Rapid changes are taking place around the world, both at the geopolitical and technological level, which are having an extremely disruptive impact on the defense industry and its customers, namely governments.
For its part, technological innovation has reached a pace never seen before. Growing digitalization, big-data processing, robotics, autonomous systems, biotechnology, hypersonics, directed energy: These are just a few examples of innovations that revolutionize industry and governments’ approaches to defense and security issues.
In some cases, innovations on the commercial side are driving the technological evolution in the defense sector, with increasingly wider applications from a dual-use perspective.
There is a real two-way street.
The role of government is crucial in developing a long-term investment strategy and identifying the sovereign technologies necessary to maintain a technological advantage over new peers and emerging actors, in symmetric and asymmetric conflicts. Threats to peace and global stability do not solely originate in traditional domains (air, land, sea), but materialize in space and cyberspace, more difficult to protect, as they both lack precise boundaries.
Increasing defense spending is a positive signal, especially when coupled with a strong vision and clear objectives aimed at the development of the right capabilities in an international cooperation framework.
The national defense industry, as a strategic asset of its own country, must be able to capture technological innovation where it is produced, finding effective ways of accessing new ideas and solutions. Secondly, it must be able to manage the dynamics between long development and production cycles that characterize this sector, and technological innovation’s fast pace.
The sense of urgency must regard delivering what is needed, when needed, providing the end user with the maximum benefit and anticipating and adapting to changes, while triggering an ever-growing contamination across industries, governments, startups and academia.
A deep interconnection between the defense industry and its customers, working in close synergy, facilitates flexible and adaptable structures capable of responding quickly to new and complex emergencies.
In this perspective, the closer one works with the customer — throughout the entire product life cycle — the more this reverberates positively at the industry level. The shared awareness rising from this cooperation will enable industry to make wise and focused investment decisions in order to develop products and solutions that best fit future market requirements.
Bearing in mind that technology alone is not enough, true success in creating a resilient defense industry also lies in the ability to attract and retain highly specialized human capital as well as involving the supplier base in innovation processes.
A shared road map is, therefore, a priority — industry and governments, working together, side by side, committed to building a safer world.
Alessandro Profumo is the CEO of Leonardo.