UK DEFENCE – DEFENCE GROWTH PARTERSHIP SET TO MAXIMISE GROWTH OPPORTUNITY
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
24 Jun 14. Formally established in 2012 as a partnership between government and industry the Defence Growth Partnership (DGP) was set up to define and initiate long term investment priorities and objectives required to ensure that the UK defence industry continues to prosper and thrive. In this paper which also happens to mark completion of the sixth volume of defence views published since 1998 it is perhaps fitting that I should focus on priorities and requirements needed to ensure that the UK defence industry remains strong, competitive and able enhance export opportunity and sector growth. The DGP is designed to do just that!
Defence was and always will be a unique business model primarily because the only customers are governments. In the UK we are good at what we do in defence manufacturing and we have a particularly long record of success in defence exports. We are competitive with the best in world but without new product, without new technology and innovation, without a sustainable flow of investment in research, technology and capacity, without improved market intelligence the competitive advantage that we have established will all too quickly fall away. That is another good reason why the DGP was established.
Proactive as it was intended to be the DGP cannot be the sole proprietor of all that is needed to move the UK defence industrial base forward through a more challenging arena. But with strong leadership building on a well-defined strategy and done in the knowledge of where industry priorities best lie I believe that the DGP will play a hugely important role in generating new capabilities, new technologies, greater exportability potential and by definition, creating new skills whilst at the same time playing an important role in existing skills retention. To achieve this requires a combination of self-belief plus ambition. It requires a belief that with strong leadership, more hard work and effort by all the parties concerned linked to a well-defined and better understood relationship between government and industry and time, success can and will be achieved.
Without a decisive agreement that all parties involved in DGP could sign up to there could be neither strategy nor forward plan that could make the process work. Following months of discussions and engagement it is now at this potentially important stage of strategic development that I believe the Defence Growth Partnership has reached. At some point within the upcoming Farnborough Air Show, an event that opens its doors to international military delegations and the many thousands of aerospace and defence industry delegates on July 14th, we should expect leaders of the DGP to set out an agreed set of priorities and framework of how it intends to pursue its aims. By nature this has to be a long term objective and plan designed to strengthen the UK defence industry combined with notional intent of doors that will need to be opened to create the future new opportunities desired.
Under the joint chairmanship of Minister of State for Business, the Rt. Hon Michael Fallon and Steve Wadey, UK Managing Director of MBDA the Defence Growth Partnership was launched in December 2012. When DGP issued its first report in September 2013 it was clear that the HM Government was not only placing a high level of expectation on the DGP to deliver a well thought out and agreed strategy but also that it was willing and prepared to provide support at the highest level from both Business and Ministry of Defence. To that end Minster of Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philipp Dunne not only recognised the importance of DGP but also embraced it.
Not surprisingly there has been much discussion, debate and scepticism displayed on the ability of an industry/government partnership in the form of the DGP to deliver. The same w