Disruptive Tech for Defence Panel - Skills and Technology

On Tuesday October 24 techUK were represented on a discussion panel at the Disruptive Technology for Defence conference by Head of the Defence Programme, Andy Johnston. 

The panel addressed themes of the changing nature of warfare, technologies currently applied by international forces across the globe, the disruptive nature of asymmetric warfare and the digital technologies utilised by non-state actors, as well as many more. The panel had international representation from Japan, the United States, and the UK, both military and civilian. 

techUK raised the vital issue of the national and international skills base and the importance of preparing militaries for the current and impending widening of the skills gap. techUK believes that discussion of disruptive technologies and thier deployments miss a vital component if the people element is neglected. techUK noted the impact that Brexit will have upon digital and wider STEM skills in the UK, both in the private and public sectors. As the supply of EU skilled workers becomes smaller added pressure will inevitably be placed upon the UK skills base, an area of the population that, due to security requirements, the Defence and Security industries rely on more than other sectors. This squeeze in skills will affect the development, maintenance and operation of technologies right across the national defence and security landscape. From data scientists in R&D activities in industry, to cyber security and network engineers working on deployed operations, there are few areas of MOD and UK defence that will not be impacted. 

Another key consideration for the future of the UK's armed forces is a full understanding of the population from which the forces will recruit in the coming decades. Generations who grow up with regular access to digital technologies and experience regular high-quality connectivity relate to technology in a vastly different way to generations currently serving in the armed forces. Young people already expect the ability to modify and personalise their technology, and to treat it as a service rather than an investment in devices and equipment that must be maintained. This creates a very different mindset and approach to that which is currently prevalent within MOD procurement and capability strategy teams. 

As MOD looks at the cost of capabilities across the Department and the Government review national security capabilities from a wider perspective it is clear that tough decisions will be made and efficiency will be prioritised in the coming years. Digital technologies have the ability to demonstrate economic savings and increase efficiency across a range of armed forces services and capabilities. techUK will continue to work with MOD and our members to highlight where these savings and efficiencies can be most readily applied. 

techUK would like to thank Defence IQ and General Sir Richard Barrons for hosting a fascinating and very useful conference. 

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