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UK’s Ministry of Defence signs £75m deal with Palantir

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) has signed a £75 million deal with Palantir to help it “exploit data at scale and speed to make faster, better decisions” in a three-year partnership led by Defence Digital.

(Led by CIO Charles Forte, Defence Digital is "responsible for making sure that effective digital and information technology is put into the hands of the military and business front line" and leads work to improve innovation and digital information exploitation across defence, as well as owning cybersecurity for MOD.)

The enterprise agreement will enable “any part of UK Defence to gain access to Palantir software across multiple classifications, wherever and however it can help” the software provider said on December 21.

Palantir’s public sector expansion in the UK has made it a lightening rod for critics who have taken a vehement dislike to the company’s ownership and work with defence and intelligence contractors.

Customers, however, say its software has proven invaluable in helping deliver more intelligently data-led approaches to their work, including in the US defence space. (Space Systems Command CIO Jennifer Kramer-Kolikowski is among those who has spoken highly to The Stack of Palantir’s software.)

See also: US Space Systems Command CIO “Colonel K” on shipping good code, transforming culture

Its software includes platforms that focuse on helping customers unlock existing data from our core operational systems and integrate it into enterprise data platforms, as well as continuously capturing new data on operational decisions and feeding them back into these systems, along with low code development platforms. (Chief Architect Akshay Krishnaswamy has written lucidly about how its approach to data and analytics here.)

Director Chief Data at Defence Digital Caroline Bellamy said in a December 2021 press release: "Palantir products and services are helping Defence to become a truly integrated digital enterprise, with data exploitation at the heart of a faster, better, and more integrated Defence.. where real-time, interconnected data better informs decision making, our people are digitally connected and empowered, and step changes in digital capability have been made for our war fighters and across our business operations."

Palantir describes itself as building “leading digital platforms for data-driven operations and decision-making. By helping develop a data-backed representation of Defence assets, personnel and workstreams, Palantir software brings all the data that matters into a single view through a modeling concept known as an 'ontology.'"

It adds that "as disparate data sources are integrated into Palantir software, it digests the information, cleaning and harmonising the data and mapping it to an ontology. The ontology allows users to see data not as rows and columns but as objects, properties, and the relationships between them.”

Palantir's UK office is one of the largest globally and is home to the company's R&D hub.

The company’s software sales to government customers surpassed $1 billion for the first time in its most recent quarter. Other recent agreements include one with Lockheed Martin to help the US Navy modernise the combat systems of its surface fleet, using improved software development tools.

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