NZDIA Update – Welcome to the ‘Age of Surprises’

Line of Defence Magazine, Spring 2018

NZ Stand
NZ Inc. hits Land Forces 2018.

New Zealand Defence Industry Association CEO Jennie Vickers talks Defence and Industry as part of the broader national security system, takeaways from Land Forces, and, of course, the 2018 NZDIA Annual Forum.

The 2018 NZDIA Forum is fast approaching and has been the centre of NZDIA’s attention for many months. This year the theme is  “Exploring the Role of Industry in National and Regional Security”. This theme reflects the maturity of industry in recognising the need for a cross-industry support of national security agencies, even before the agencies were ready to reach out for it!

The Forum programme is, we think, unique in the region, weaving topics rarely seen together on the same agenda. The next edition of Line of Defence will have full reports on the proceedings.

The previous months have, despite the domination of the Forum, also included an exceptional Member Meeting in Wellington showcasing “R&D through to Reality” and the Annual Executive Lunch where CDF spoke to industry for the first time in his new role.

NZDIA’s collaborations with NZTE and NZDF (supporting NZ Inc exports) continued in this second half of the year, with a presence at Land Forces.

The numerous Land Forces conferences kicked off Monday 3 September with the Land Environment Working Group Sessions. Land Forces had multiple conference streams underway and it is impossible to be at everything, and nearly as impossible to comment on every session.

Despite that, I can pick out two sessions to highlight, and these were from the Australian Army’s Brigadier Chris Mills, in his presentation on Land Combat Systems and Army Innovation.

The evolving sophistication and deliberate intentions of the Army innovation programme, in collaboration with the Defence Innovation Hub is impressive. The data around sums invested and speed of application processing gives us some structure to emulate (copy) in New Zealand and a model that will increasingly encourage industry to engage.

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At the end of the session on Land Combat Systems the Brigadier aired a new video on the theme of “Army’s response to the changing characteristics of war”. The video laid out the many challenges being faced, but I was particularly struck by the closing message in the video: that we are now in the ‘Age of Surprises’.

The trouble with many sessions at conferences around innovation is that they tend to have the same language content and interchangeable slides with a few examples of successes from innovation exercises. In many organisations they – in reality – merely represent some success tweaking around the edges of an organisation that continues to believe that it’s in control of its environment.

It would seem that the Australian Army has reached the conclusion in viewing both the role of innovation and the role of modern combat, that the only constant is, in fact, ‘surprises’ – not change. This shift bodes well for developing the mindsets needed to keep them one step ahead.

This concept of the Age of Surprises resonates well when thinking about Defence as a part of the national security system. New Zealand is maybe more uniquely situated from a cultural perspective to deal with surprises than change. No. 8 fencing wire is so much more suited to dealing with surprises than with changes!

NZDIA has developed a graphic which is published free of copyright showing all the NZ Government agencies that feature in the NZ National Security system. It will inevitably need to evolve (every time an agency has a name change) but it does provide a useful aide memoire for industry to use, to see where their innovations in one space could serve the national security requirements of another. Any suggestions for improvement are most welcome.