The UK’s security exports are booming, and DIT’s Defence and Security Organisation is helping businesses present a united front when competing for international trade. Deputy director Tracy Buckingham for security and cyber security tells all
Can you tell us what DIT DSO does, and what your role involves?
The Department for International Trade Defence and Security Organisation supports British companies in the defence, security and cyber sectors to succeed overseas. We have around 100 staff in London, as well as access to DIT colleagues based at diplomatic posts in over 100 overseas markets to promote the best of British innovation.
I am the deputy director for security and cyber security. My team provides guidance and support to companies across this diverse sector, from physical security to fire safety; disaster relief to network security. Our knowledge of UK capability and access to contacts enables us to work in partnership with industry to identify relevant opportunities, match these to solutions and provide introductions that help companies achieve export success.
There has been big growth recently in security exports – has that shifted the balance of your own work?
The value of exports by the security sector has increased from just £1.5bn in 2008 to £5.2bn in the last financial year. While we have seen growth across the entire sector, there has been a pronounced surge in the value of cybersecurity exports, reflecting the increasing threat that cyber attacks represent. In response to this, the government produced a Cyber Security Export Strategy in 2018 and appointed our second cybersecurity ambassador for the UK, Dr Henry Pearson, last year as well as recruiting cyber specialists to support the Middle East and United States markets.
To further underline the importance of growth in this sector, we published a new Security Export Strategy in September 2019. My role and team were created as part of this to provide greater focus within the department and champion our engagement in these two important sectors.
What has caused the increase in UK security exports over the past decade?
Across the globe, governments, businesses and individuals are united by the same challenge: how to stay safe in an ever-changing world. As threats have evolved, more innovative solutions have been required. This has resulted in increased security spending, especially in areas such as transport and border security, as well as protection of critical national infrastructure. We have also seen an increased investment in cybersecurity as the threats continue to grow there. These are some of the areas that have contributed to the increase in UK security exports.
What would you see as the key strengths and capabilities of the UK security and resilience sector, and how are these seen by international allies?
The UK has a multitude of capabilities and experience across this sector, which is reflected in the quality of the products and services that we sell overseas. In particular, UK companies are recognised for the innovative solutions they develop in a rapidly-changing threat landscape. Our international allies often come to the UK seeking solutions to their national security challenges: cybersecurity, protection of critical national infrastructure and emergency response. Overseas buyers frequently look to our public and private sector institutions to help guide their procurement decisions because of the quality assurance that this provides.
What are the key features of the 2019 UK Security Export Strategy?
The main feature of the strategy is its collaborative nature, which was jointly developed with other government departments and our partners in industry. This was important to ensure that when competing for business around the world, the UK is united. This renewed partnership began before the strategy launch at Security & Policing 2019, where then-secretary of state Liam Fox signed a collaborative agreement with the Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers Community (RISC) to formalise the partnership. This agreement has had a great effect on the cohesion and coordination of the strategy’s implementation.
The strategy itself is built around the four pillars of the government’s wider export strategy – encourage, inform, connect and finance. We are working to encourage companies to share their exporting know-how and success with others through face-to-face contact and through the department’s promotional campaigns. We have also engaged industry specialists to help us develop in-depth guides to the UK’s capabilities, starting with border security and securing crowded places. Finally, we’re supporting several sector-specific trade missions to key foreign markets and ensuring that UK companies can access the whole range of support provided by our overseas staff.
How does DIT DSO work with other government partners and industry to promote UK security exports?
As well as collaborating with industry, we recognise the need to be more joined up across government. We have recently strengthened our relationships with those departments whose work also supports the security industry, most notably the Home Office’s Joint Security and Resilience Centre, the Defence and Security Accelerator and the Department for Transport.
As a result of this, JSaRC recently supported DSO and the sector at two international security exhibitions, Milipol Paris and Intersec Dubai (left). This joined-up approach enabled UK industry to benefit from coordinated government backing, increased bilateral relationships and increased in-country support.
DIT DSO also maintains strong relationships through the industry’s trade associations, both individually and through RISC, where we are represented on the key working groups which support the companies that they represent.
How will the government support businesses seeking major security export opportunities in 2020?
As set out in the Security Export Strategy, we will be strengthening our support to UK companies at the key domestic and international trade shows throughout the year, alongside an extensive programme of overseas missions and inward visits – which provide opportunities to introduce manufacturers and suppliers to key foreign buyers. We will also be working with industry to exploit the opportunities that arise from forthcoming international events and large-scale infrastructure developments. This is an area where we continue to develop our knowledge of what UK companies offer and how we can best support them in presenting to international customers.
You are very involved in at the Home Office’s annual Security & Policing event – what is DIT DSO’s role at, and priorities for, the event?
DIT DSO acts as the official host to the international security delegates at Security & Policing. This year we will be accompanying delegations from over 60 countries who are in attendance to look at UK solutions to the security threats that they face. We will also be conducting bilateral meetings with several governments, focusing on how UK companies can help. We will be continuing our efforts to encourage more exports, and we are excited to be able to talk to exhibitors about their exporting journey and to signpost them to the government support they can draw on to increase their level of success.