Regardless of that debate, I believe that we need to make the best use of all our resources to address new security risks, especially in times of austerity. That means synergies must be found between science and technology (S&T) investments of all origins: governments, academia and industry.
Solutions will of course have to be found to the security issues this raises, meaning a balance between “need to know” and “need to share”. Nations and institutions will have to control the export, transit and brokering of sensitive dual-use technologies, keeping security and defence considerations in mind. They also need to strive to maintain competitive advantages and economic gains.
I see three main challenges to developing civil-military synergies.
- We need to make sure that sufficient attention is paid to the longer term, especially in times of budget cuts. We must continue to invest in stimulating innovation, thinking out-of-the-box to explore high-gain if potentially risky research.
- Cross-disciplinary visibility in research and development must be improved. There is still too much stove piping, even within governments. We need to break down barriers between departments, disciplines and organisations.
- Investment on so-called “technology scans” should be boosted to explore the potential applications of technologies beyond their originally intended use.
NATO has 60 years of experience in science and technology cooperation, reflecting the Allies’ understanding of the crucial role S&T cooperation plays in security and defence. Nations join forces to inject resources into NATO’s S&T work programme, leveraging investments through collaboration and bringing together experts from governments, academia and industry. This allows the Alliance to benefit from knowledge developed outside the traditional security and defence community.
Allies’ collective views drive the work programme, which is mainly oriented towards the medium- and long-term, while NATO provides an environment that fosters collaboration and facilitates investment leverage.
The work programme allows nations to compare notes on potential S&T solutions for their capability issues, promoting a greater sharing of the investment burden and mitigating risk through international collaboration.
In conclusion, investing in science and technology through dual-use approaches is of paramount importance, especially in times of austerity and budget cuts. For this to be successful, we need more out-of-the-box thinking, greater transparency and sharing to overcome stove piping and increased investment to assess the potential uses of technology. To address these challenges, nations are increasingly relying on NATO S&T cooperation because NATO provides them with a proven and trusted environment to share, collaborate and innovate.
Disclaimer: These considerations reflect the opinion of the author and do not constitute the official position of NATO.
This article is part of Friends of Europe’s upcoming discussion paper on the future of dual-use technologies in Europe.
The full discussion paper will be available in early September. Read the other articles here.