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Countries investing in “Dual use technologies” to foster Military innovation

Historically and during the cold war military technology programs drove many commercial successes like Nuclear power, GPS, Internet, Computers, Jet Engines, semiconductor and integrated circuits, and these were driven by Department of Defense’s comprehensive and well-resourced investment plans.  Duct tape was invented to protect ammunition cases from water during World War II. The internet grew out of a military research project. Navigation devices, such as Google Maps, rely on satellites created to guide fighter jets, warships and military forces. Global Positioning System (GPS) is based on network of satellites set up by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1970s. Radars developed before World War II by military are now used in many civilian applications including air traffic control and weather forecasting. Invention of Jet engines and other aircraft technologies is now enabling the growth of Air travel. Drones which are becoming increasingly popular for surveillance and photography in commercial and civilian use can be traced to military.

Today the situation has changed radically. The total federal spending on R&D has fallen to 3-4% of the budget, and private industry spends much more than government does. Military R&D is also characterized by low levels of productivity of the investment. Melman has reported that the US Commerce Department estimates that a commercial patent requires on average ten man-years of industrial R&D to be developed, and a thousands man-years for the R&D that the Defense Department and NASA contract out or perform in-house. (Melman 1983: 178). The technology innovation have outpaced military innovations in many areas like in communications and ICT and also become more decentralized.

This is driving various countries to look to industry to sustain innovation and maintain technology superiority by investing in dual use technologies. Dual-Use Technology – comprises goods and technologies developed to meet commercial needs but which may be used either as military components or for the development or production of military systems.

The COTS products allow military to reap the benefits of commercial R&D, cost reduction due to economies of scale in manufacturing of COTS and take advantage of the large-scale support and logistics available. Additionally, the ability to adopt COTS technology to conform to international interoperability standards enables the military to communicate between different services, and also with coalition and alliance partners, writes Charlie Kawasaki.

DoD is no less innovative today, Work undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics said, but “now there are many dual-use technologies that are being driven by the commercial sector.” He cited examples such as robotics, used in both the private sector and DoD, and cyberdefense, which is an area of concern in both sectors. “Innovation in areas such as big data, analytics, autonomy and robotics is going on in [Silicon Valley] and we want to tap into it,” Work, said.

In December 2013, the European Council itself tasked the European Defence Agency and other bodies to better exploit civil-military synergies. The European council suggested “Desegmentation of civil and military research”, by allowing funding to flow from one side to the other, major spin-offs between defence and civil research could be achieved. “It is worth remembering that few technologies are military or civil by nature, especially at low technological readiness.

China’s leaders are continuing to promote “military-civilian integration” as a core component of the country’s military development strategy. China’s leaders believe this integration will help China continue its rapid defense modernization without creating too great a drag on its economy. Deeply-rooted barriers, redundancies, and incompatibilities between the military and civilian sectors have yet to be resolved before this integration can occur.

US’s Third Offset strategy and Defense Innovation Initiative

In November 2014, then–Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a new Defense Innovation Initiative, which included the Third Offset Strategy. Hagel said, “This new initiative is an ambitious department-wide effort to identify and invest in innovative ways to sustain and advance America’s military dominance for the 21st century.”

Many of the technologies the DoD will depend on in future will come from outside the DoD. The declining military budgets, the industry are investing less in new technology and increasingly depend on the global market for innovation. “We must be open to global, commercial technology as well, and learn from advances in the private sector,” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told the House defense appropriations subcommittee.

Unlike the first two offset strategies, the third one could rely on commercially driven technology such as robotics, autonomously operating vehicles, guidance and control systems, visualization, biotechnology, miniaturization, advanced computing, big data analytics and additive manufacturing.

In the last 2 years, the Department has initiated two programs, DIUx [Defense Innovation Unit Experimental] and In-Q-Tel, intended to strengthen its collaboration with tech firms, entrepreneurs, and start-ups. Many of these small innovative commercial firms lack knowledge about defense systems, organizations, and problems that could benefit from their products and technology, and that is why we have made investments in activities like DIUx in Silicon Valley as a way to help match DOD customers with some of those potential sources of advanced capabilities that are rising from the commercial enterprises, says DOD

US DoD has launched Long-Range Research and Development Program Plan (LRRDP) to attract IDEAS from across the defense industrial base, commercial industry, government and individuals to identify the “art of the possible” for future National Security systems

DOD has created a hub Defense Innovation Unit (DIUx) as a core initiative to increase DoD’s access to innovative, leading-edge technologies from high-tech, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. The goal is to preserve the nation’s technological superiority, by integrating the rapidly evolving commercial technologies within military systems and concepts of operations.

 

Australia

Australian  small to medium enterprises have often found it difficult to engage with Defence due to the fragmented nature of innovation programs and complex entry processes. The Australian  Government is  implementing a new approach to Defence innovation that will address these barriers and more effectively access the potential of Australian defence industry to innovate.This new approach will provide greater transparency of Defence needs, seed and nurture innovative technologies and the companies developing them, and develop regulatory and cultural processes to facilitate innovation.

The new approach to Defence innovation

Defence’s new approach to innovation will comprise four key initiatives:

1. Next Generation Technologies Fund—around $730 million (over the decade to FY 2025–26) will be invested in strategic next generation technologies that have the potential to deliver game-changing capabilities.

2. Defence Innovation Hub—around $640 million (over the decade to FY 2025–26) will be invested in a new virtual
Defence Innovation Hub to enable industry and Defence to undertake collaborative innovation activities throughout the
Defence capability life cycle from initial concept, through prototyping and testing to introduction into service.

3. Defence Innovation Portal—as part of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC), the Portal will facilitate
engagement between Defence and innovation activities across Australia. The Portal will provide vital connections between
small to medium enterprises and Defence, helping companies understand Defence capability needs and supporting their
ability to contribute to Defence innovation requirements.

4. Changed culture and processes—Defence will change its culture and business processes to systematically remove
barriers to innovation. The first step will be to develop new contracting and intellectual property policies that
encourage investment in Australia’s good ideas, keep profits in country, and provide incentives for larger companies to
innovate in Australia.

 

Europe

In December 2013, the European Council itself tasked the European Defence Agency and other bodies to better exploit civil-military synergies.

This issue should be tackled in three ways:

Desegmentation of civil and military research

If we want the civilian and defence worlds to effectively cross-feed each other, then it is necessary to proceed with the desegmentation of civil and military research. By allowing funding to flow from one side to the other, major spin-offs between defence and civil research could be achieved. “It is worth remembering that few technologies are military or civil by nature, especially at low technological readiness. Only when applied and used in a given system does a specific technology become military or commercial,” says EDU.

Optimization and prioritization of technology-based production capabilities

The application of innovative technologies often requires considerable investments to move from the lab to serial production. And very often, such investments are only viable if this production is designed to address all potential markets: civil, defence and space.

The European Defence Agency, in close cooperation with the Commission and industry, is investigating which key enabling technologies need a priority and focused investment effort to sustain the European supply chain. These are technologies such as components (silicum, gallium arsenide, infrared detectors), carbon fibre or optical devices. Europeans need to invest in these domains to level the playing field then to define priorities on related key industrial capabilities.

Increase funding for defence research
Defence research budgets have been cut by 20% over the last six years. The risk is real to lose the ability to reach critical mass in a number of technology areas. This would not only jeopardise Europe’s strategic autonomy, but would also impede the long-term competitiveness of its high-tech commercial industry. It has been said that defence and space are to aviation what Formula One is to the automotive industry: a formidable cradle of innovation and technological breakthroughs.

The situation is all the more worrying since, according to a study commissioned by the European Defence Agency, the multiplier effect on GDP growth for an investment in defence research & technology is 12 to 20 times higher than in other areas of public spending. Therefore, investment in defence R&T must be a logical component of any comprehensive growth policy.

 

China

China’s leaders are continuing to promote “military-civilian integration” as a core component of the country’s military development strategy. China’s leaders believe this integration will help China continue its rapid defense modernization without creating too great a drag on its economy. Deeply-rooted barriers, redundancies, and incompatibilities between the military and civilian sectors have yet to be resolved before this integration can occur.

“It mainly means the military needs to take more advantage of civilian power in development of technology, from theory building to armour manufacturing,” said Ni Lexiong, Shanghai-based naval expert.

The second China Military and Civilian Integration Expo was held in Beijing’s National Convention Center. The three-day event provided an open platform for the exchange and integration of military and civilian technology.”Through in-depth development of military-civilian integration, military technologies are gradually applied in civilian fields, making high-tech equipment available to commercial markets. At the same time, we have also emphasized the importance of encouraging more civilian product suppliers to actively participate in the defense-building process,” said Dai Hao, Director-General of China’s Institute of Command and Control.

Sophisticated technologies were displayed during the Expo: These include command information system, armored vehicles for transportation, the virtual combat training system, cyber security, anti-terrorism robots, drones, unmanned patrol boat, vehicle-mounted sonic weapons, emergency rescue system, as well as border monitoring and control system.

“We have the virtual combat training system here on display. Using a virtual reality technology and simulation system, 3D training scenarios could be built. With V-R facilities, soldiers could feel as if they are in a real battlefield and practice tactical combat skills,” said Zhang Ke, Vice General Manager of Beijing Huaru Technology.

“This is an autonomous boat. It can be used for hydrology research, scientific exploration, hydrographic surveys, emergency search and rescues, security patrols and other work on the seas. It can also carry unmanned underwater vehicles for performing a variety of tasks,” said Zhang Yunfei, Chairman of Yunzhou-Tech

The EU Council on Foreign Relations reports that, “Since the Cultural Revolution, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has acquired civilian industries, which it has helped to protect in stormy times, and which have become a source of profits for the military.” “Dual use development has provided an indirect way to acquire foreign technologies, which could eventually be transferred to weapons production.” Dual use technologies include information technology, microelectronics, aerospace, and other commercial technologies that can be adopted for military purposes.

China is pursuing a massive military modernisation aimed at winning “local wars under conditions of informatisation,” and is actively using Western dual use technologies to upgrade its defence capabilities, the US Defence Department has said.

Noting that China continues to modernise its military by incorporating Western (mostly US) dual-use technologies, which have also assisted its overall indigenous industrial, military industrial, and high-technology sector development, the report said one of China’s stated national security objectives is to leverage legally and illegally acquired dual-use and military-related technologies to its advantage.

 

Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to work with firms to harness technologies that have both military and commercial uses to spur industrial innovation, said the sources, which are helping devise the policy.

The idea would be for NEDO to identify promising technologies and then partner with companies on the research to see if it appealed to customers both at home and abroad, they added. NEDO’s role would end at the research stage.

The sources said the plan would accompany a reorganisation already underway at NEDO to make it resemble the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which funds a wide range of research with military applications.
Beneficiaries from the plan could include Japanese makers of robots, autonomous vehicles, sensors and ceramics along with advanced nanotechnology.

Dual-use research could help firms such as Toray Industries (3402.T), the world’s leading maker of carbon fibre, stay ahead of foreign competitors by creating lighter and stronger fibres for military markets that initially would be too expensive for commercial customers, added the sources. Toray supplies the carbon fibre that Boeing (BA.N) uses in the body of its 787 Dreamliner.

 

India

The Indian government recently approved a Defence Innovation Fund (DIF), which aims to create, “an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence,” according to a statement by Minister of State for Defence Dr. Subhash Bhamre.

The idea is to engage R&D organisations, academia and industry – including startups and “individual innovators,” providing them with funding to develop ideas, products and services that have the potential for future commercialisation. Initial funding for the scheme will be provided by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), with grants from government agencies and other not-for-profit organisations – both public and private – in prospect as the scheme matures.

In a parallel move the government has also launched a Technology Development Fund (TDF) which aims to support the development of defence and dual-use technologies not currently in use or development in India, thereby creating a culture of innovative development for defence applications. Providing grants for design and development of key defence technologies, TDF is administered by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

 

References and resources also include:

http://www.monch.com/mpg/news/11-air/1215-india-launches-defence-innovation-fund.html

http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/Docs/2016-Defence-Industry-Policy-Statement.pdf

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