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Activity title

Mission-Oriented Research for AI and Big Data for Military Decision Making

Activity Reference

IST-173 (AI2S)


Information Systems Technology

Security Classification




Activity type


Start date


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Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Decision Making, BigData, Decision Making, Innovation Approach, MissionOriented Research


The NATO IST160 AI and Big Data for Military Decision Making (MDM) specialist meeting in Bordeaux was a testimony to the enormous interest we, researchers and innovators, currently have to make Artificial Intelligence work for the military. And the mere fact that this meeting was organized, as issued by STB, underpins the urgency felt at higher political levels of NATO that this is something we (panels, in close collaboration with CSO) want to do. At the same time this is thus an opportunity to establish novel ways of organizing NATO Research and Innovation activities.


The goal of the activity is to provide (part of) a way forward with respect to this innovation-challenge, by organizing Mission-Oriented Research . Mission-Oriented Research, as being adopted by the EU and already well-known from DARPA, focuses research around several bold, clear, ambitious and cross-disciplinary missions that contribute to a Grand Challenge (e.g., Clean Oceans, see example) while allowing multiple, bottom-up solutions (thereby capitalizing on the unique fragmented nature of e.g. NATO). Another more quotes from Mazzucato [1]: “The [EU] Social Development Goals […] are useful to ensure focus, but for the most part remain too broad to be actionable. On the other end of the spectrum, research and innovation projects have clear objectives and are actionable, but will remain isolated in their impacts if not clearly linked to their ability to address global challenges and to achieve societal impact.” In terms of NATO a Grand Challenge could be ‘AI Supremacy’ , indeed lacking direct action ability. The research activities in different panels are the other end of the spectrum Mazzucato describes: achieving great local results, but they often do not explore the full potential for NATO. That’s where missions come in, to set the direction for a solution without specifying how to achieve them (in that sense, a mission is also a form of road-mapping). Mazzucato: “This will require dedicated framing. For example, a mission on quantum computing could have strong societal impact if it is framed in terms of the potential to enhance cyber-security, improve industrial processes, or support the development of new types of health care services”.


Making ‘AI and Big Data for Military Decision Making’ work for NATO and national members, requires involvement of many fields of scientific expertise. For instance from a technical OODA-loop perspective expertise is required that covers sensing, understanding, and plan generation and selection. All these things together ought to be integrated in an operational system with human decision makers that need to trust and accept such a system. Panels that can contribute are therefore: • Sensors and Electronics Technology (SET), e.g., … (sensing technologies, …), • Applied Vehicle Technology (AVT), e.g., … (ai in autonomous systems, …), • Information Systems Technology (IST), e.g., … (communications frameworks, …), • Human Factors and Medicine Panel (HFM), e.g., … (human-system interfaces, … ), • Systems Concepts and Integration (SCI), e.g., … (system integration, …), • NATO Modelling and Simulation Group (NMSG), e.g., … (environment modelling, …), • System Analysis & Studies (SAS), e.g., … (operational concepts, …)

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