Explaining AUKUS – What is it?

Announced in September 2021, AUKUS is a trilateral Defence and Security agreement between the United Kingdom, United States and Australia.

The AUKUS agreement consists of two separate pillars:

Pillar 1 relates to the Australian acquisition of a new generation of nuclear­-powered submarines, to be developed by the three countries and based on the UK’s designs for the successor to the Astute-class. Construction work will begin by 2030 and the submarines will enter service by the end of that decade.

Pillar 2 refers to the joint development of technologies to meet trilateral requirements across a series of advanced capabilities:

  • undersea capabilities
  • quantum technologies
  • artificial intelligence and autonomy
  • advanced cyber
  • hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities
  • electronic warfare
  • innovation
  • information sharing

A joint steering group will oversee a dedicated trilateral working group for each of the above.

How is techUK engaging with AUKUS?

Representing the voice of the UK’s technology industry, techUK will sit on the newly established AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Industry Forum (ACIF) alongside other trade associations from the UK, US and Australia. According to the Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, the Forum ‘will provide a mechanism for industry-industry and Government-industry consultation on how to transfer the necessary technology, data, and know-how needed to deliver capability quickly’.

What is the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Industry Forum?

The ACIF will be the primary standing mechanism for dialogue between the governments of the AUKUS partner nations and industry on AUKUS Advanced Capabilities in Pillar 2. The ACIF aims to inform and advise AUKUS partners and industry on the development of appropriate government policy, industry engagement, technical, and commercial approaches necessary to enhance the capabilities of AUKUS partners. The ACIF is a high level consultative body with the goals being to:

  1. Develop stronger alignment between AUKUS partners and industry on the ambition and goals of AUKUS Pillar 2.
  2. Provide a forum for AUKUS partners and relevant industry to share systemic challenges and solutions.
  3. Provide industry’s voice to AUKUS partners on fostering and facilitating greater industry-to-industry and government-to-industry collaboration on trilateral projects.
  4. Accelerate capability delivery by assessing and providing advice on improving existing processes for acquisition, research, development, management, and sustainment efforts, and proposing new methods to shorten the timeline to capability delivery.

The ACIF will complement the ongoing activities endorsed in the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities Industry Engagement Strategy, and will not replace additional targeted engagement and dialogue between AUKUS partners and industry, including those not represented through the industry associations. For more on how members view the opportunities that AUKUS presents and how the UK can best take advantage, read the techUK submission to the Defence Select Committee.

How can techUK members engage with AUKUS?

AUKUS Pillar 2 will be the primary area in which members of techUK can engage with opportunities arising through the agreement. These opportunities will be published as Innovation Challenges by the UK’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), and shared by the techUK Defence programme, with the first on Electronic Warfare announced in March (click here to find out more).

Jeremy Wimble

Jeremy Wimble

Programme Manager, Defence, techUK

Jeremy is the programme manager responsible for the defence programme, which works to help the UK's defence technology sector align itself with the Ministry of Defence including Defence Digital.

Prior to joining techUK, from 2016-2024 Jeremy was International Security Programme Manager at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). In that role he coordinated the team’s research and impact activities for funders including the FCDO and US Department of Defense, as well as business development and strategy.

Jeremy has a MA in International Relations from the University of Birmingham and a BA (Hons) in Politics & Social Policy from Swansea University.

[email protected]

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