Dual-Use Defense Tech: One Size Doesn't Fit All
The evolving world of dual-use technologies with applications in both commercial and defense sectors is raising hard questions for entrepreneurs who innovate and could potentially help the military.
“When we talk dual-use, what we really are talking about and should be talking about is identifying a commercial product that exists that has some applicability to defense,” said Andrew Glenn, president of Aeromass Flight Systems.
Glenn, a defense technology expert, suggests that innovations should initially target defense purposes.
Jake Chapman, managing director of Marque Ventures, emphasizes the urgency of developing technologies for the Department of Defense (DoD) first.
“The reason for that is if you build for industry first and wait until you're successful there, it takes five to 10 years to find the market fit,” Chapman added.
Chapman argues that focusing on the consumer market first can lead to a significant delay in military adoption, potentially creating a capability gap against adversaries.
Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox Defense Technologies, highlighted the dual use of technologies by all parties involved in a conflict, with drones being a prime example.
“What's interesting about dual-use is that we see both being used by adversaries, as well as by those on the defensive side,” Fox told SIGNAL Media in an interview.
These have transitioned from consumer products to essential military tools, raising questions about the distinction between product and technology, especially in cybersecurity and component supply.
If you build for industry first and wait until you're successful there, it takes five to 10 years to find the market fit.
The European Army Interoperability Centre and the European Commission have noted the impact of dual-use technologies like semiconductors in aerospace and their cybersecurity implications.
Hannah Kelley from the Center for New American Security pointed out the challenges in enforcing export controls due to the broad scope of semiconductor supply chains and the inadequacy of existing multilateral export control frameworks to address current technological challenges. Kelley also stressed the difficulty posed by China's military-civil fusion strategy.
Glenn and Chapman highlight the importance of developing defense-focused technologies from the start. They advised startups to engage directly with DoD buyers despite the potential availability of grants and programs aimed at defense sector entry points. They assert that success in the defense industry often requires prioritizing the needs of warfighters and navigating the complex landscape of dual-use technology development and regulation.