How can the aerospace, defence, and security industries collaborate to build a safer future?

By Jeremy Berwick

Mounting geopolitical tensions mean governments, industries, and investors rely on greater collaboration to protect their nations and citizens. But they’re also under pressure to do more with less.

In a rapidly evolving global landscape, the defence enterprise faces a pivotal question: how can it protect citizens effectively in an increasingly constrained economic environment? The solution lies in embracing a new era of improved productivity and innovation, targeted talent strategies, and enterprise-wide collaboration.

Greater productivity from simplification

The journey towards a more agile and efficient defence sector begins with a return to the basics. The complexity inherent in major defence businesses, often the result of numerous acquisitions over many years, requires a reminder – and reassessment – of how value is delivered to citizens and stakeholders.

By simplifying processes, adopting agile methodologies, and applying a variety of lenses – ranging from process optimisation to treating data as a strategic asset in digital integration – defence companies can identify opportunities for productivity gains. This streamlined approach not only enhances operational efficiency but can guide strategic decisions in mergers, acquisitions, and investments, often mitigating the need for costly capital expenditure on new infrastructure.

Building a future-ready workforce

The cornerstone of next-generation defence capabilities is a skilled and diverse workforce. The industry currently grapples with a significant talent drain, with professionals frequently transitioning to roles outside the sector in search of more compelling career prospects.

Addressing this challenge requires a comprehensive defence enterprise-wide strategy to attract, develop, and retain talent – one that creates a dynamic, innovative enterprise workforce by:

  • Promoting cross-sector mobility to broaden experience, increase empathy, and ultimately build trust.
  • Enriching job roles to avoid positions that ‘police’ the defence industry boundary.
  • Fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) to unlock the creative potential necessary for technological and strategic breakthroughs.

Strengthening cross-sector engagement with small to medium enterprises

Collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises is a largely untapped source of agility and innovation within the defence sector. All too often, engaging with SME organisations is paid lip service. The real opportunity lies in viewing this engagement as an essential exercise to revitalise the defence sector, driving innovation, engineering, and long-term cultural change. It not only brings fresh perspectives and technologies, particularly in burgeoning fields like AI and digital engineering, but also cultivates a vibrant ecosystem that sparks rapid innovation. Viewing the ecosystem as a strategic asset that requires careful cultivation and investment will allow defence organisations and their partners to stay ahead of technological trends and foster a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation.

Collaborate to protect: A blueprint for the future?

The defence sector’s capacity for undertaking ambitious and complex missions is unparalleled. However, navigating the challenges of the modern world means breaking away from the orthodoxies of today and forging new paths that deepen collaboration and accelerate innovation. This requires new strategic partnerships, a mature strategic view of comparative advantage across the defence enterprise, harnessing the power of emerging technologies, and cultivating ecosystems as a strategic asset.

About the authors

Jeremy Berwick PA aerospace, defence and security expert

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