Future Technology Landscapes
The context for defence innovation has changed significantly recently for two reasons.
First, the past five years saw significant declines in both research and development (R&D) and research and technology (R&T) budgets, while sustained austerity is expected to continue to shape available defence spending. The declining investment in defence innovation and technology development presents a particular threat to the long-term sustainability of the defence research base.
Second, these changes have reinforced a wider trend in recent decades: the shift of the innovation centre of gravity from defence to the civilian sector. Leveraging civil investment — and ensuring that defence investment is targeted in areas where it can most add value — is critical.
In January 2013 RAND Europe was commissioned by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to conduct a study on the future landscape of defence technology development. The primary focus of the study was to help the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) assess and harness wider investment in relevant UK technology areas. The specific objectives of the study were to:
- Identify where MOD and non-MOD investments in R&T are likely to shape future UK technology capability of relevance to defence
- Explore enablers and barriers for the MOD in maximising the impact of its increasingly limited R&T budget.
- Research and innovation are crucial to defence, providing enhanced capabilities for the armed forces and creating export opportunities. The success of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in harnessing external sources of innovation is very important for the future of the armed forces.
- The MOD has developed successful approaches to improve its engagement with external innovators, such as the Centre for Defence Enterprise. However, further improvements could be made. The MOD should therefore review its wider engagement across the supply chain, recognising that the civil sector now dominates most of the UK technology landscape.
- The MOD should continue its work to more readily address process innovation, including issues such as training and logistics as well as new technological items.