Centre for Defence and Security Artificial Intelligence Launches with Appointment of Founding Director

15 April 2024

A new research centre focused on innovations in the use of artificial intelligence and technology in security and defence has been established at the University of Lincoln, UK, with the appointment of its Founding Director.

The Centre for Defence and Security Artificial Intelligence (CDSAI) will be led by Professor Fiona Strens, who joins the University of Lincoln in May 2024 from the University of Strathclyde, where she is currently Professor of Practice in Security and Resilience.

With more than 30 years’ experience in government, industry and academia, she is one of the UK’s thought leaders in the application of novel technology, including AI, automation, machine learning and computer vision for enhancing security and building resilience.

Professor Strens began her career in the Ministry of Defence after graduating with a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge, undertaking several technical and policy roles before becoming a Senior Civil Servant with responsibility for science and technology policy.

After moving into  consultancy for clients in the national security sector, she co-founded and served as CEO of CrowdVision, an innovative computer vision  and analytics company, growing the company from start-up to an international business providing real-time people movement data for the safe, secure and efficient operation of major events, airports and venues.

She is an advocate of science and technology skills and careers, serves as an adviser to UK Government. and is a non-executive director for Ordnance Survey, the UK’s geospatial authority, and Corps Security, a profit-for-purpose social enterprise supporting veterans’ charities.

Professor Fiona Strens said:  “The University of Lincoln has a well-earned reputation for its approach to industry-aligned research, for supporting innovative organisations and partnering nationally and locally to deliver impact and drive growth in the Greater Lincolnshire region. The University has expertise in a range of disciplines essential for advancing defence, security and resilience capabilities. I am particularly excited by the potential to build on the University’s strong AI foundations, anchored by the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology (LIAT) and enhanced by a recent CDT award.  “These qualities attracted me to the University and this exciting new position as Founding Director of the Centre for Defence and Security Artificial Intelligence. I look forward to meeting colleagues and partners as we establish this significant new centre for academic, industry and government collaboration.”

Major General (Retd) Julian Free CBE, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Lincoln, said: “The appointment of Professor Fiona Strens as Founding Director of the new Centre for Defence and Security Artificial Intelligence is testament not just to the existing specialisms and partnerships in Lincoln and Greater Lincolnshire but the potential to grow the technical capabilities which keep people and infrastructure safe and underpin tens of thousands of jobs in the future.

“The CDSAI will address challenges in all areas of national security, including building security and resilience in multiple sectors, such as food and energy, and supporting effective strategic, operational and crisis decision-making in the defence sector and beyond.  Professor Strens brings a remarkable range of expertise and experiences across the public and private sectors, which can help the CDSAI play a significant role in solving complex challenges facing governments and businesses in the 21st Century.”

Based on strong collaborative relationships with external agencies and stakeholders, including government and private sector organisations, the CDSAI will coordinate defence and security research and knowledge exchange activity across the University of Lincoln.

This will include developing technologies essential to national security and resilience within operational and regulatory frameworks designed to ensure safe, reliable and ethical operation.

Defence and Security is one of four key sectors identified as ‘game-changers’ by the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) in which the region is well-positioned to grow nationally significant capacity and capability through innovation and investment. It is also critical to other regional and national priorities, such as UK food security and green energy infrastructure. The University of Lincoln is one of the founders of the Greater Lincolnshire Regional Defence and Security Cluster, an industry-led forum.