Higher purpose focus: expanding the role of the high technology industry

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Higher purpose focus: expanding the role of the high technology industry

As the belt tightens on defense budgets worldwide, the high technology sector of aerospace, defense and security companies is starting to reevaluate increasingly outdated business lines. It is in this space that the sector must think innovatively in order to adapt to today's changing needs. Indeed, as the traditional defense market shrinks, significant opportunities are emerging to supply security technology to non-traditional customers--like developing states and emerging economies grappling with 21st century transnational challenges. Meeting these new demands will not only bolster businesses' bottom lines in a time of fiscal austerity, but also help achieve national security objectives and boost poorer countries' development aspirations.

The Stimson Center recognizes that there is untapped potential at the intersection of wise public policy and corporations' profit goals. Therefore, since 2010, the Center has developed an innovative model for engaging governments, private industry and civil society in a fundamentally different conversation on facilitating sustainable development through societal security capacity building. The model-which has already received significant traction in the United States and Europe-centers around the axiom that there are market driven incentives for the high technology industry to do well by doing good.

Through research, partnerships and outreach with a wide range of stakeholders worldwide, the project seeks to redefine the narrative and expand the focus on technology as a force multiplier for security and development, particularly in largely untapped or expanding markets, such as Central and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Project staff are frequently asked to brief policymakers, industry actors and civil society groups on the model and the topic has been the focus of several recent public speaking engagements.

In 2013 and beyond, Stimson will continue to work with industry partners, governments and civil society to build pragmatic and replicable pilot projects that fuse government capacity building with the technology, systems and training available in the private sector. Initiatives are already underway in Africa and Central America. To better share the lessons learned and to more fully understand the motivations of the security and defense industry, Stimson looks forward to advancing existing relationships with industry and to forging new partnerships with the security and defense sector.

Project background and scope

In this interconnected world, national security depends less and less on military firepower. Defense, security and economic prosperity are instead increasingly defined by insecure nations that are vulnerable to criminal enterprises and terrorist groups. In this geostrategic environment, a major endeavor is, thus, to build resilient societies able to safeguard against these illicit actors.

The security, defense and infrastructure industries have the technology, skills and solutions to support the emergence of resilient and secure societies. These sectors can provide high-tech solutions to fight crime, facilitate food and energy security, combat public health scourges, offer creative ways to adapt to climate change and develop states' resiliency to natural disasters. This type of capacity-building is a cornerstone of any nation's development strategy. Moreover, it furthers global security because of the transnational nature of today's illicit networks-one country's weakness can pose a danger for all countries. It is therefore up to countries with advanced industries to encourage companies to develop a product and service portfolio that can then be utilized to address today's and tomorrow's needs and challenges. Industries, for their part, can benefit from expanding collaborations with each other and with governments to strengthen infrastructure and security at borders, ports and cities worldwide.   

Companies that develop partnerships to become leading providers of infrastructure and societal security will not only be doing good, they will also benefit financially. Over the next quarter-century, the world will spend $40 trillion on infrastructure, and the market for societal security spending is already worth more than $200 billion.  The latter figure primarily represents markets in developed states and rising economic powerhouses. In the next quarter-century, this number is expected to grow exponentially larger due to increasing demand in the developing world. In the next 25 years, Africa alone will require more than $1 trillion in infrastructure upgrades, which will simultaneously require built-in security. Moreover, the U.S., European nations, Japan and emerging regional powers like Brazil are increasingly recognizing the interconnected nature of today's security and development challenges and are interested in engaging the private sector for mutual benefit.

Expanding this hybrid framework generates many winners: Governments make progress toward fulfilling security and development objectives worldwide and weaker states gain access to the technology necessary to further national progress.  Finally, private corporations increase profits and expand market shares into emerging and developing countries.



    For more information, please contact:

    Johan Bergenäs
    Deputy Director
    Managing Across Boundaries program
    Stimson Center
    [email protected]

    Esha Mufti
    Research Assistant
    Managing Across Boundaries program
    Stimson Center
    [email protected]