Focusing on R&D

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Pre-dating a Strategic Defence and Security Review scheduled to take place later on this year, the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) report entitled ‘The Future of Research and Development in the UK’s Security and Intelligence Sector’ explores the UK’s R&D roadmap to 2020, duly identifying a series of recommendations for the British Government and stakeholders across the security and intelligence community.

Authored by Charlie Edwards (director of the National Security and Resilience Studies Group at RUSI) and Calum Jeffray (that same group’s research Fellow), the Whitehall-based Think Tank’s excellent document suggests that, in recent years, UK Government spending on R&D in security and defence has fallen faster than in any other area.

At the same time, the Security Service and intelligence agencies face an ever-more diverse range of “technically competent adversaries” and yet “have less control than ever” over the development of new technologies.

“Investment in R&D in the UK has continued to fall over the last 30 years,” explained Edwards. “In 2012, the year for which you’ll find the most recent figures, R&D amounted to 1.72% of UK GDP. This was lower than the 2.06% average for the EU and far short of the Government’s target to have increased UK R&D investment to 2.5% of GDP by last year.”

RUSI states there’s a widespread belief that current levels of funding for R&D activities in the security and defence sector are insufficient. “This is problematic in the area of national security, where operational priorities often necessitate innovation that’s fast and responsive to the needs of the security and intelligence agencies without any disproportionate financial burden.”

While the Government and its agencies have indeed taken notable steps of late to increase their level of transparency and open up the market to a broader range of “young and technically adept” SMEs, RUSI believes that “significant obstacles” remain when it comes to linking Government requirements for national security with emerging capabilities across the private sector.

Addressing the significant challenges around sustaining technological advantage, the RUSI report explores ways in which to improve engagement between Government, private investors and industry operating in this sector to ensure that R&D investment is strengthened, priority capabilities are understood by investors and that all critical proficiencies are maintained.

Key recommendations are that Government needs to attract more private investors to the security sector by increasing market confidence. There must be clearer indications from Parliament on technology policy, strategy and procurement which, urges RUSI, would improve investor confidence and help industry to “better allocate its R&D resources” in priority areas.

Investment in R&D for security must be increased and the ‘culture of secrecy’ broken down for investors “unable to gauge market requirements” and the return on their fiscal injections.

Today’s threat environment is hugely complex. With budgetary pressures ongoing, RUSI’s desire to witness an increased market confidence that will attract new private finance in security and intelligence R&D simply must be facilitated by Westminster.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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