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Meet the judges: Lois Nicholson 

Lois Nicholson, Head of International Relations Group Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) UK Ministry of Defence (MOD)

Lois has over 30 years experience leading teams in UK MOD and industry in the design and engineering of complex military systems. In her early career, Lois worked in the private sector, leading cross-industrial, multi-national systems engineering teams.

In 1997, Lois joined the Civil Service, leading teams in research and acquisition of military systems, spanning a number of organisations across the MOD. In 2011, Lois was posted to the British Embassy Washington responsible for research exchange with the US, as well as leading strategic transformation of UK personnel across the US to meet defence priorities.

In 2012, Lois was appointed to the Senior Civil Service (SCS) as MOD’s Head of Scrutiny, leading a team providing independent scrutiny of multi-billion pound programmes, advising the MOD’s senior leadership on the robustness of cases, so investment decisions can be taken and value for money for the tax payer achieved.

In 2018, Lois was posted to the British Embassy Washington DC in the role of Minster Counsellor Defence Acquisition and Technology, and a member of the British Defence Staff Management Board. Lois led a team responsible for working with the US in the areas of defence acquisition and trade, research and technology and future capability development.

In 2023, on return to the UK, Lois was appointed Head of International Relations Group, DE&S, MOD, where she is responsible for managing the International Capability Delivery centre of expertise. She leads a multi-disciplinary team providing advice and support to DE&S and wider MOD on delivering cooperative armaments programmes and on equipment related international arrangements and US export controls. She supports CEO DE&S in his role as National Armaments Director (NAD), and represents the UK in international fora such as NATO and OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation).

Lois is passionate about supporting the development of others. Before her posting to the US, as part of MOD’s senior leadership team, Lois led the SCS Unit Ambassador Scheme, which successfully delivered on its aim to promote more visibility and engagement of the senior civilian leadership with the wider civil service community across Defence. As a senior female in the Embassy and senior gender champion, Lois was privileged to lead a US network women's learning set. She also built relationship with the Women in Defense US network, encouraging and supporting British Embassy staff to become involved.

In 2013, Lois achieved professional accreditation as a Chartered Manager (Fellow of Chartered Manager Institute), becoming one of the first in the MOD to achieve this professional qualification and recognition. In August 2019, Lois graduated as an Allied Fellow from the US CAPSTONE senior leadership programme.