In ADS’s next blog on the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) we will consider how better collaboration between Government (HMG) and industry can position the UK to meet new global challenges, including the Green Agenda. The UK defence and security sectors are proud to have a close and trusted relationship with HMG, working together in support of the UK’s national security and prosperity. However, the pace of technological change requires that HMG finds fresh ways of engaging with industry. Underpinning this, HMG itself must work coherently through a ‘Whole of Government’ approach to maximise benefits from existing relationships.

Our sectors invest sizeable resources into understanding the current and future threat landscape, so that we are better placed to make investment decisions and channel R&D activities accordingly. In this, industry is often the first to spot new technology trends. HMG has access to sensitive intelligence and a global network that no single company can match, which enables it to have a sophisticated understanding of the threat landscape. While there are some trusted channels for sharing threat information between industry and HMG, ADS’s member companies believe that more must be done to improve the formal exchange of sensitive information. This will enable industry to better align our commercial plans with the UK’s national security objectives.

To respond to, and often exploit, new technology trends, companies invest from concept through to capability delivery. Effective collaboration between industry and HMG, and coherence on HMG’s priorities and funding decisions, can accelerate this process. However, while there are a wide range of R&D-related initiatives in defence and security this diversity leads to a lack of clarity about strategic priorities.

To address this, HMG must create a coherent concept-to-capability journey that is underpinned by a newly coordinated approach to the funding of R&D with national defence and security applications. Accompanying this, there must be secure spaces in which HMG and industry can confidently share their S&T planning and engage in technology horizon scanning without commercial commitment. Finally, R&D projects receiving public funding must be better connected to subsequent major programmes or procurements, as this provides much more certainty and reassurance for businesses looking to invest in such work. A clear pull-through to market can help make the business case for approving new corporate investment in R&D.

Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data will be vital for delivering national security objectives but advances in these areas are unlikely to originate from defence and security. For that reason, the DSIS must set out a proactive plan for engaging with adjacent and strategically important industries and exploiting existing national initiatives, clusters and Catapults. Cross-sector partnering will offer opportunities for leveraging shared technologies while avoiding duplication of work. Greater collaboration with academia on long-term national security priorities should also be fostered through a trilateral relationship to harness, coordinate and enhance the UK universities’ world-leading output.

Improved co-ordination between industry and HMG will ensure that commercial and public investment into new technologies will deliver the maximum benefit for both sides – the DSIS must not miss this opportunity.

Please check back next Wednesday (29th April) for our next update. To read the other blogs in this series please see below: