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IR Volume 2 Hero image ;

Private Sector Engagement After the Integrated Review

This essay was first published in October 2021, in the second volume of the Centre for Defence Studies series on The Integrated Review in Context: Defence and Security in Focus.

Fusion is dead. Long live integration! Introduced by the former National Security Adviser, Sir (now Lord) Mark Sedwill, the Fusion Doctrine introduced in the National Security Capability Review (NSCR) of 2018 split opinion amongst UK security policymakers. Some said it was nothing new - deeper joint working across the national security machinery was long considered essential, and fusion was just the latest buzzword for the ‘comprehensive’, ‘whole of government’, or ‘whole society’ approaches previously advocated. While it is a political reality that a Government’s position has to distinguish itself from the last, and while some elements of the Fusion Doctrine have been retained, the UK Government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (IR) published in March 2021 largely discarded the term.

In its defence, the Fusion Doctrine marked a departure from previous statements in an important respect. The centre of Government now recognised fully that industry is a core and integral component of the UK’s national security approach, and no longer simply a provider of technical solutions. Its contributions were more than a ‘bolt on’ and the private sector would be a mainstream actor. The NSCR stated explicitly that ‘[m]any capabilities that can contribute to national security lie outside traditional national security departments and so we need stronger partnerships across government and with the private and third sectors.’

Many were sceptical. Some called it the confusion doctrine. However, enthusiasm for the embrace of industry within national security policymaking grew to the extent that the Home Office’s annual major industry exhibition included a brand new ‘Fusion Forum’ in 2020. This interactive theatre-style feature delivered three days’ worth of high-level discussion on industry’s contributions to national security.

The Fusion Doctrine’s time has passed and integration is now the focus. So, how did the IR fare in its recognition of industrial and wider private sector contributions to UK national security?– Hugo Rosemont

The document is peppered with helpful acknowledgments, across multiple domains and sub-sectors of national security and resilience, that Government and industry must work together to ensure the safety and security of the UK. Further, it states the now well-documented ambition - reflected in one of the four overarching objectives of the entire document - for the UK to secure its position as a ‘Science and Tech Superpower’. It fully acknowledges industry’s role in achieving this.

The IR rightly casts widely the landscape of public-private security engagement. In addition to the many interfaces on technological innovation - both from the regulatory and supply-side perspectives - the importance of industry engagement is acknowledged in other areas including, to name but a few: advancing vaccine development, tackling climate change, advancing UK cyber power credentials, developing new space capabilities, and developing dialogue with industry around international standards-setting fora. Numerous hooks are offered for meaningful partnership working.


the IR is light on detail regarding how, from the centre, the Government will work with the private sector to implement its national security objectives. – Hugo Rosemont

It is not clear how the multiple strands of engagement will interact or be coordinated. The sense left is that such work is best left to individual departmental strategies, or sectoral policy statements. The IR’s accompanying defence and security documents - such as the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy (DSIS) or the upcoming, updated National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) - are seen as the best places for such activity.


The deepening of industry engagement at individual departmental level is essential. Well before the IR, parts of Government had advanced the need for industry to be ‘integrated’ into UK security strategy. However, we now need a debate, given the multiplicity of public-private interfaces within the IR, on whether stronger central coordination is required.

What does ‘good’ look like in this respect, and how might it be achieved?

For industry contributions to be harnessed to the full, the UK Government needs to apply the same level of care it puts towards coordinating itself to the manner in which it pursues its external engagements. – Hugo Rosemont

I’d offer three ideas that would put industry engagement after the IR on a more sustainable footing:

i.First, the Cabinet Office should advance a whole of government approach to industry engagement on UK national security and resilience issues. This should accommodate strategy and thinking from across Whitehall through the multiple lenses through which Government views industry’s role in national security: as a regulator, as a purchaser, as a shaper of innovation. A more carefully crafted approach from the centre will drive greater coherence, and help to build trust and goodwill across the system.

ii.Second, the Government should form an overarching private sector engagement strategy for national security and resilience. By mapping the interfaces centrally, this strategy will drive a more coherent approach to private sector engagement in the round. It would introduce a level of organisation that enabled senior figures to move beyond tired statements along the lines that ‘industry needs to do more’ or ‘government cannot achieve this alone’. A new strategy, formed with genuine private sector consultation, would identify, prioritise and communicate key areas of practical future cooperation.

iii.Finally, a senior official should be appointed in the National Security Secretariat to oversee this work. This post would have responsibility for overseeing industry engagement on all matters relating to the technology and national security interface. Calls have been made recently for a UK Deputy National Security Adviser on Cyber Security. This is sensible but we should reflect arrangements in the U.S., where Anne Neuberger serves as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology. Without this wider scope, the UK risks adopting an ad hoc approach towards industry engagement.

The IR is a substantial achievement. It maps out numerous public-private interfaces in key areas of national security and resilience, and serves as a useful foundation on which to develop future cooperation. The question now, as ever, is: how to achieve this?

The breadth of private sector engagement on security issues means that coordination now needs to be driven from the centre.– Hugo Rosemont

Dr Hugo Rosemont is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.


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Hugo Rosemont

Hugo Rosemont

Visiting Senior Research Fellow

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