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Royal Navy officer swaps 700X for tech sector in inaugural project

700X Naval Air Squadron
7 September 2020
A Royal Navy officer who works at the forefront of remotely-piloted air systems has been working hard to build a unique set of skills outside the military.

Lieutenant Eddie Devine has spent the summer attending lectures and working for the company behind the food-sharing app OLIO.

Normally he is the executive officer – effectively second-in-command – of 700X Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose.

However, he is one of 22 personnel across the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Civil Service who are spending three months ‘outside the wire’ as part of the inaugural Percy Hobart Fellowship.

Partnering with the GovTech venture firm Public, the fellowship is designed to increase exposure and understanding of the UK’s innovation and technology sector. Part of the fellowship involves lectures, mentor sessions and workshops with Public. The rest of the time is spent working on their own innovative project or embedded within a start-up company.

For Lieutenant Devine this means working with OLIO, a digital platform that is making a big difference reducing food waste globally. It has more than two million users across 53 countries and has shared nearly five million portions of surplus food – that’s saving the equivalent of more than 14 million car-miles.

The idea is to bring a new way of thinking into the Royal Navy that allows us to identify and take advantage of future innovative opportunities.
Lieutenant Eddie Devine

Lieutenant Eddie Devine

He said: “The purpose of the fellowship is to go out and learn how the high-tech start-up world operates. The idea is to bring a new way of thinking into the Royal Navy that allows us to identify and take advantage of future innovative opportunities.

“OLIO is a new company that is harnessing digital technology to reduce food waste and foster local communities. Although the HQ is in London, it is a remote-first organisation, meaning that it has had the flexibility to maintain business as usual.”

Lieutenant Devine has been working on projects to build partnerships with local authorities to tackle food waste and food poverty. For his personal project he is looking at using a digital platform to explore effective leadership.

He added: “I’ve come to strongly believe that we can learn a lot from how start-ups do their business. They are pragmatically and incrementally innovating at a pace that is unheard of in the public sector. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the fellowship and excited to bring these lessons back into the navy.”

The Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said previously of the fellowship that it was “an amazing opportunity to gain practical experience in technology innovation, product development, data analytics and visualisation."

Lieutenant Devine joined the Royal Navy in 2011 and is a qualified observer, a job which involves acting as aircraft commander and tactical mission commander onboard the Merlin Mk II helicopter.

In his role with 700X Naval Air Squadron, he is a leading figure in remotely-piloted development and utility, helping personnel across defence keep their fighting edge in a rapidly evolving, digitally-focused battlespace.

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