Innovation UK > News > Innovation UK Vol5-1 > Putting innovation on the front line

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Putting innovation on the front line

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) offers anyone with the innovation and will to enter the defence market a single entry point through the Centre for Defence Enterprise

Designed to change any perceptions of the MOD being difficult to approach and impenetrable, the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) has already proved popular with suppliers and is bringing innovation through to where it matters ? supporting the Armed Forces in ongoing and future challenges.

Anne Norman, Manu Bhardwaj and Dr Helen Almey Head, Centre for Defence Enterprise

With commitments of £2.5M in its first year, CDE is already energising the research supplier base and encouraging researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to produce cutting-edge technology. New and existing suppliers are bringing their ideas to the CDE, which provides an internet based application process, as well as help and guidance for businesses that seek a fast response and a guided entry into MOD.

CDE Head Dr Helen Almey has over 18 years of experience with the MOD and knowledge of the various pathways that the MOD offers. She has successfully led CDE through its first year and is keen to open the doors to even more suppliers. ?Our aim is to offer helpful, accessible guidance and support to create an entrance into defence for anyone who wants to deal with us,? Almey explains. ?Historically, many people from outside saw the MOD as a ?closed club? and might not have considered approaching us, even if they had a product with a defence application. We have managed to bring science and technology out of its box and bring people together, and we are working at developing a scientific community of interest that is able to communicate openly with each other at events and through introductions.?

She believes that this will lead to more relevant developments suited to meeting current and future military needs. ?This will help build scientific capability in the UK which will benefit suppliers and give us the innovative technology that gives us the edge in operations.?

Online process for speedy assessment

All CDE submissions are made online at and those who have used the process have found it easy to use, saving time and resources and, importantly, offering a quick response. The CDE team is on hand to offer advice and guidance so that anyone who needs extra information or has a query can contact them either online or in person.

Almey and her team work hard to keep proposals on track making sure that each application is assessed upon receipt. A monthly meeting is chaired by Almey, where proposals are discussed, assessors comments considered and scoring agreed by the experts and Integrated Technology Team Leaders who run the MOD?s research programme.

This is the crucial meeting and applicants may be asked to be available by phone in case there are any queries. Applicants are informed of decisions after this meeting and a simplified contracts process is initiated for those who are successful with some contracts signed within a few days.

Approachable accessible advice

Although CDE is primarily an internet based service, it is determined not to be faceless and unapproachable. One of the key figures based at the Centre Business Development Manager is Manu Bhardwaj, who is keen to stress that he and his colleagues can be easily contacted for information and advice. He believes that this is an important part of their role in developing relationships with new and existing customers. ?It is crucial that we work together and learn from each other as we bring in more people to add to our supplier base,? states Bhardwaj.

He has initiated a series of workshops that are now run regularly at the Centre and these offer tips and guidance to potential applicants to help them make the best of the online system. ?We are happy to advise on the structure of a proposal. If someone has a good idea that will fit in with our requirements we can guide them through the process if they get in touch. We do not require long reports, but it is worthwhile to consider whether it will fit in with our requirements and what the exploitation route will be.?

All proposals are assessed within the Performance Assessment Framework (PAF) which provides a common framework across the whole MOD Research Programme. The framework, available on the website, gives guidelines for assessing supplier proposals for research, assessment of ongoing work and performance assessment for completed projects. Assessors are drawn from across the MOD, including Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC), which is a non-departmental public body of MOD.

In-depth knowledge of the MOD means that the CDE team can decide on the right assessment route for each proposal: ?The time spent on assessment is tailored to the value and complexity of the proposal, with the simpler and lower value proposals receiving a more rapid assessment. Proposals for funding over £100,000 require more consideration so lower value applications for less than £60,000 are likely to receive a quicker decision,? explains Bhardwaj.

The MOD follows UK government policy on IPR which is detailed in DEFCON 705 (Intellectual Property Rights, Research and Technology), which vests ownership of the intellectual property with research providers. This means that research can be more rapidly exploited, which is actively encouraged by MOD, both in defence and for commercial applications.

Seminars and workshops

Seminars and workshops are held regularly at CDE?s Harwell base in Oxfordshire. These provide opportunities to meet key MOD personnel and members of the Armed Forces, as well as other suppliers, academics and entrepreneurs. CDE believes that it is important to create dialogue between MOD and the wider supplier base and that the seminars offer a valuable opportunity for networking.

Representatives from the Armed Forces give a unique insight into current operations and their requirements and are on hand to discuss these with guests who attend the oversubscribed events. Events cover a wide range of topics and have covered: Powering the Dismounted Soldier; Personal Robotics Support Vehicles; and Lightweight Soldier Weapon Systems. Planned events include diverse topics such as Prosthetics; Reducing Dependency on Fossil Fuels; Personal Protection (body armour); and Automated Imagery Processing.

Defence Technology Plan

Commitment to science and innovation has been underlined by this year?s launch of the Defence Technology Plan (DTP) which sets out the MOD?s long-term research objectives. This is the first time that the MOD has publicised its key long-term defence challenges and the evolving, web-based plan sets out to encourage fresh thinking as well as engagement with new and existing technology suppliers.

The DTP contains a cost-balanced list of current R&D priorities, offering clear direction on investment in defence technology. This aims to stimulate fresh, innovative thinking that will go on to meet forthcoming challenges and also sets out the MOD?s high-level R&D objectives and proposed Research Activities across:

  • Ships and Submarines
  • Land Equipment
  • Air and Helicopters
  • C4ISTAR and CBRN
  • Weapons
  • Cross-cutting Technologies
  • Joint Supply Chain.
  • Capability Visions

This year, the MOD also published Capability Visions (CV), which looks at ways to develop and demonstrate new technologies and new applications of existing ones for future requirements.

CV seeks innovation in:

  • Reducing the Burden on the Dismounted Soldier
  • Future Protected Vehicle
  • Reducing Operational Dependency on Fossil Fuels
  • Novel Air Concept
  • Electronics Defeat.

MOD support CDE success

Director General Science and Technology Operations, Dr Chris Mace is fully supportive of CDE?s first year and pleased with the new business that has been generated. He believes that there is a positive response throughout the MOD to the organisation and the new way of doing business. Mace is backing its mission to reach out to a new ?community? of British scientific and technical expertise and is a regular visitor to Harwell.

?By changing the perception of the MOD as being difficult to approach and ?impenetrable?, I believe we will make it easier to attract the researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs that will produce the cutting edge technology that is so essential for our work,? says Mace. ?We need to encourage suppliers, both new and existing, to bring new ideas to the MOD, and CDE is easy to use and gives a fast response. The internet based application process has exceeded our expectations and has proved that the MOD can react fast and is open to anyone who has the will and the ability to contribute to the defence market.?

Centre for Defence Enterprise
Start Electron
Fermi Avenue
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
Oxfordshire, OX11 0QR
Tel: 01 235 438 445

MOD?s commitment to new ways of working

The MOD is committed to improving ways of identifying and delivering defence capability. The main challenges to innovation were expressed in the Defence Innovation Strategy (2007) and identified as Defence Pillars of Innovation.

These ?pillars? clearly articulated the MOD?s capability needs and demonstrated their commitment to new ways of working.

The five pillars are:

Sharing the vision for defence capability
A commitment to communicating the MOD?s vision for defence capability with new and existing suppliers. This has already been demonstrated through the success of Competition of Ideas and last year?s Grand Challenge, and the ongoing success of the Centre for Defence Enterprise.

Capability and technology road mapping
The provision of clearer guidelines on where business and industry can fit in with the MOD research and equipment and support programmes.

Smarter systems engineering
The creation of a framework that will allow technology insertion and innovation to take place. This recognises the importance of systems engineering which ensures that equipment is procured effectively and has through-life potential.

Improved business models
Development of business models that encourage fair reward for contributors and help transfer promising research in technology through to acquisition.

Need for speed

Encouraging innovators and suppliers by giving a quicker response to proposals and changing tendering and contracting procedures.

Added the 24 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1

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