The UK government needs greater engagement with the country’s scientists and engineers to bolster its defence capabilities according to Neil Stansfield of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Stansfield, who heads the MoD’s Knowledge, Innovation and Futures Enterprise programme (KIFEP), said that with government funding for science and technology falling, the UK must embrace a culture of collaboration to ensure it remains on a par with the technological abilities of its adversaries.
KIFEP champions cross-government defence and security innovation culture across the UK and acts as a hub to provide advice on the defence and security implications of science and technology to the MoD.
He told attendees at the opening of the Quantum Metrology Institute that funding has dropped significantly since its peak during the cold war.
“A paper from 1962 showed that the Ministry of Defence invested six times as much as the rest of the British government put together in science and technology, research and development. We were the big kid on the block,” he said.
“Fast forward to today, we are now one sixth of government department investment in science and technology and if you add in higher education and research councils we are just one twentieth or five per cent of investment in this area.”
Stansfield said this amounted to a total of £10bn which leaves Britain falling behind in the global arms race.
“[The restrictive budget] has pushed us in defence into a totally different paradigm, we are not 35,000 scientists in top secret defence establishments anymore, we are 3,500 scientists investing just one twentieth of Her Majesty’s government activity.”
“Therefore, if we are to harness or exploit the technology of the future, we need to work in a completely different way. We need to engage and collaborate with the scientists and the engineers that we have across the United Kingdom so that we can harness the developing and emerging technologies for our own to keep us ahead of our adversaries.”
The Quantum Metrology Institute will focus on research into areas of technology that have defence implications including navigation, communication, and high-speed computing.