Winning in the marketplace: CDE helps innovators enter the defence supply network

Cubewano at CDE MarketplaceThe Ministry of Defence’s Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) provides proof-of-concept research funding for novel ideas that have a potential defence or security application. CDE, which is part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), aims to attract new science and technology providers into defence by funding short projects. Now, via the new CDE Marketplace initiative, it aims to provide further opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by highlighting successful projects to some of the world’s biggest defence companies.

The CDE Marketplace launch event took place in Westminster, London on 3 December 2012 and gave SMEs and academic researchers a unique opportunity to engage with big business and pitch their innovative ideas and technology that could be used by the Armed Forces in the future.

Eleven SMEs were joined at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre by researchers from two of the country’s leading universities – University of Bristol and University of Lancaster – who have all successfully completed CDE-funded projects.

Among the technologies on show at the event were a ‘morphing wing’ from Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, which is based on the dynamics of a bird’s wing, designed to enable the next generation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to be faster, more agile and have greater stability and duration; and an ultra-portable multi-fuel generator to power electronics in the field from Cubewano, where the final product is expected to be capable of running on both petrol and heavy fuel (diesel) and could eliminate the need to carry charged batteries into theatre.

Blue Bear at CDE MarketplaceDr Yoge Patel, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Bear, said: “The funding and support we get from CDE has been the lifeblood of Blue Bear’s innovation.”

Craig Fletcher, Managing Director of Cubewano, commented: “CDE funding enabled Cubewano to pursue development of a new market based on its current technology; this new market is expected to be over ten times the size of our original market with a large export potential.”

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Philip Dunne MP opened the Marketplace launch event, saying: “CDE’s Marketplace provides a shop window for SMEs in the most practical sense, helping those which have received research and development funding from the MOD to access their full potential for commercial applications in the UK defence sector and the export market.”

Jono Byrne, Head of the Centre for Defence Enterprise, said of the event: “We have broken fresh ground in developing the Department’s engagement with SMEs and academia. Over half of CDE’s contracts go to SMEs and academia and it is vital that we are able to bring these CDE-funded innovators, their ideas and capabilities into the defence supply chain.

“We are delighted with the response and support we have had from Prime Contractors, as they too understand the benefits such a concept can bring. This is only the start for the CDE Marketplace, and like all good innovation I look forward to further improvement, for example, making use of online tools and involving investment companies as well as defence companies.”

Mike Kurth, Managing Director of Boeing Defence UK, said: “We see the CDE Marketplace as a fantastic opportunity to engage with SMEs that have relevant innovation and technology for potential work in the future.”

Steve Elwell, Business Development and Commercial Director at BAE Systems, said: “The CDE Marketplace concept provides an opportunity for a much richer engagement between industrial Primes and SMEs aimed at exploiting innovation for the benefit of UK Armed Forces and our economy as a whole. The Marketplace is an area in which BAE Systems intends to engage, seeking innovative solutions to some of the most demanding and complex challenges facing our Armed Forces today and in the future.”

Since the CDE Marketplace launch event last December, CDE has been revisiting all of the companies involved and gathering their feedback. This is helping to shape how this potential exploitation route will develop in the future. Initial feedback has been very positive, from both the defence Primes and the exhibitors. Although it is still early days since these first introductions took place, CDE has received reports of follow-up meeting requests from Primes to the exhibitors and also possible collaboration opportunities being identified between CDE Marketplace exhibitors.

CDE is committed to finding new, revolutionary ideas and working to make them a reality in the future. There are two potential routes for innovators to receive CDE funding: the Defence Open Call and a series of Themed Calls. The Defence Open Call is continually open and seeks exceptionally innovative research proposals that could potentially have a high impact on future defence capability. Themed Calls are held regularly and address particular defence and security challenges, usually identified from within current R&D programmes. These calls are bounded in terms of the timescale for proposals to be submitted and the budget available to fund successful bids. Recent Themed Call subjects have ranged from ‘non-destructive evaluation of munitions’ and ‘strengthening the security of maritime operations’ through to ‘smart micro- and nano-scale materials and structures’.

All details of upcoming Calls and events can be found on CDE’s website. CDE also offers further support to potential bidders by providing regular opportunities to book ‘one-to-one surgery’ appointments with CDE experts. These 30-minute slots provide general advice on a potential research proposal.

Since launching in May 2008, CDE has received more than 4000 proposals for funding, resulting in around 600 contracts valued at over £35 million.

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