James White, Director, Defense Innovation Greenhouse
James White’s colourful personality brings a lot of joy to The Humanity Hub. While he’s currently serving as the executive director of Defense Innovation Greenhouse (DIG), he’s done plenty of things in IT sector, yet always centred on the core themes of defence consulting around innovation. His current life project is to build a multinational defence innovation ecosystem, an ambition that has developed through unique life experiences. Over the years, he has personally served in the military and been deployed to conflict zones. Specifically, he’s worked in NATO for over 12 years, mainly delivering high tech capabilities to support the safety of troops in Afghanistan.
On the ground, he remembers how troops would leave the base with a radio, a gun, and a semi-protected vehicle, going out into a life-threatening environment. This was all despite the very advanced technology already existing that wasn’t being put to use. This is precisely the problem James would like to solve. He believes that individual nations are working in isolation from big multinational organizations, like NATO and the EU, and do not address the problem well enough. On the horizon, he hopes that a new coalition of nations can come together outside of NATO and act faster to work towards better defence capabilities.
WHAT ELSE IS JAMES UP TO?
When COVID-19 hit, the question James asked himself was “what is my role going to be in this new world, because there is going to be a New World Order”.
James adapted his work by creating software that would allow companies to bring workers safely into the office. Most companies haven’t developed the required interface to ensure they can keep track of where people are sitting, from the required distance, while keeping track of who could have COVID symptoms – his new software is the start of addressing these issues. Oddly enough, James hopes this business doesn’t succeed because it didn’t end up needing to be used. Although for now, you’ll often see him walking around the Hub with an augmented reality software scanning for safe distances between places to sit!
James is a strong believer in science, and while he doesn’t like reading books because it sucks him into a blackhole where he spends all his time, he does watch TV series with his wife sometimes. They’re now watching the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, specifically because it touches upon women’s rights, an issue that stayed at the core of his heart, especially throughout his years serving in Afghanistan.
“War is ugly, but sometimes, peace is ugly too”.
JAMES AT THE HUB
He revisits horrific abuses against women by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and it made him realise that defence is a humanitarian issue even if it isn’t often attributed as one. He made his case to Selma, one of the early team members of The Humanity Hub, and when he made his case for defence, she invited him to meetings where the architect of the Hub building discussed the needs of the community.
As an off-the-charts extrovert and an independent consultant, he’s the only employee of his own company. While the tendency is to stay home with his own little office, he strongly suggests that he can’t do that! He needs to have people around him. James calls the Hub, “a vital lifeline for his own mental well-being to have people to talk to”.
In the earliest meetings, he contributed to a key feature of The Humanity Hub: “if you want a lot of people sharing ideas, you got to have a lot of whiteboards, right?!”
Just sitting in a room with other people, even if he doesn’t talk to them, he gets a huge amount of energy from that. In the Hub, he provides energy and takes it while being active in social events. He said half-jokingly that if he was in a standard office complex with a little one room office, he’d jump out the window.
In the future, if he’s ever successful in his goals to establish a multinational innovative ecosystem and somewhere down the line he gets interviewed about the success factors, he will answer that the Humanity Hub was one of them.
James warmly asserts, “It’s the Hub community that is there on tough days when you get bad news or you have to do the same presentation for the 10th time to different people. There’s always someone around in The Hub who understand that and says, ‘yeah, we get it, we’re here with you“.
If you’re interested in connecting with James or his current projects, you can reach out to him on his LinkedIn.