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Regulation puts pressure on the SME backbone of the defence industry

Cohort plc say that SMEs form the backbone of the UK defence industry | Credit: Cohort plc

Cohort plc

Cohort plc

3 min read Partner content

The contributions of UK defence SMEs are tremendous. Burdensome regulation puts this at risk.

Small and medium-sized defence businesses (SMEs) are great creators of social value. Cohort is a group of SMEs working in defence technology, that make a contribution to the defence and security of the UK and its allies that is completely out of proportion to their size. However, recent changes in regulation threaten to add a burdensome load that could seriously weaken our valuable contribution to this country and its partners.

The intrinsic agility of defence SMEs allows them to make smart decisions and act on customers’ needs quickly. Lean and lightly structured, they are unencumbered by the process and bureaucracy needed by bigger entities. They cannot usurp the role of the large prime contractors in the heavy lifting and capital intensity of constructing naval ships, submarines, tanks, or aircraft. But their agility, technical skills and entrepreneurship give them a massive head start when it comes to innovative technology that can neutralise an opponent’s strengths or protect people from harm.

Cohort’s UK businesses stand for something bigger than the products and services they sell.

The hundreds of UK SME defence businesses form a solid backbone for the industry in this country. They deliver vital products and services to the armed forces. For example, Cohort’s UK businesses provide submarine communication systems, sonar sensors, radar-optical target trackers, and the electronic countermeasures that protect our aircraft from missile attack. In common with many UK SMEs, Cohort’s businesses enhance the UK’s international influence and generate valuable revenue through exports to our allies.

UK defence SMEs create thousands of jobs, from apprentices to highly skilled STEM graduates and armed forces veterans. They welcome employees who are close to the end-user as well as the technology, and they can provide uniquely rewarding careers for the right people. Together with their contribution to national security, it is clear that the value UK defence SMEs create is as much social as economic.

SMEs are robust and capable, but they don’t have the resources of multi-billion-pound international enterprises. So it’s always a concern when government customers introduce new regulations that seem to benefit those larger companies at the expense of SMEs. From June all defence and security public contracts are required to include a Social Value evaluation criterion.  On top of this, from September all our businesses will have to commit to achieving Net Zero carbon by 2050 and produce a detailed plan for doing so.

Cohort’s UK businesses stand for something bigger than the products and services they sell. As technologists, our carbon emissions are negligible. Wouldn’t it be better to use our skills and technology to reduce the considerable carbon emissions of our customers?

It is our hope that legislators and the government, in constructing undoubtedly well-intentioned public procurement policies such as these, bear in mind the welfare of this important sector, and the benefits it brings to the UK.

For more information on Cohort plc and its subsidiary businesses, visit

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