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NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG)
History and Recent Activities
The NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG) was established in October 1968 to support the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) by facilitating cooperation between NATO and the Allies’ defence industries. The group, which meets three times a year, allows NATO to better account for the industrial viewpoint and to keep abreast of industrial technology developments that could be included in NATO’s work. Over time, the NIAG’s portfolio has expanded to provide support beyond the CNAD to other NATO bodies and organisations involved in capability development.
The NIAG fulfils its advisory function by conducting an annual programme of studies to support armament activities in the CNAD and other NATO bodies. These studies are carried out by NIAG Study Groups (SG), which are made up of industrial experts assigned by their respective companies through national NIAG delegations. Each study must be approved by the NADREPs prior to execution, and responsibility for delivery lays with each individual Study Group’s Management Team. At the conclusion of a study, the Study Group issues a final report along with oral briefings.
The last three years have been a busy time for the Alliance and the NIAG is no exception. Since October 2012, the NIAG has conducted studies on numerous topics vital to the Alliance, dealing with capability issues ranging from satellite communications to guided munitions. In 2013, the group approved a new NIAG Strategy for 2013-2017, building on the previous 2008-2012 strategy. Among other foci, the new strategy aims to support recent NATO members in aligning their industrial interests with NATO; to work for larger involvement with NATO’s partner nations; and to play an active role in Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative.
In response to emerging security challenges, the NIAG has also expanded the spectrum of companies involved to include cyber security and internet service providers who can provide critical insights on cyber threats and defence. This has been essential to the production of high-level reports such as “Private Sector Contribution to Cyber Defence Action Plan” and “Transatlantic Defence Technological and Industrial Cooperation.”
In total, 5 high-level advice studies and 28 technical studies have been completed by the NIAG since October 2012.
In addition to this prescribed output, in 2013 the NIAG took the initiative to present 11 unsolicited proposals on potential pre-feasibility and high-level advice studies for the future. The proposals were so well received by NATO communities that the approach has now been developed and streamlined to become part of the NIAG’s annual programme. This has allowed the group to identify an additional 19 topics in 2014, and 13 topics 2015, that it considers worth exploring the context of the Alliance’s effort to develop capabilities and stimulate cooperation through Smart Defence and Connected Forces Initiatives.
Despite this increased scope of activity, one  of the main challenges facing the NIAG in the years ahead is that NATO funding for industrial cooperation is facing zero growth. This means a reduction in absolute terms for year-on-year NIAG funding. In this context, sustaining NIAG activities at the current pace remains a major challenge despite the introduction of video conferencing within study groups. In particular, the lack of funds tends to hit hardest in the participation of highly innovative industry experts from small and medium enterprises that are at the forefront of technological innovation today.