For the last century, battles have been fought on land, air and sea. But the rise of new threats takes the fight to new dimensions: space and cyberspace.

With the world changing rapidly around us, the UK Ministry of Defence is making giant strides to meet new opportunities and recognise new threats. Digitalisation is taking centre stage within future defence strategy. Jonathon Gill, the UK head of defence and aerospace for global professional services and advisory firm KPMG, shares his thoughts on the new direction with FINN. 

Gill said it was likely that the ever-increasing use of smartphones would be used for malicious purposes “to exploit what people think, or the way they perceive certain images, as we’ve seen across in places like Ukraine. More and more technology has a role to play in the broader levers of defence.”

With the battlegrounds changed, the MoD is now having to defend the UK’s infrastructure in a completely different way, protecting vital operations and supplies such as Covid vaccines. Gill said: “I think the Prime Minister spelt it out very nicely when he launched the integrated review back in November. Technology is revolutionising warfare. And you’ve touched on examples there, around, for example, the pharmaceutical industry.”

Both industries and nations need to defend themselves

“Behind the scenes, there are always going to be cyber attacks, and therefore, industry needs to defend itself, as well as the nation needing to defend itself. More and more, you’re seeing the use of autonomous systems, AI, virtual reality, synthetic environments, quantum computing, and that’s totally transforming defence.”

Technology and data have now joined the arms race, Gill said creativity and industry collaboration will now become part of the solution. “Therefore we can agree standards and operate from single versions of the truth. But I think also, it’s an arms race for the right skills. And having a diverse, inclusive workforce, which is technologically savvy is equally important, as well as having the best technological solutions and operators.”

Digitisation is both an arms race and skills race

While the demand for feet on the ground has decreased, the demand for the right talent to design and develop digital solutions will be increased. Gill said the industry needed to look ahead to ensure the right people were in place. This would include “thinking about building pipelines of future skills, future talents that are needed. That’ll start through the education system, but then also how the department itself, as well as industry, work better together.”

With the move towards digital transformation spanning the supply chain, SMEs will also have to respond to the changes: “I think you’ve seen very clearly through the defence digital strategy, that the MoD has set out to break clear articulation around how the digital backbone is going to work across the enterprise. And I think it’s a matter of how industry now needs to respond to that and actually make sure they’re also able to work in a similar way.”

Partnerships will help solve industry challenges

Collaboration within the industry was now becoming commonplace between countries and companies such as with Lockheed Martin BAE Systems, and also Eurofighter as well. Gill added that KPMG was providing support strategies and operational frameworks, helping organisations understand how to collaborate. “I think across the board, we can operate at a kind of tactical, operational, strategic level working in partnership with clients and bringing clients together to actually think about the real big thorny challenges but also converting those into actual proper solutions.”

KPMG is the headline sponsor of FIA Connect. Click on the links to watch “Future Battle Space: Next Generation Defence – Defence in a Competitive Age” and “The Future of Space Security” on demand. Watch “It’s Time to Invest in the Future of Digitisation” Innovation, Efficiency & Future-Proofing Manufacturing tomorrow (July 15) from 1:30-2:30pm.

Register for FIA Connect now


Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter