Stephen Phipson is the head of UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) and ensures that the UKTI DSO team gives support to UK defence and security companies looking to export to foreign countries. UKTI DSO exists to provide specialist export advice and practical assistance by working closely with industry and government departments, including the Ministry of Defence. UKTI DSO aims to help the UK defence and security industry achieve export success by building relationships with selected overseas governments and raising awareness of UK industry capabilities.
Counter Terror Business spoke to Stephen to find out a little more about the current state of the UK’s defence and security exports.
CTB: We’ve noticed that security exports were up this year – was this as a result of the increase in cyber exports?
SP: We report on three sectors as UKTI DSO – we report on the defence export side, we report on security, and we report on cyber security separately. Defence and security exports in 2014 were £11.9 billion, with defence exports representing £8.5 billion and security exports representing £3.4 billion. As part of the £3.4 billion security exports, £1.5 billion were UK cyber exports.
Security exports in total saw an increase of £200 million from £3.2 billion last year. The biggest increase we saw was in cyber security, but cyber security still stands as the smallest sector out of those three and that’s because it is a new sector that is maturing and growing. The security section outside of cyber security covers all protective security equipment, police equipment and border security systems, among others. That is increasing as well, at a lower rate than cyber, but it is increasing which is good. Additionally, defence exports are roughly static, which is typical of the overall defence market. Defence exports are really driven by large contracts coming in and out in any particular year, so we tend to look at a moving average for defence over the last five years or so and look at the trend rather than individual years.
CTB: That links in to our next question, which is – do you see the increase in cyber exports being a trend, and are security/cyber exports raising faster than defence exports? If so why?
SP: Yes, we’ve touched on that, but I believe it’s worth going over. We have got a lot of interest at the higher end of cyber security in overseas countries, mainly because of our legacy of how we were able to stitch together our cyber protection for the 2012 Olympic games.
The 2012 Olympics were a great example of how the UK was able to merge together what we were doing with emergency services, what we were doing with telecoms operators and what we were doing with the data operators into a complete protective security and cyber security offer, which worked extremely well. We were able to foil all of the threats that were pointed towards the infrastructure of the Olympics, particularly through the integration of cyber security systems. The UK’s expertise is really around that, and we’ve been out there promoting our very innovative cyber security sector, but particularly this idea about providing protection and cover for things like critical infrastructure, which we classified the Olympics as a part of. So the Olympics is a really good legacy to use to go out and show people what we did and what we learned.
CTB: What types of capability are countries looking for in the security sector and are some of these linked to their keenness to respond to potential acts of terrorism?
SP: Well, security is driven by lots of different things. There is quite a trend at the moment for border security protection systems, so again, our expertise there is very much about how you integrate systems together to provide a complete security network on borders. Part of that is due to terrorism, part of it is due to migration and refugees and all sorts of other issues of border security, of which terrorism is undoubtedly one of. Really, the UK’s expertise is not just in supplying discreet bits of capability like a radar system or CCTV system, its the ability to integrate that together into a complete border security programme that’s important, and I think the UK has got a very good advantage there. For example, another advantage which is driving growth for us is our expertise in the aviation security market, where the UK is a world leader. We provide a lot of capability to the US from this country and there are around 4,000 airports around the world, with virtually every one of them using British equipment and capability.
Nowadays, of course, its not just about providing discreet systems into those pieces of infrastructure, its about how you link all that together to provide a much better view of situational awareness to help spot terrorism and terrorists trying to get through the aviation network.
The other thing to say, is that these security measures are not separate from cyber security. Very often we get to these points and, nowadays, when we’re dealing with infrastructure projects, cyber is always part of that programme, people don’t consider those to be separate exercises. So, if you’re doing a border programme or if you’re protecting a piece of national infrastructure like an energy production plant, very often an element of the project will be around cyber protection as well.
We’re very mindful that we’re able to offer a complete capability, not just bits of it, and it is that complete capability that overseas countries are looking for. We are quite mature in this area, as we’ve done a lot of this sort of work here in the UK, and it puts us in a really strong position when we’re out there talking to other governments about their protection needs, where they’ve got a lot less experience than we have in dealing with a mixture of protective security and counter terrorism type activity, as well as cyber threats in the same programme.
So it’s the ability to integrate all of that together that really sets the UK apart, and through that we’ve been able to establish consortiums of expertise, including very innovative SMEs as well as large companies, to provide a complete system to these countries and I think that’s absolutely the way forward for the UK.