Securing Prosperity: a strategic vision for the UK defence industry

Prime minister David Cameron will today reveal a new strategic vision for the UK defence industry which aims to fulfil national security requirement more efficiently and optimise opportunities for sector growth.

The new strategic vision ‘Securing Prosperity’ will be launched by the prime minister this morning, ahead of the opening of DSEI, the major defence, space and security exhibition taking place in London this week.

Ahead of the vision’s official announcement Mr Cameron praised the UK defence sector as “a national success story that we are right to take pride in”. He acknowledged the sector’s critical role in supporting national security and the safety of British troops around the world as well as the important economic contribution made by the sector which supports around 100,000 British jobs and has a turnover of £22 billion a year.

The prime minister concluded: “The Defence Growth Partnership sets us and industry a joint challenge to deliver a long-term strategic vision to maintain our position on the leader board – maximising opportunities for British business and further strengthening the economy.”

The Securing Prosperity vision is to be delivered via the Defence Growth Partnership (DGP), an industry-government body established last year to improve the supplier-customer relationship between the UK defence sector and government while also optimising other growth opportunities for the industry.

Business minister Michael Hammond is co-chair of the DGP alongside Steve Wadey, MD of missile manufacturer MBDA.

Other prominent government figures including Philip Dunne, minister for defence equipment will also work closely with the DGP as will a collection of major industry Primes and a broad range of smaller businesses in the supply chain.

The structure and working relationships for the DGP, have been developed by ADS, the national trade association for the defence, space and security sectors. They are based closely on those exhibited by the Aerospace Growth Partnership.

The new defence industry vision spreads across six key themes:

  • Air capabilities – which have yielded 82% of UK defence export success over the last ten years, and which have significant potential for growth
  • Intelligent systems – development of the electronics, software and systems integration that are at the heart of many military capabilities
  • Growing international business – developing more coordinated UK solutions, tailored to the needs of customers around the world
  • Technology and enterprise – establishing more effective ways of creating and exploiting the intellectual property of the future, such as autonomous systems
  • Skills – developing the next generation of apprentices, technicians, engineers and other professionals
  • Value chain competitiveness – improving the competitiveness of the UK’s defence value chain, providing differentiation in terms of capability, cost and market access

Past efforts to establish a defence industrial strategy have met with political difficulty but Paul Everitt, CEO of ADS, says he is confident that the DGP and this new vision represents a long term opportunity to improve the competitiveness of the UK defence sector.

“We are delighted with the genuine collaborative relationship we have set up between major defence manufacturers, SMEs and the department for business as well as the Ministry of Defence and DE&S [Defence Equipment and Support],” Mr Everitt told TM.

“This announcement represents us all buying into a plan for the industry and committing to provide the people to move the vision forward.”

Acknowledging the upcoming General Election in 2015 and the potential that a change of government might derail the new vision Everitt continued: “We have been discussing our plans with all the major political parties and briefing them on the work we are doing. I certainly feel that our vision fits with the wider industrial strategy which Vince Cable has been promoting and which has broad cross party support.”

While the announcement of Securing Prosperity will not commit any government money to supporting growth in the defence sector, Mr Everitt was firm that it was still an important statement of intent from across government department and the industry supply chain.

“This is not an announcement about spending more money, it is about creating a common agenda,” he emphasized. “This is about establishing a framework which ensures we are using the resources we have in the most efficient and effective way to support competitiveness.”

Anticipating the launch of the new strategic vision, DGP co-chair Steve Wadey said that it was welcome to industry. He said it represents a structured opportunity to “work in partnership with government, enabling us to develop technologies, skills and capabilities that meet the needs of customers today and for the long-term, ultimately driving growth in the UK economy.”

It is expected that a further announcement, clarifying the mechanisms by which Securing Prosperity will be delivered and identifying specific programmes, will be made next year at Farnborough International Air Show.