Aerospace & Defence: PLOUGHSHARE INNOVATIONS LTD
Ploughshare Innovations Ltd:
for civilian applications
Ploughshare Innovations Ltd
Historically, the commercialisation of defence research has given rise to advances such as supersonic air travel, liquid crystal displays and infrared detectors. It has contributed to UK competitiveness and has brought the commercial world?s resources to bear on meeting defence needs.
Based at several sites in the south of England, including Porton Down, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is a trading fund agency and the centre of scientific excellence within the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Through in-house science and engineering expertise and a worldwide technology network, Dstl provides impartial scientific and technological advice to the UK Armed Forces and wider government.
An atypical technology transfer company
Commercialisation of the intellectual property (IP) created by Dstl?s 3,500 scientists and engineers in non-MOD markets, most notably civilian, is a necessary, important, high-profile and sometimes sensitive dimension to Dstl?s work. Dstl created Ploughshare Innovations Ltd to ensure the effective commercialisation of its MOD-owned technology and IP.
Ploughshare is wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Defence and is designed to actively pursue the government?s technology transfer agenda on behalf of Dstl. With exclusive rights to promote Dstl technologies for commercial exploitation in non-MOD markets, Ploughshare has a significant pipeline of new technologies across all markets and technological domains.
Through the use of interdisciplinary teams the technology arising from Dstl research tends to be innovative yet practical. ?Listening to other perspectives is a prolific way of sparking new ideas and new approaches, but of course that?s just the start,? commented Dr Michael Steeden, Dstl?s Technical Director. ?Finding the time and resources to develop the ideas and then connecting them with industry to turn those ideas into a reality is the challenge.? This is where Ploughshare fits in ? linking Dstl?s inventions with industrial partners and supporting commercial validation where necessary. If appropriate, Ploughshare may also create spin-outs to develop the commercial proposition further, using venture finance. ?Ploughshare operates an atypical technology transfer model, because of the context in which we operate,? explains Dr Andrew Tulloch, Ploughshare Innovations? Chief Executive Officer. ?The challenge for those at the interface between Ploughshare and Dstl is to think about the Dstl technical output in a broad and novel way. A good example of dual use is the Dstl spin-out P2i who are now working with shoe manufacturer Hi-Tec to make their shoes liquid repellent-using technology originally developed to make military clothing resistant to nerve agents.?
From crustaceans to vaccine delivery systems
In March 2008, Ploughshare licensed a portfolio of patents related to the use of a more water-soluble form of chitosan in vaccine delivery. Chitosan is a biocompatible and biodegradable derivation of the exoskeleton of crustaceans. The licensee was Archimedes Development, a subsidiary of Archimedes Pharma, which plans to drive future growth through developing innovative therapeutics using its drug delivery technologies.
Archimedes? technology platforms include ChiSys®, a system for intranasal delivery of a wide range of products including small molecules, peptides and proteins. The technology licensed from Ploughshare is expected to extend ChiSys? utility to include vaccines, potentially making vaccines against diseases such as Influenza and Norovirus more effective and more widely available.
Reflecting on underwater location devices
Subsea Asset Location Technologies Ltd (SALT) is a company set up by Ploughshare in February 2008 to commercialise a passive acoustic sonar reflector. The SonarBell is technology invented by Dstl to mark and find underwater locations.
Most traditional location devices send a signal back to a sonar system using a battery, which needs periodic replacement. The SonarBell instead uses a passive reflector that returns a strong echo to the sonar, rather like a cat?s-eye reflecting headlights. This technology significantly reduces through-life maintenance costs. Unlike existing passive products the new device does not use toxic chlorofluorocarbons.
Successful trials in the North Sea have demonstrated that the SonarBell can reflect a signal and reveal its location to existing sonar systems, such as those mounted on maritime vessels. The trials and development work were funded by a combination of a Ploughshare Innovations Fund grant and a Rainbow Seed Fund Pathfinder Award.
A springboard to succes
Dr David Harris, Head of Technology Transfer at Dstl, is extremely pleased with the progress the company has made. ?In its first three years Ploughshare Innovations has transformed the technology transfer landscape in Dstl and shown that it can deliver defence technologies into civilian and other non-MOD markets,? he said. Through the InterAct Partnership, Ploughshare also works with other government agencies.
Since its inception in 2005 Ploughshare has successfully signed over 23 license agreements for Dstl and non-Dstl technologies in areas as diverse as healthcare, coatings, materials and communications. Ploughshare has also expanded its portfolio to carrying out similar commercialisation activities for other parts of the MOD. David Owen, Chairman of Ploughshare said: ?The licensing activities and spin-out company creation over the first three years will form the springboard for further success.?