosted three speakers, Nick Colosimo and Mick Mansell of BAE, and Dr Simon Harwood of the UK’s Defence Academy, to discuss the need for iconic projects in defence, with the Harrier as a case study. Read the blog entry here.


Air Power Conference

Jul 2017 (London). DEF UK presented at the Royal Air Force's Air Power Conference on the subject of social entrepreneurs, DEF, and Hacking 4 Defense. Rough transcript here.


Ryan Evans

Jun 2017 (Sandhurst). The British Army Intrapreneurs Network (BrAIN) and DEF UK hosted Ryan Evans, founder and editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks (WOTR). Ryan described the genesis of WOTR, and what it takes to get published on the site. He also challenged British service personnel on the lack of public defence writing in the UK. Attendees discussed whether the UK should emulate the US's more permissive blogging environment, and what would need to change to enable more writing. Read the blog entry here


Cyan Collier

May 2017 (Oxford). The Oxford chapter organised an agora focused on hardware hacking (rapid prototyping). The event was held at medical innovation company Incuna. Cyan Collier took attendees through an overview of hardware hacking and some of his experiences therein. The agora then undertook some hardware hacking of its own, building several simple devices using cheap electronics and some code. Read the blog entry here.


Oxford agora

Mar 2017 (Oxford). The Oxford chapter of DEF UK hosted an agora called "Thinking the Unthinkable", covering war with Russia. The agora started with briefings on three potential flashpoints, and was followed by map-table discussions of critical factors and implications of two of them. Speakers included:

  • Roy Allison, Professor of Russian and Eurasian International Relations & Director, Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre, St. Antony's College, Oxford (covering the Black Sea flashpoint)
  • Capt Justin Orlich (USN), currently at St. Antony's researching Russian intervention operations - (covering the Baltics flashpoint)
  • Charly Salonious-Pasternak, Senior Research Fellows at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki, currently on leave at Pembroke College and attached to the Changing Character of War Programme at DPIR (covering the Scandinavian flashpoint)

The event was organised by Ens Dan Antoun (USN).


Nov 2016 (Oxford). The Oxford chapter of DEF UK hosted an agora on the topic of cultural and linguistic fluency within the military. The agora discussed a proposal by Lt James Haw of the Australian Army (link here) with the British perspective provided by RAF intelligence personnel. Read the blog entries here and here.


Feb 2016 (London) Image

Feb 2016 (London). The UK’s fourth Agora hosted US Army officer JP Clark, currently an exchange officer in the initiatives group of the British Army’s Chief of the General Staff. JP shared key insights from his upcoming book Preparing for War: Four Generations of the U.S. Army amid Peace, War, and Change, 1815-1917.


Nov 2015 (London) Image

Nov 2015 (London). The UK’s third Agora hosted Paul Kett, director of army reform at the MOD, who described his experiences with implementing change and overcoming bureaucratic and cultural resistance.


Oct 2015 (London) Image

Oct 2015 (London). The UK’s second Agora saw the exceptional Tantum Collins share his thoughts on Team of Teams, the book he co-wrote with retired general Stanley McChrystal. Team of Teams recounts how McChrystal reshaped JSOC into a more adaptable and agile organisation to combat Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQ-I). Read the blog entry here.


Jun 2015 (Oxford) Image

Jun 2015 (Oxford). The first DEF event in the UK took place in Pembroke College, Oxford this month. The format was a DEF Agora, the small evening discussion. Retired brigadier Richard Iron shared the lessons of Iraq while James de Waal of Chatham House added the implications for civil-military relations in the UK. The discussion was joined by members of the army, navy and air force of both the US and UK, and was accompanied by wine, beer and — of course — pizza. Read the blog entry here.