The Centre for Defence Enterprise is the first point of contact for anyone with an idea that will benefit defence. Centre for Defence Enterprise Communications Manager, Gavin Copeland explains how they bring innovation and investment together ensuring that front line forces have the best battle-winning technologies of the future
Minister for Strategic Defence Acquisition Reform, Lord Drayson recently visited the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) at their Harwell base and met a number of companies that had received funding from CDE.
?The Centre for Defence Enterprise has proved to be a great success. Innovation is the key to our success on the battlefield and we need to embrace novel, technologically advanced ideas to provide our forces ? both now and in the future ? with the very best kit.
?Threats to our troops are always evolving and we need to exploit new and emerging technologies that are already being researched and used by small and medium-sized businesses, talented individuals and academia,? said Drayson speaking to guests at the seminar held the same day to inform business entrepreneurs and inventors of the role of the Centre for Defence Enterprise.
Lord Drayson gets to grips with the Shadow Robot Company
Centre for Defence Enterprise has much to celebrate having received its 1,000th proposal earlier in the year after being set up nearly two years ago to harness and fund cutting-edge ideas and stimulate innovation in UK defence. To date they have given research funding to over 150 proposals with more than 60% going to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Head of the Centre for Defence Enterprise, Dr Helen Almey is elated at how successful CDE has been at helping companies, many of them new to the defence market, win defence contracts. ?But our work is not just about finance. We are also here to engage, stimulate and share our knowledge through introductions to military users and others engaged in similar work,? says Almey. ?We need to meet the forthcoming challenges by being highly innovative, agile and flexible. We can only do this with novel and exciting ideas from across industry, academia and other enterprises."
For Almey, the last two years have flown by as she and her team at the Centre for Defence Enterprise have not only dealt with the applications for funding coming through the online Portal but have also traversed the country sharing MOD?s vision at seminars and conferences. Almey is determined to get the message across ? that anyone with a good idea that will benefit defence can make an application for funding through the Centre for Defence Enterprise that will receive serious consideration.
?We have now proved that MOD is open for business. Anyone can attend our popular seminars and we are sharing our knowledge and requirements online so that we can meet the widest possible audience. It is now definitely a misconception that MOD is difficult to deal with ? just contact me if you have a problem,? says Almey. The Centre for Defence Enterprise proposals are submitted electronically and the online Portal has been designed to draw out and highlight important aspects of an innovation. Almey is keen on clarity and explains that the structured web forms help people to submit relevant information that will help their assessors understand a proposal: ?Very simply, we need to know what it does, how it could contribute to defence and how it might be taken through to market,? explains Almey.
Dr Helen Almey (left) at a recent CDE showcase
?Low-value proposals are being assessed in as little as 15 days which is really appreciated by companies who don?t have to be waiting for months to find out if they will receive funding. We also offer online tracking so that progress can be monitored throughout the process.?
A quick ?no? can also be valuable and Almey and her team offer feedback on why a proposal may not be suitable and in some cases are able to point those who have been refused funding suggestions of alternative markets.
Centre for Defence Enterprise holds regular seminars on key issues as well as calls for proposals in specific areas. Seminars are designed to encourage submissions to the Centre for Defence Enterprise and are particularly recommended for new suppliers unfamiliar with defence. These are also popular networking opportunities and give guests insight into military requirements.
Almey explains why MOD issues calls in certain areas of defence: ?As well as our open-door policy, we periodically call for proposals on special topics, normally launched at a Centre for Defence Enterprise seminar. Programmes resulting from these calls will normally be short and sharp to identify solutions with the potential to be rapidly deployed to the front line or provide proof of concept that may lead to a more extensive research programme.?
CDE connects innovators to other parts of the MOD and wider government. Proposals received by the Centre of Defence Enterprise will be assessed by government experts and discussed with the appropriate MOD stakeholder for potential inclusion in defence programmes. CDE directly supports early stage proposals seeking initial seedcorn or proof-of-concept funding. Success via the Centre of Defence Enterprise can also attract investment from other sources, including business angels and venture capitalists, as it can be seen as a fast-track way into the £16 billion pa market for supplying the UK Armed Forces.
Successful concepts which are still relatively immature technology may be supported further by the MOD?s research programme, whilst more mature technology can be considered for entry into the main stream equipment programme or as Urgent Operational Requirement and fast tracked through the acquisition process to the frontline.
Centre for Defence Enterprise,
Start Electron, Fermi Avenue,
Harwell Science and Innnovation Campus,
Harwell, Oxfordshire OX11 0QR
Tel: 012 3543 8445
Added the 14 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1