A TEAM of apprentices from the University of Chichester have been commended by the Ministry of Defence for their innovative computer concept which uses artificial intelligence to support the British Armed Forces.

Students James Seden Smith, Patrick Morrissey, and Jake Howard, on the Digital and Technology Solutions degree programme, were presented with an award by the government department at its recent hackathon event.

The two-day conference in London explored how elements of artificial intelligence, which included robotic automation, neural networks, and machine learning, could make the Armed Forces more efficient.

Apprentice James, 19, works at Red River Software in Horsham for four days a week with the fifth studying at the University.

He said: “It is encouraging to see the government identify an area they know they are lacking in skills and open the floor to industry and academia.

“We went into the hackathon wanting to learn about AI and, through keynote presentations and our individual research, I have a much better grasp of machine learning.

“I will be able to use this knowledge at university, my personal projects, and at work.”

The university apprentices are part of the BSc (Hons) in Digital and Technology Solutions Professional which has been developed with the Tech Partnership, the UK’s sector skills council for the IT industry, alongside national employers.

It was launched to provide students with in-business training and work experience alongside academic learning at Chichester.

The hackathon challenge fused defence, industry, and academia in time-pressured environments which tested the groups’ AI theories and problem-solving capabilities against common defence problems.

The University of Chichester team was tasked by the Navy to provide a concept which could help track vessels and identify suspicious patterns of behaviour.

One of the biggest obstacles, according to apprentice Patrick Morrissey, was to decode common industry terminology so the product could be understood by the Navy.

The 20-year-old, who works at SSE in Havant, added: “Half of the battle was translating the needs of the people for whom we were creating a product and then translating that back to how it worked.

“I realised having a stable understanding of both could really help us go far.

“Achieving an award and the recognition we received was incredibly exciting.”

The university team were highly commended by judges for their ideas that, they stated, could have an actionable and positive impact on defence across the Ministry of Defence.

Degree apprentice Jake Howard, of Brighton-based web and mobile application designers DabApps, said was particularly proud to say that he had won a national MOD-sponsored award.

The 20-year-old added: “After our presentation, members of the MOD, and some working for IBM and Amazon, approached us and said how impressed they were with our idea.

“The judges were also impressed that we were the only university students to compete in the challenge with the rest being from an industry background.”

The event, which was by invitation only, accepted the university as a competitor after Chichester academic Dr Kamaran Fathulla submitted a proposal which was initially screened before a summons was sent.