To understand the future of innovation in the nuclear threat field, it helps to look to the past and the present. Innovation is not a moment but a dynamic process with a long tail. This is especially true for to the range of advances and inventions that have emerged and continue to emerge to keep nuclear weapons in check.
Over the last several years N Square has launched a series of research projects focused on helping uncover how nuclear threat experts view and define innovation. What does innovation look like to the scientists, policymakers, advocates, and philanthropists who work in the field, and how has that shifted over time? As part of this work we asked them to share examples of field-changing innovations that are just now emerging—but also to point to past innovations that laid critical groundwork for what was to come.
This timeline of innovation is not exhaustive. If anything, it’s provocative, designed to spark discussion and highlight where we’ve been so we can better understand where we’re going. Each innovation is emblematic of its decade—the unique point in time when it emerged—but they are connected, and cumulative, as well. You’ll notice, for example, how technology innovation and policy innovation, once separate spheres, have come together in recent years, with monitoring, detection, and verification technologies now helping to support and inform more political work.