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Review: Supercharging AUKUS: Advanced Capabilities, Supply Chains & Capital, Adrian Jones (19/02/24)

The CCW Emerging Threats Group convened on February 19th, 2024, for another session in the AUKUS series, “Supercharging AUKUS: Advanced Capabilities, Supply Chains & Capital”. Led by Adrian Jones, (Co-Chair of the AUKUS Defence Investor Network and Head of Ventures at BMNT) the session focussed on how dual-use start-ups can satisfy a commercial market whilst also capturing some of the public sector market in defence and security.

Private Sector

The private sector has an emerging role to play in the development of military and defence technology. Public-private partnerships are playing an increasingly significant role in equipping countries with emerging technologies. Governments therefore are increasingly creating initiatives to kickstart research and development. NATO, for example, established DIANA (Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic) to source and accelerate dual-use innovation by providing innovation funds to help start-ups. Yet, challenges are manifold. Despite attempts to help start-ups, it is often hard for companies to secure the funding needed to facilitate and sustain innovation. Ethics around ESG (environmental, social, and governance issues) for a substantial hurdle, preventing defence companies from gaining their full potential investments. With research and development of crucial defence technology increasingly lying in the private sector, there is also an increasing need for governments to review investment policies and legislation.

Dual Use Challenges

Dual use is the attempt to create start-ups which serve both defence and security capabilities as well as maintain private sector uses. This often proves difficult, as both sectors need to back start-ups to kickstart development and innovation. Unfortunately, due to the need for connections and an established proof of concept, it is currently hard for start-ups without prior experience in the industry to establish themselves. High street banks will not loan to companies who work in the defence industry and gaining government grants proves tricky without a track record. As a result of such challenges, currently, innovative start-ups often struggle to succeed.

AUKUS

The AUKUS alliance can help bolster the defence supply chain by making use of its network of allied countries helping create mutual technological benefits and encourage collaboration. There are however concerns surrounding the disconnect between AUKUS development and government priorities. Dealing with three nations with differing levels of priorities and investments can create challenges for start-ups. AUKUS governments need to work in unison to ensure that defence restrictions are coordinated to allow the alliance to make technological progress and support private-sector innovation.

Looking Ahead

As we reconvene in Trinity term, we will continue to update our events page with upcoming speakers and events. Specifically, we are currently accepting short submissions on topics pertaining to the national security implications of critical and emerging technologies to add to our journal. If you are interested in publishing your analysis or commentary on emerging threats and technologies, please reach out to journal@emergingthreats.co.uk for more information.

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