Press "Enter" to skip to content

Adoption of single synthetic environment predicted to save MoD £1.3bn, with total quantitative benefits reaching over £3bn

New Impact Assessment report from EY reveals the massive quantitative and vital qualitative benefits of adopting a platform-as-a-service single synthetic environment in the UK

  • Often referred to as ‘digital twins’ or ‘virtual worlds’, EY predicts adoption of a platform approach to building single synthetic environments within the UK’s Digital Backbone for defence, could provide £3bn in benefits, including £1.3bn in cost savings for the MoD
  • The new report follows the UK government’s Integrated Review which called for the construction of a ‘digital backbone’ for UK defence, of which a single synthetic environment should be a critical pillar, and investment to become a science and technology superpower by 2030

New analysis and research from EY commissioned by Improbable today reveals that over a 10 year period, adopting a platform approach to developing synthetic environments across UK defence, could deliver quantitative benefits in excess of £3bn. Synthetic environment (SE) technology is a critical enabler of multi-domain integration and vital for delivering the digital ambition set out recently in the UK’s 2021 Integrated Review and the MoD’s Digital Strategy for Defence.

Often referred to as ‘digital twins’ or ‘virtual worlds’, synthetic environments are digital versions of chosen environments, whether that’s physical (e.g. a city), non-physical (e.g. a social network) or a mix of both. The Digital Backbone’s Single Synthetic Environment aims to bring together the data streams, models and AI from across government, industry and academia to drive creation of multiple synthetic environment solutions to support critical functions across Defence.

Taking a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) approach to an SSE would enable MoD to establish a collaborative SE “solution factory” that harnesses the combined resources of established suppliers and those of SMEs and providers beyond the traditional defence base.

Furthermore, a PasS approach to an SSE changes how synthetic environment solutions are procured, developed and evolved, and moves away from the linear delivery of siloed projects and towards a far more agile, integrated and adaptable delivery that shares data and component capabilities across solutions.

A PaaS SSE will then ultimately allow all branches of the UK Armed Forces and their allies to train, plan and operate together through more coordinated synthetic environments.

For the first time, EY’s analysis has found that adoption of a platform approach to the UK’s digital backbone’s single synthetic environment could provide the following financial benefits to the UK:

  • £1.3bn in direct cost benefits to the MoD, including £810m from reduced content development costs, and £450m from reduced back end support costs
  • £1bn-£1.5bn in indirect cost benefits to the MoD, including the benefits of better decision making, reduction of spending on R&D, and the benefits to the environment
  • £300m-£750m in wider economic benefits for the UK, including UK export opportunities and innovation spill overs

This is in addition to the qualitative benefits of this approach, including:

  • Greater interoperability: A simplification for different branches of the Armed Forces looking to work together, and with their allies
  • Rapid access to context and insights: A reduction in barriers to content suppliers, providing greater supply chain diversity, competition and innovation, including from smaller innovative UK tech companies
  • A reduced impact on the environment: A SSE reduced the need to travel, use carbon heavy equipment in live testing and expend resources like ammunition

The UK government’s 2021 Integrated Review restated the need for a radical digital transformation and for the UK to secure its status as a science and technology superpower by 2030. The Defence Secretary described investment in synthetics and simulation “to exploit new domains and enhance productivity” as part of the Review’s “mission to seek out and to understand future threats, and to invest in the capabilities to defeat them”, a call reflected in the MoD’s Digital Strategy for Defence 2021 where the SSE is named as one of the three critical pillars building the UK’s Digital Backbone for Defence.

The MoD has been working on trial programmes with companies including Improbable, a UK technology company that works across the NATO alliance to combine computational modelling, AI, data analytics and other skills and knowledge relevant to defence and national security applications.

The Improbable synthetic environment platform and partner ecosystem offer a powerful, flexible and secure platform, for delivering simulations and synthetic environments tailored to the needs of the defence community.

The Executive Summary for EY’s Impact Assessment report is available from the Improbable website here


Joe Robinson, CEO of Improbable’s defence business comments: “Adopting and deploying a synthetic environment platform across UK national security is an important step in building the digital backbone for defence. We have long known the significant qualitative benefits that the single synthetic environment would provide, and are pleased to see this new analysis from EY that also shows the £3bn qualitative benefits to the MoD and wider UK economy from taking a platform-as-a-service approach. It’s never been more important to invest in UK science and technology, for our security, resilience, and economic prosperity.


Iain Burgess, Defence & Security Lead at EY comments: “As the UK redefines its place in the world, it is clear that technology must be at the forefront in helping create a more resilient, sustainable and prosperous country for our citizens. As a core pillar of the MoD’s Digital Strategy, a single synthetic environment is a critical step in defining the future role of technology in Defence and National Security, setting the standards for others to follow and delivering clear financial, operational and sustainable benefits once implemented.”

For business inquiries:

About Improbable

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in London, Improbable employs more than 800 staff, with the majority based in the United Kingdom.

Improbable’s defence business, based primarily in London and Washington DC, builds on the foundation of Improbable’s innovative technology for games and digital entertainment, combined with specific expertise in computational modelling, AI, data analytics and other skills and knowledge relevant to defence and national security applications.

Improbable’s synthetic environment platform is a powerful, flexible and secure simulation platform, tailored to the needs of the defence and national security community and able to support the most sophisticated military simulations and synthetic environments ever experienced.

Improbable works across the NATO alliance and with a range of industry partners to transform planning, training and decision support in the government, defence and security communities.

Find out more at


Please follow and like us: