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Insights Defence in Depth

The ever-developing defence sector is responsible for protecting nations around the world – but how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the sector operates and why are younger generations needed in this sector? We spoke to Adam Morris, EDP Deputy Capture Lead, about his role in the Project Management Office and his advice to young people wanting to enter the sector.

Image of Adam on a bikeWhat is your role? Can you talk about the work you do on a specific project?
I’m currently working in the Atkins Project Management Office (PMO), as part of the Aurora Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) for Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). The Aurora Engineering Partnership is a collaboration between Atkins, QinetiQ and BMT to support DE&S in reducing the costs of their engineering services, whilst also delivering the best equipment and support for UK Armed Forces.

Within the PMO, I work as part of the Capture team. I am thoroughly enjoying this, as it has given me the opportunity to work collaboratively with our partner companies (and extensive supply chain) to provide DE&S with solutions that deliver value for money in an agile way. I am also a Project Manager on tasks which are contracted through the framework. This secondary role has allowed me to work closely with our customers in DE&S to deliver their projects and see the value that the Aurora Engineering Partnership brings on a local level to the Delivery Teams.

I have been amazed at how my colleagues within the Atkins EDP team have quickly adapted to working virtually throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued to successfully achieve what has been asked of them. Whilst we are a hard-working team, we have also managed to have fun, with my personal highlights being the virtual murder mystery and our weekly Menti quizzes.

Do you feel we’re on track to improve challenges within the sector, or is change needed?
Change is definitely needed with regards to one of the biggest challenges facing the sector: achieving carbon neutrality. Within this sector, this challenge is a particularly large and difficult one, as the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is responsible for 50% of Government greenhouse gas emissions. For the Government to achieve its goal of bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to Net Zero by 2050, it will need suppliers who can help provide sustainable defence support.
To meet this ambitious and critical goal, the MOD will need to provide ways of reducing emissions across the entire spectrum of their operations (from procurement to logistics and maintenance of equipment).

Why do you think it’s important to work in and learn about this industry? 
Not only is the defence industry one of critical importance, most recently demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic where it has played a significant and leading role in helping the country navigate through the crisis, but the work it undertakes is at the heart of the UK Government’s drive to innovate on the global stage. This makes the industry a particularly fast-paced environment to work in and will require a lot of innovative thinking to continue developing rapidly.

As somebody in the first half of their career, I believe we need to proactively engage with our industry partners to support the UK Government and provide them with the flexible acquisition routes they need in order to deliver and grow much-needed onshore skills, technologies and capabilities. Our Engineering Delivery Partner contract with DE&S is a great example of how strategic partnerships can benefit the UK Government and the industry as a whole.

While competition will remain an important way to drive value for money in many areas and within supply chains, we need flexibility in our acquisition strategies to deliver and grow the onshore skills, technologies and capabilities we need. We must also ensure consistent consideration of the longer-term implications of the MOD’s procurement decisions for military capability and the industry that produces and supports it.

What does the defence sector need to do to keep up with the constant changes and fast pace of the industry?
As the pace of technological advancement continues at break-neck speed, this is an exciting industry to be working in as it needs to always be ready to pivot and respond to emerging threats and changes in the environment. The Government’s recent announcement about the establishment of the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) is testament to its belief that this industry can have a transformational impact on society. The facility is inspired by the USA’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is behind inventions ranging from the internet and GPS to Apple’s Siri, so I’m excited to see ground-breaking work coming out of it.

What would you personally say to get younger people interested in the defence sector?
I would stress to younger people, especially those interested in STEM subjects, that the defence sector will continue to be a fast-moving and exciting space to work in and will require new and innovative ways of thinking from future generations. Unlike many sectors, defence has been able to quickly adapt to the national lockdown and this resilience means that it is an attractive space for companies from outside the sector to enter.

In order for this sector to continue its rate of growth, younger generations will need to challenge themselves to innovate and take risks - and those who do will be invaluable enablers of change.

Why do you think we should continue shining the spotlight on the younger generations already in the industry?
The younger generations already in the industry need to be brought to the fore as the responsibility for tackling the issues facing the sector will increasingly become theirs. Some of these issues, like the climate crisis, are existential and cannot be afforded for work on them to slow down. Therefore, by shining the spotlight on the younger generations and involving them in these conversations as early as possible in their careers, we can ensure that they are suitably equipped to take over from the older generations when called upon.

It is an exciting time to be working for AtkinsRéalis in the defence sector, as we continue to commit ourselves to supporting our customers to achieve their strategic goals and positively transform society for future generations. As a leading innovator in the engineering industry, AtkinsRéalis has underlined our ambitious nature by making clear our desire to drive positive change and achieve Net Zero as quickly as possible. I believe bold and laser-focussed stances like this will continue to attract the younger generations through our graduate and apprentice hiring routes. This will benefit the business and our clients alike as these younger generations bring in fresh perspectives and a hunger to continue pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve.