U.K. Military Lab Chief Urges Scientists to Help on Future Risks

The head of the U.K.’s secret military laboratory Porton Down urged scientists, academics and tech startups to work with the government to accelerate the nation’s resilience to threats including future pandemics.

The U.K. will spend 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) over four years with civilian scientists to speed up its capability in cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, space and robotics, Doug Umbers, interim chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory which runs Porton Down and other military sites, wrote in an open letter published Monday.

“The world is changing, and we are changing with it,” Umbers wrote, adding that the government cannot provide all the answers to growing national security threats. “Today, I am particularly calling on those who have not worked with us before to check us out and see how we can work together.”

The U.K. has said longer-term threats to its national security include actions by hostile nations states including Russia and China, as well as climate change and the risk of further pandemics. The U.K.’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 already works with the private sector to bolster its technological capability.

The letter is Umbers’s first significant public statement since taking up the role in April.

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