Defence doesn’t traditionally feature strongly in the Government’s Budget and on the face this week’s announcements delivered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, 2020 is no different. However, dig a little deeper and there are a number of announcements that could benefit our industry’s R&D activities and export potential.
The funding for a new UK “blue skies funding agency” based on the US’ ARPA stands out as a prime opportunity for our sectors. The intention for this agency is to cross-cut technology disciples and domains, with the benefits being sector-agnostic technologies with multiple applications. This must be a priority for engagement for the defence and security industries.
Traditionally our industries have not coordinated R&D efforts well with other sectors, leading to duplication and inefficiency. Neither have they enjoyed a large amount of support from Ministry of Defence or Home Office in efforts to reach out and engage with these funds. It is essential that UK defence & security (both public and private sector) make a coordinated effort on two fronts:
- To assess and decide which technologies require concerted attention in early stages of development from defence and security, therefore attaching funding to these efforts
- Create a coordinated engagement plan between public and private entities to address how defence & security can engage with these civil funds and leverage the work that is done in other sectors. This plan must be ambitious and set a clear vision for how our industries can both contribute and benefit from these new initiatives.
Both of these steps are vital to a properly coordinated approach to innovation that gives the best return on investment.
The additional £100m for defence R&D is a welcome addition to existing defence funds and ADS is keen to understand more about to which parts of the Defence innovation infrastructure this funding will be allocated. In the past year Government has released the Defence Innovation Priorities and the Defence Technology Framework; both documents that attempt to provide further direction for industry regarding MODs priorities for military technologies. Industry hope to see the additional funding being allocated in-line with these priorities, demonstrating coordination between policy and funding.
Finally, industry welcomes and seeks further information on the investment in a new £1bn fund to support overseas buyers of UK defence and security goods. ADS believes defence and security exports are large contributors to the UK’s vision for a Global Britain; not only contributing to prosperity but also deepening interoperability with our allies and partners. We look forward to seeing how this investment fund can help the UK strengthen relationships with new and existing partners.