Public-Private Engagement in the UK Security Sector

How should government and industry work together to implement national security objectives? What mechanisms of engagement should be developed to fulfil the security industry’s economic potential? What are the top priorities for public-private cooperation in the UK security sector, both now and in the future? These and other questions were addressed during a panel discussion convened by the ADS’s Director of Security and Resilience, Hugo Rosemont, at the DSEI Exhibition in London on 13 September 2017.

Government security strategy documents now recognise routinely that industry is an essential partner in UK national security and resilience; the trick is how to implement public-private cooperation effectively. During this specially-convened panel session, the audience heard from leading practitioners about how the UK is developing a range of engagement mechanisms to facilitate cooperation in innovative ways.

To kick off the panel session, the plans and key priorities of the recently-formed Joint Security and Resilience Centre (JSaRC) were outlined by the head of the organisation, Shaun Hipgrave. The joint unit based in the Home Office seeks to enhance the relationship between Government and industry, and an overview was provided of its recent activity, including calls issued on protecting crowded places and strengthening aviation security. The Chairman of the UK Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers’ Community (RISC), Rob Crook, then outlined the function and priorities of the alliance of trade associations and suppliers, and reflected on the positive achievements of JSaRC to date.

A ‘call for feedback’ was issued, with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) within the sector in particular invited to put forward ideas and proposals to RISC, via their trade associations or representative organisations, to help it develop the next phase of cooperation. Finally, Elizabeth Sheldon, Chair of ADS Special Interest Group CTSF, presented her view of what makes effective partnership working between government and industry, outlining in particular the UK’s position as a global leader in the provision of security solutions and the vital contribution of security SMEs.

Following the panellists’ opening remarks, the audience was invited to participate in a Q&A session. Discussion points included the need for all parties to respect the value to SMEs operating in the security sector of their intellectual property; the difficulty of measuring the size and scale of private security markets in the UK and internationally; the role of regulation in driving through security measures; the benefits or otherwise of placing industry secondees into government security departments (and vice versa); the need to align the UK’s domestic and international security objectives, including the security export agenda; and the lessons that might be learnt from other countries’ experience of fostering cooperation between the public and private sectors on national security issues.

The event highlighted the new models of engagement that the UK is developing to address the wide range of security challenges it faces. Whilst the process of implementing effective cooperation through JSaRC and other mechanisms is not yet complete, collaboration between government, agencies and security suppliers was shown to be a central component of the country’s approach to national security.