Lewis Sage-Passant

PhD on The Security Intelligence Services of the Private Sector

What is the title and outline of your project?

The Security Intelligence Services of the Private Sector” examines the “other” intelligence community, and looks at how private corporations, such as tech firms, movie studios, and fast-food corporations, use intelligence to navigate geopolitical risks and security crises. It looks at the history of the field, the methods it uses to gather and assess intelligence, and the ethical boundaries of the field. It explores controversies in the field, such as corporate espionage, and efforts to survey activist groups, and delineates between these areas and more acceptable uses of intelligence.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

I’ve been interested in doing a PhD since my undergraduate days (and my supervisor is in fact one of my undergrad professors!). Having spent a few years working in the private intelligence sector, this always seemed like an area that had been overlooked academically, and when the pandemic hit in 2020, I decided to use the time to start a part-time PhD.

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

I was working in the private sector intelligence field at a US technology company, where I have continued to work alongside my research. They have very graciously funded my research, which has proven to be a huge help!

How does studying a PhD differ from PG/UG study?

It’s much more self-directed, with your supervisors being there more in an advisory capacity than as direct teachers (although you can still learn plenty from them!). You’re also treated more like a peer member of staff within the department.

What do you enjoy most about studying a PhD?

I love the research! Diving into archival records or interviewing study participants has been an amazing experience. You learn so much! Having worked in my field of study for over a decade, I thought I knew quite a lot about it, but very early in the research journey I realised that I had barely scratched the surface, and that there was a lot left to learn!

What advice would you give to someone considering a PhD at Loughborough?

It’s ok if you aren’t perfectly sure what your thesis will be about! The first year is really about finding gaps in scholarly knowledge around your rough topical area, and then finding a space where your work can fit in. My thesis is unrecognisable when compared to the proposal!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Later this year I’m joining a major European pharmaceutical firm to lead their global security intelligence team, and I’m about to start teaching my second semester in Intelligence Studies at Sciences Po Paris, so I imagine I will remain halfway between industry and academia!