UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace has officially announced the launch of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Science and Technology Strategy 2020, which establishes how the MOD will secure and maintain scientific and technological advantage for the future.
During the Cold War, western militaries relied on technological superiority, allowing postures and operational concepts to offset and largely compensate for the Soviet Union’s advantages in numbers. After the Cold War ended, the same military-technological advantage provided western militaries a decisive advantage against extremist organisations for over two decades.
Science and technology (S&T) are developing and proliferating faster than ever before and have become a new domain of international competition. New adversaries have emerged, alongside traditional threats, who actively undermine democracy and society, supported by substantial and rapidly modernising militaries.
Extremist organisations remain a concern, but the threat picture now also includes two great powers with substantially greater capabilities. A resurgent Russia and a rising, increasingly powerful China are taking aggressive actions that threaten regional security and stability and challenge the existing rules-based international order.
While terrorist groups and non-state actors can access technologies and weapons far more sophisticated than before – the natural environment is challenging the UK and key regional and global allies with a global pandemic, with growing public concerns regarding a co-ordinated response to climate change also influencing factors.
Professor Dame Angela McLean, the Defence Chief Scientific Adviser, said, "In an uncertain and rapidly-changing world, we can’t afford to be always on the back foot, fighting the latest challenge."
The MOD Science and Technology Strategy 2020 sets out how MOD will secure and maintain scientific and technological advantage in future:
- By prioritising investment to focus on the long term and adopting a challenge-led approach, defence aims to anticipate and shape new technologies and applications of technology, and to build the expertise, policies, and military concepts needed to take advantage of them as soon as they are ready;
- MOD will balance this challenge-led approach with a technology push to pursue promising technology or scientific disciplines which offer significant potential to allow them to be integrated into military capability as they mature. MOD will look to collaborate widely but effectively, sharing the effort and sharing knowledge where it in the UK’s interest to do so; and
- Extracting greatest value and impact from defence research also means effectively curating and using the data generated: sharing it appropriately, developing understanding from it, and exploiting it to inform decisions faster than adversaries and competitors.
"This strategy sets out how I intend defence will get ahead of the game and start actively shaping the future," Dame Angela said.