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Meet the Judges


Our expert panel of judges to evaluated the DisTec Challenge entries from the competitive 'digital' environment, based around this innovation assessment criteria. Judges graded each domain out of 10, yielding a total score of up to 30 points.

The criteria was developed using the judges' expertise, including DASA's Mike Madden (meet Mike in the video opposite). 

You can learn more about the DisTec Challenge here.

Scroll down to meet our other judges.

Click play to meet DASA's Mike Madden

Judging criteria

The People's Choice Award

Watch the Grand Final

Full Judging Panel

James White

James White

Executive Director, Defence Innovation Greenhouse (Head Judge)

A seasoned IT Leader and innovator with significant international experience, a rich entrepreneurial background and a proven track record of success in both the public and private sectors. Experienced in corporate strategy development, innovation management, system architecture, system engineering, IT operations, IT staffing, organizational change management, and marketing.

Currently serving as the founder and first Executive Director of The Defense Innovation Greenhouse (The DIG), an innovation, collaboration and best practices center aimed at accelerating the uptake of the latest technologies into EU / NATO military establishments and crisis responder communities. Building on my experience in both large inter-governmental organizations and also in small companies, I have a unique perspective of the challenges faced in the public sector to keep pace with the extremely rapid changes happening in IT and also in society as a whole.

Mike Madden

Mike Madden

DASA Innovation Partner, UK MoD 

Mike is an Innovation Partner with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) in the United Kingdom, and works with innovators to find new ideas that could benefit the defence and security communities.

Mike’s early career was as a Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment officer, providing Force Protection for Royal Air Force assets wherever they are deployed.

He initially specialised in ground based air defence (GBAD), gaining international experience as well as specialist technical and training qualifications. On operational squadrons, he was the specialist lead for all individual and collective continuation training. Later, as the deputy commander of the RAF’s GBAD Wing, he was responsible for overseeing individual and collective training standardisation and assessment for the entire force.

Mike also specialised in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence. In one senior staff appointment, he led the collective training effort for multinational CBRN forces assigned to NATO’s Response Force.  His last role before leaving was as the British Army Land Warfare Centre lead for collective training in Air-Land Integration.

Joining the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in 2009, Mike led the CBRN specialist training team at Dstl for a number of years, and fulfilled a variety of other roles in Dstl before joining DASA.

Mike is married to Angela, and has 2 university-age children, Thomas and Sophie.  He is an amateur luthier and lutenist, paraglider pilot and enthusiastic angler.


Heather Goldstraw

Heather Goldstraw

Head Technology and Business Faculty,  Defence Academy

A graduate of the MOD Science & Engineering Fast Stream, Heather is passionate about eliminating barriers to the exploitation of great ideas and technologies. 

She possesses a combination of skills and experience gained and applied across the Defence Technology and Military Capability enterprises, that spans science & engineering, business strategy, acquisition and change leadership. 

A ‘hands on’ systems thinker, Heather’s career has focused on building stronger ‘interfaces’ across the Defence Enterprise, ‘joining up’ and shaping people, organisations and products to work across traditional boundaries to meet future challenges.  She works with inventors, users, manufacturers, regulators, delivery teams and investors to build the shared understanding of their respective challenges and thus the end-to-end system approach necessary to cross the technology ‘Valley of Death’ and deliver necessary capability rapidly to the front line operator. 

After spending over 5 years at the forefront of the Defence Innovation Initiative, leading the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) Technology Office (now Future Capablity Group), Heather is currently responsible for the Technology, Military Capability, Information Environment and Business education portfolios within the prestigious Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.   He she is working to consolidate this ‘enterprise thinking’ in future generations of defence leaders.  

Mark Madden

Mark Madden

Branch Head (Modeling and Simulation Training Technologies), NATO

Mark has considerable expertise and competence in all aspects of strategic and operational military operations. A leader with over 26-years of military experience in strategic planning, organisational budgeting, technical staffing, technology development and business process improvement, Mark is accustomed to high stakes environments and dedicated to strategic thinking aimed at solving organisations’ complex problems with extensive background in managing complex portfolios that included Military Decision Packages (MDEPs) for the Program Objective Memorandum (POM) for simulations within the US Department of Defense.

In his current role, Mark provides modelling, simulation and training technology support to the NATO Command Structure (NCS) in the areas of operational planning, capability development, strategic and operational exercising and war games. This makes him ideally suited to judge the DisTec Challenge entries!

Jeanine Vlasblom

Jeanine Vlasblom

R&D Engineer, Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR)

Jeanine started her career with an IT²EC-award winning thesis on increasing the effectiveness of pilot training by visualizing trainees’ scan patterns through AR. Since then, she has been working at NLR’s Training, Simulation & Operator Performance Department. Her work is focused on developing various support tools for (military) pilots and other professionals who work in complex environments. Her main role in these projects is bridging the gap between the user and the software developer. Some projects require scientific research; something she is also committed too. The past few years, Jeanine’s work has been mainly focused on training tools with Learning Analytics. In her spare time she tutors kids with a language deficiency.

Trevor Nash

Trevor Nash

Editor, Military Training, Shephard Media

I served in the Royal Artillery from 1973 to 1986 specialising in tactical battlefield nuclear weapons and air defence. I attended the Gunnery Staff Course (Guided Weapons) and undertook a number of staff and instructional tours. On leaving the British Army I became a Programme/Marketing Manager – later Marketing Director - at a company specialising in display and image generators for flight simulators. A great fun job that gave me the opportunity to learn to fly.

Leaving in 1990 to work for a German publishing company as their UK/Scandinavian Editor and Editor of their simulation and training magazine, I became a freelance writer working for a number of publishing companies, including Jane’s, where I worked for nine years editing Jane’s Simulation & Training Systems yearbook.

During this period, I created The Write Partnership Ltd that specialised in publishing training newsletters and magazines, contract publishing.

I have a BA (Hons) in Modern History and an MA in Air Power Studies from the University of Birmingham. That was so much fun that I’m now just half way through a part-time PhD.

About the Challenge

All shortlisted entries are displayed on the DisTec Challenge website, creating a showcase of emerging solutions. 

The judging panel selected three finalists to proceed to the Grand Final - broadcast live on the IT²EC website on Wednesday 27 January 2021, accompanied by a keynote address from Brigadier General Dieter Kohl.

During the Grand Final, after hearing a final pitch from each finalist, our judges then select an overall winner, whilst also announcing the recipient of the Peoples' Choice Award determined by an online public vote.

Both winning organisations will received a complimentary exhibition stand at the next edition of DisTec, or equivalent discount on conference/networking tickets, worth up to £4,000.

Entries included developments across training, education or simulation, including:
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Augmented Reality 
  • Autonomous Systems
  • Cognitive Enhancement
  • Machine Learning 
  • Robotics
  • Virtual Reality
  • Wearable Technology
  • 5G