Integrated Review #4: Leveraging the UK’s role as a Science and Technology Superpower  

This week the Government announced that the Comprehensive Spending Review will be postponed. We await further details from the Government about the impact of this announcement on the Integrated Review and will update members in due course. This week ADS will be writing about the role of industry in making the UK a S&T superpower.  

The UK’s defence and security sectors make a significant contribution to the UK’s science & technology (S&T) landscape, as well as its research and development (R&D) and innovation activities. As part of the work on the Integrated Review (IR) the Government has considered what further measures can be taken to build on the UK’s world leading reputation in these areas. ADS believes that the primary challenge for the IR is how the UK’s existing expertise, capabilities and resources can be leveraged to bolster national defence and security.  

Research and Development (R&D) 

Our sectors are important contributors to meeting the UK’s target to spend 2.4% of GDP on R&D, so it is crucially important that R&D and technology investment is maintained and built upon as part of the IR. The spillover benefits of defence and security S&T and subsequent R&D work positively affect multiple adjacent sectors. For these reasons, the UK’s S&T and innovation landscape should be treated as a national asset. 

To best utilise the rich innovation ecosystems that exist across the UK, Government and industry should collaboratively set joint technology roadmaps for defence and security.It is vital that the UK has a coherent view of the capabilities that are required to meet future global challenges and threats, whether these be sovereign capabilities or those which the UK is willing to partner with allies to develop, or even acquire from the commercial market.  

It is also critically important that S&T planning is connected to the wider UK innovation landscape. By doing this, the UK will be better placed to leverage cross-Government S&T funds and initiatives. Outreach into adjacent sectors and cross-Government funds is vitally important if the UK national security community is to make best use of the UK’s combined resources.  

Pandemic Recovery 

As the UK recovers from the pandemic it must fully exploit the limited resources and smaller budgets that will most likely be implemented. To meet this challenge the Government must provide stable long-term funding to encourage increased industrial investment in R&D activities in the UK. UK Defence and Security currently experiences a “feast and famine” model of Government funding, which is unpredictable and results in significant inefficiencies. This uncertainty makes businesses, domestic and international, wary of investing. Moving from annual budgets towards multi-year budgets, where appropriate, would encourage industry to engage with the Government’s long-term vision and draw innovation into existing programmes. 

International Collaboration 

International collaboration is extremely important for the health of the UK’s defence and security sectors. Engaging with international S&T and innovation activities and collaborating on joint R&D and capability programmes enables UK industry and academia to develop more interoperable and exportable capabilities. As the UK transitions out of the European Union and looks to solidify new international relationships with global partners, the IR must identifopportunities where UK industry and academia can most effectively collaborate on S&T and R&D activities with allies. The UK should engage with multilateral organisations such as NATO and the Five Eyes, as well as key bilateral relationships, to deliver this. 

Please do check back next week for our next update. To read the other blogs in this series please see below: