The University of Southampton

Management theory and AI combine to advise on security risks for UK foreign aid programmes

Published: 31 August 2021
Spearfish provides security risk management for UK foreign aid programmes including Nigeria, Afghanistan and India.

Artificial Intelligence and management experts from the University of Southampton have partnered with Spearfish Security to enhance digital tools supporting several large UK foreign aid programmes across the world.

The partners have been awarded a Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (mKTP) worth over £118,000 by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK.

The funding will support the employment of a KTP associate who will be embedded within Spearfish for the next two years. The associate will be co-supervised by Electronics and Computer Science's (ECS) Dr Enrico Gerding and Dr Ajit Nayak, an Associate Professor in Southampton Business School.

Spearfish is based in Winchester and provides security risk management for several large UK foreign aid programmes across the world in countries including Nigeria, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Kenya. They utilise a network of in-country advisors to provide relevant information to clients to help them manage risk. In response to changing customer needs, they are adapting to a more digital approach which the KTP will help implement.

The project will create a more sophisticated set of consulting tools for advisory teams, using management theory to create efficiencies and increase productivity. It is anticipated that the project will create better digital tools and introduce these tools to an upskilled, motivated, and aligned workforce.

Dr Gerding, Director of the University's Centre for Machine Intelligence (CMI), says: "I'm very pleased to be part of this collaborative project between ECS, the Southampton Business School and Spearfish. The project has the potential for wide-reaching impact of our AI and data science research, and supports vital work in foreign aid programmes across the world."

Rosie Turner, Spearfish Head of Operations and Marketing, says: "Spearfish Security are thrilled to be have been awarded a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Grant from Innovate UK. We will be working closely with Southampton's Business School and School of Electronics and Computer Science to achieve a digital transformation of our business. We believe this project is innovative for the wider security risk management industry by utilising state of the art research and knowledge to enhance our people led-approach."

Stephen Woodhouse, Knowledge Transfer Advisor, says: "The knowledge and skills embedded by this new mKTP will enable Spearfish to scale-up and grow their business at pace, whilst simultaneously achieving greater efficiencies through access to world-class research expertise in management practices.

"The collaboration with the University will provide a firm foundation for a series of future innovations, supporting a range of exciting future innovations by the business. I'm delighted KTN were able to help convene this partnership and to support the development of their successful grant application."

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