Progressive military forces around the world are committing to rigorous investment programs aimed at transforming their defensive capabilities. Tellingly, a significant portion of resources under such initiatives are being earmarked for technological innovations that enhance, and in some cases reinvent, capabilities, rather than represent additional investment on purely traditional weaponry.
The evolving nature of military spending gives a clear indication that technological innovation has become a cornerstone and catalyst to military refurbishments globally. National defense, security and global standing are no longer defined exclusively by the number of rifles, tanks or physical resources in a country’s arsenal, but evermore critically by its technological prowess and capabilities.
Technology is playing a much more significant role in securing the fortunes of nations around the world, be that through the use of smart weapons, autonomous and unmanned vehicles, cyberwarfare, integrated electronic warfare technologies, or artificial intelligence. Access to and utilization of cutting-edge solutions developed to enhance the performance of physical assets are tipping the scales between winners and losers with increasing regularity.
This is the reason Edge exists — a group of diverse companies bound by a single mission to advance technology to the benefit of the United Arab Emirates’ state of security and safety. In just two years of existence, the company has pioneered systems and weapons that would be difficult to replicate in a similar time frame anywhere else in the world. Edge is advancing with pace and agility, and in so doing is abiding by the spirit of “Operation 300bn” — the national industrial strategy announced by UAE leadership earlier this year and aimed at raising the country’s manufacturing sector’s gross domestic product contribution from 133 billion dirham to 300 billion dirham (from U.S. $36 billion to U.S. $82 billion) over the next 10 years.
The momentum brought to bear by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is already being witnessed in the civilian and corporate worlds. At the heart of the influence and success of the new corporate “superpowers” is their access to and use of technology and digital innovation. Processing power and digitization have become tradeable currencies, and parties that possess them thrive, while those that do not often flounder. This is the space Edge occupies, advancing the establishment of a knowledge economy in the UAE while actively cooperating with international companies — large and small — in pursuit of the best ideas, and then converting them.
We are fortunate to be present in this region, at this current point in time, where the leadership of the UAE possesses a keen appreciation of the central importance innovation plays in driving a society forward. The national “Year of the 50th” campaign commemorates half a century since the UAE’s founding in 1971, and celebrates the remarkable journey the country has undertaken during this time. Crucially, a large emphasis of the initiative is to also look to the future and consider exploration and implementation of transformative changes the nation would want to see achieved in the coming 50 years.
The infusion of technological innovation is firmly taking root as a key differentiator in the defense industry of today, which is completely redefining the sector. Innovation can no longer be viewed as a “nice to have” element of modern militaries or even societies for that matter, but rather it must be considered a foundational element of modern development.
The requirement for technical innovation in the defense sector has thus never been more acute. The threat landscape is growing exponentially, with the nature and motivation of threat actors becoming increasingly difficult to predict. Traditional demarcated battle lines no longer exist, and the only way for defense forces to be prepared and effective in an increasingly sophisticated world is by investing in leading-edge capabilities that can neutralize the widening spectrum of threats — virtual and physical.
It is no exaggeration to say that successfully safeguarding our modern, technology-driven societies is one of the single most important undertakings of our time. Modern military and defense forces need to embrace and adopt technological innovation as a central theme of their development if they are to stand any chance of neutralizing threats — foreign or domestic. Making innovation second nature is likely to become a key determinant between nation-states that progress and thrive into the future and those that face significant challenges in their efforts to self-actualize.
It is also important to underscore the importance of collaboration for continued growth in technological innovation. By collaborating with businesses big and small, from across the private and public sectors, and by developing more meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships, we all benefit from greater knowledge-sharing.
Faisal Al Bannai is chief executive and managing director of Edge Group.