On October 19, the University of Manchester’s branch of Amnesty International launched a campaign to stop the University’s funding of “killer robots”.
The campaign, which started with a banner-making event in the Students Union, is linked to a report by Stop Killer Robots, featuring contributions by UN-UK ands Amnesty International. The report investigated the links between UK universities and companies that develop Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs) – that is, weapons which have the capability to independently locate and destroy targets.
The campaign calls for the University to cut ties with companies who develop these weapons, and who fund the University. According to the report these companies include BAE systems, BP, Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, MDBA, and more.
The spokesperson added they want the University to sign “the Safe Future for Life pledge, which would be a promise that they [UoM] are going to actively prevent the development and research into LAWs at the University”.
While these weapons are not directly created at the University, a UoM Amnesty International spokesperson stated that funding from these companies means that students research areas around automation that will help make LAWs more efficient.
Secondly, according to Amnesty International, the “instant community” that funding creates between the companies and the University creates a hiring pathway; students are led from the University into these companies.
BAE systems, for example, is an Aerospace company which produces, among many things, “multinational arms and security”. They partnered with the University in 2017 with the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, Professor Martin Schröder, welcoming them. He stated, “we look forward to working with BAE Systems on exciting research and education innovations”.
Similarly, the report notes a connection with MBDA Missiles Systems. While no announcement of this appears to have been made, MBDA has been associated with University award ceremonies for students for several years.