Governments’ Uphill Battle: Closing the Defense Industry Innovation Readiness Gap

By Mariola García-Cañada Published on Jul. 12, 2023

The rapid pace of innovation challenges the defense industry to adopt technological advancements in their operations, leaving the defense ministries without fulfilling their objectives. A study by the Munich Security Conference Innovation Board and Boston Consulting Group, which looked at the innovation activity of 59 defense ministries over the past two years, found that ministries had an average of 8% below their 2021 innovation performance.

This shows that although governments are committed to developing their military capabilities following the latest technological trends, figures don’t follow, and the defense innovation gap is widening. Closing this gap requires proactive efforts from the governmental authorities to adapt the sector’s innovation and effectively keep up with the rapid technological advancements.

Exploring the catalysts: Factors widening the defense innovation gap

Download the case study: The Success Story of Hamburg Invest and Plug and Play

Several internal and external factors have influenced the defense and innovation readiness gap, slowing the defense forces' willingness to take advantage of technological advances.

Internally, budgetary restrictions and difficulties in collaborating with innovation agencies have limited the ministries of defense's ability to achieve the necessary level of innovation.

This has resulted in a lack of resources for research and development, limiting innovation and modernization in the defense industry and preventing the achievement of innovation goals.

Furthermore, the divide between the public sector and private corporations, along with procedural barriers, has impeded the defense industry’s ability to reach an agreement prioritizing innovation and stagnating its capacity to leverage development.

Externally, the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on the global economy and the immeasurable technological growth left governments unable to follow the pace of innovation in defense. The international paradigm didn’t contribute positively to the government’s capability to innovate, leaving the focus of public expenditure on economic development rather than on innovation in the defense sector.

The imperative to decrease the defense innovation readiness gap: human suffering


This situation has propelled human suffering globally, demonstrating the importance of decreasing the imbalance between defense and innovation and creating a powerful imperative to develop defense capabilities to stop the population's suffering.

The repercussions of the defense innovation readiness gap are evident, ranging from unpreparedness and technological inferiority to increased vulnerability to counterattacks and natural disasters. These inefficiencies are risking the well-being and security of civilians as the defense sector fails to leverage technological advancements.

The consequences of this readiness gap are clear in recent events, such as the war in Ukraine, natural disasters like earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, cyclones in Madagascar, Malawi, and Mozambique, and wildfires in North America. These tragedies could’ve been less severe and resulted in fewer fatalities if appropriate technological advancements had been in place.

The imbalance between innovation and the defense industry has cost the lives of millions, demonstrating the urgency of achieving a high standard of innovation to protect civilians in situations of risk.

The impact of innovation on the defense industry


Eliminating defense-related issues is unfeasible, but innovation can limit its impact in several positive ways. Innovative defense technologies can contribute to the industry by decreasing war casualties, increasing training preparedness, and boosting efficiency in defense operations.

Automating war using drones in military operations would decrease fatalities among military and civilians. Targeted attacks can be delivered safely from a remote location without the military being physically involved. Furthermore, virtual reality and data analytics advancements can transform military training by creating simulated scenarios while assessing capabilities, improving skills, and catalyzing policy and practice fixes.

In addition, these innovative defense technologies can also be used to find those at risk by implementing human sensing systems in rescue activities. Human sensing systems can help identify people who have gone missing during natural disasters, increasing the possibilities of survival.

Enhancing defense technology innovation: Policy recommendations

The importance and urgency of innovation in the defense sector cannot be overstated. To decrease the defense innovation readiness gap, the defense ministries must take action and make policy changes to foster change, such as:

Increase financial allocations to innovation

Innovation should be a priority in the defense industry to enhance the population’s security - This means increasing financial allocations toward new defense technologies. However, innovation should not be limited to armament development, but also give importance to the preparation, implementation, and maintenance of innovative practices.

Establish clear objectives and elaborate an innovation roadmap

To ensure successful defense innovation, ministries must establish clear and specific objectives and elaborate a roadmap for defense innovation. Setting the steps to follow would facilitate the necessary changes in society to give innovation the importance it deserves and ensure the process is sustainable.

Increase collaboration and partnerships with private-sector innovation

Eliminating the gap between public institutions and private companies is a must to establish influential relationships that enable the boost of innovation. The ministries of defense are entitled to find the synergies between both sectors to develop innovative solutions that help surpass the challenges the sector is currently facing and lead the necessary changes to decrease the defense-innovation imbalance.

Reducing the defense innovation readiness gap is crucial to protect civilians from potential harm. Advancements in defense technology ought to be implemented to safeguard the population from adverse conditions that contribute to extreme insecurity.

Governments have the power to lead this change, and with the help of corporates like Plug and Play, that support and promote the innovation process, we can enhance the security of citizens worldwide. Are you ready to make the change? Join our platform today