Defence Innovators' Q&A: Rowden Technologies

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Hannah Croft

Ahead of their address on AI at our annual Disruptive Technology for Defence Transformation online conference this September, Defence iQ's editor sat down with Robert Harper MBE, CEO of Rowden Technologies, for a quick fire Q&A on deep reinforcement learning, inspiring books and WALL-E.

What is deep reinforcement learning, and what can it do for Defence?

It’s when machines learn, similar to the way we learn from experience. We believe it can help humans improve and one day, save lives.

What are your thoughts on ethics in AI?

The Pentagon guidelines are world leading. We insist on a human ‘in the loop’ and won’t work on weapon systems.

Single biggest issue in the Defence sector?

Proportionally small investments in high impact research and wasteful spending on old tech.

What are your long-term aspirations?  

Be recognised for the value we deliver and start to shape cultural behaviours in the sector.

Most rewarding programme you’ve worked on?

In a previous life and stretching the scope, the 2012 Olympics.

You’re given infinite funds. What do you invest in?

Amazon, pre-lockdown!

A book that inspired you?

Zero to One by Peter Theil. The Phoenix Project also deserves a mention.

Best film that involves AI?


How do you celebrate when you win a contract?

We don’t to be honest. Cliché, but we socialise together and enjoy the growth of the company.

Favourite music to listen to when you work?

I’ve been caught out listening to Aqua on a Teams call but I’ll say The Strokes.

Best piece of advice you could give the Defence enterprise?

Stop fighting change. Its coming.


Rowden Technologies are challenging the prevailing orthodoxies of the military-industrial complex and developing world-leading AI and Machine Learning capabilities. Register to attend at Defence iQ's Disruptive Technology for Defence Transformation conference to get their insights on the future of the enterprise. Rob's on LinkedIn too.