War and peace

Viewpoint

Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, sets out the role that the defence sector can play in science and technology development, and vice-versa

I am proud of Britain’s record on science and technology. From the military tank and jet engine, to the wind up radio and World Wide Web, history is littered with examples of how Britain has made its mark.

As Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology it is clear to me that science and technology will matter even more in the future than it has in the past as we prepare for an age of defence contingency.

In an era where global threats might strike from anywhere at any time, it will be technological innovation, not simply manpower, that allows us to face the unpredictable pressures of the future and give us our battle-winning edge. It is this same innovation that will allow us to deliver more value for money for the taxpayer in times when defence budgets across Western economies are more like to fall than they are to rise.

The UK is creating an environment that allows science and technology to flourish. The MoD took decisions in our 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that have balanced our books for the first time in a generation whilst enabling us to keep the fourth largest defence budget globally. This permitted us to establish a wholly affordable £164 billion 10 year Equipment Plan which has given both industry and our partners greater certainty about the future as well the financial flexibility to react to unexpected demands. Within this we have protected our annual investment in Science and Technology at a minimum of 1.2% of our budget – which in 2012/13 amounted to some £444 million – and indeed we expect to increase this to 1.3% this year.

tornado gr4

”our Tornado GR4 aircraft is benefiting from 3D printing technology that allows rapid prototyping of designs for tooling aids and structural repair schemes

We are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge and capabilities in science and technology in building new innovative platforms in defence. Construction of the most complex warship ever built in the UK, The HMS Queen Elizabeth, is sustaining more than 7,000 jobs at more than 100 companies across the country will be ready by 2018; our Tornado GR4 aircraft is benefiting from 3D printing technology that allows rapid prototyping of designs for tooling aids and structural repair schemes – significantly reducing the time, and cost, of implementation. British ideas that benefit British national security.

The cyber dimension is another key investment priority for Government. We are investing £650 million into transforming the National Cyber Security Programme – an amount we increased further last year. A few weeks ago I signed a communiqué with the US that will see greater co-operation on cyber security and technology.

Indeed if we are to make the most of our investment in science and technology, we need greater collaboration with our allies. In February my counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic, Under Secretary Frank Kendall, and I committed formally to enhance science and technology collaboration,joint programmes of research and to strengthen engagement between industry and academia.Our intent is to maintain our advantages and the interoperability that we enjoy with a major ally as we both move towards developing future capabilities. The agreement will enhance our mutual financial benefits through burden sharing; and will support economic growth through innovation.

There are two main reasons that working with other countries on science and technology is important. First, it offers some economies of scale which become possible when working with another nation. There are also opportunities to harmonise requirements, pool resources, share facilities and overhead costs, and benefit from longer production runs. In this way we can spread the cost and risks of research and acquisition, as well as receiving better value from our respective investments in defence and security.

Secondly, working with another nation allows us to maximise our capabilities, by sharing technologies and aspects of capability that would not otherwise be available to the UK. This may involve fostering cooperation in research and technology, as well as developing cooperative or collaborative equipment programmes that increase interoperability. This is just one of a significant number of important bilateral relationships for the UK and these are links we will continue to foster in the future.

Our commitment to invest in science and technology sends a clear signal of our future intent. I want to drive British innovation and maintain our capability advantage while strengthening our relationships with other nations. This, in turn, leads to immeasurable tangible benefits for our forces as we look forward to developing more cutting-edge technologies and battle winning capabilities.