The impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has posed many challenges to the UK’s security and resilience sector, hitting cash flow and interrupting business-as-usual activities. Nonetheless, there are major areas of opportunity arising from the pandemic, from biosecurity to cyber-security, for the sector to contribute to the UK’s recovery and renewal. These opportunities can only be comprehensively seized, however, if certain policy challenges are now addressed through closer partnership between industry and Government.
The relationship between the Government and industry in the UK has been recast by the current crisis. The Government has made unprecedented interventions across the economy and informal and rapid contracting arrangements have been created to meet public health and security challenges. The pandemic has also highlighted the vulnerability of global supply chains to unexpected disruption and the need to build greater national resilience.
Defence and Security Industrial Strategy
Against this backdrop, the Government’s Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) Review offers a unique opportunity to bolster the strategic collaboration between industry and the Government in support of the UK’s national security and prosperity. To fully unlock the contribution of the sector, ambitious steps now need to be taken to promote dynamic and agile forms of security procurement; enhance and better target the Government’s export support on key market opportunities; coherently orchestrate the Government’s innovation activities in national security; and craft a joint skills agenda between the Government and industry, addressing physical, technical and digital requirements. Importantly, these policy changes would have a significant positive impact on the sector’s future growth prospects without much additional investment.
Strategic industrial engagement
To ensure that these issues can be effectively addressed, there is first and foremost a pressing need for new targeted resources for strategic industrial engagement. The existing Government machinery in this area has developed significantly but remains at a formative stage. It is therefore now time for a new dedicated, full-time and senior position within the Home Office that can fully identify and harness domestic industrial contributions to national security, resilience, and prosperity. This role would only require limited additional resources and could link with and draw upon existing organisations, including the highly valued Home Office’s Joint Security and Resilience Centre, to harness industry support to tackle security risks.
As the UK searches for opportunities for economic renewal after COVID-19, the UK’s security and resilience sector is well placed to play a significant role in that recovery. The pandemic has underlined the importance of effective Government-industry cooperation to tackle shared challenges and it is now time to create a stronger mechanism for strategic industrial engagement. This will enable the sector to play its part in tackling existing and emerging security challenges in the year ahead and in contributing to the UK’s national prosperity.