Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2019 took place at Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre on 28 March.
The new venue brought a sense of excitement as representatives from the Ministry of Defence and other public bodies, preferred contractors, the supply chain and academia came together at this one-day event.
Billed as the defence procurement event of the year, DPRTE 2019 provided a unique opportunity to showcase goods and services as well as the chance to engage directly with both the key personnel and organisations responsible for setting strategy and operationally delivering an annual budget of over £20 billion.
DPRTE 2019 attracted record numbers as over 1500 visitors came to Farnborough to hear from the leading and most influential speakers from across the defence procurement and supply chain marketplace.
The event provided a real focus on the key themes dominating the defence and security supply chain – innovation and improved supplier engagement.
The Live Keynote Arena was, as ever, a huge draw for attendees.
A familiar face at DPRTE, former Ministry of Defence Commercial Director Les Mosco, chaired proceedings, calling for greater clarity for the defence industry.
Jim Carter, Commercial Director, Supply Chain at MOD, delivered the opening keynote address. speaking about how the Department was progressing with its strategy to improve its industrial engagement and previewing its new SME Action Plan. This included a look at the Strategic Partnering Programme, which seeks to improve MOD’s commercial relationships across all aspects of the supply chain, beginning with its prime contractors.
He then provided an update on the recently refreshed Defence Suppliers Forum (DSF) and outlined the role of the ‘SME Champions’, appointed by the Department’s 19 Strategic Suppliers, who will offer guidance and support to help SMEs find an easier route to market.
Jim explained: “What we are doing is encouraging the Primes through these SME Champions to be the conduit into the SME market and have plans and targets themselves around SME usage.”
Dr Lucy Mason, Head of the Defence and Security Accelerator, provided an overview of DASA’s role in harnessing innovation for defence and was able to share a number of the Accelerator’s successes over the past year.
These included DASA’s largest contract award to date to Blue Bear Systems for its response to the ‘Many Drones Make Light Work’ competition; and the new app from KrowdThink, which allows users to report suspicious activity or potential security threats at crowded events.
Dr Mason also encouraged any SMEs with innovative ideas to reach out to DASA’s regional Innovation Partners who can offer guidance on how their ideas could be best exploited.
She said: “I think government these days wants to work much more with SMEs, to incorporate them into supply chains and understand how we can diversify the range of suppliers that get involved. That means helping big businesses to encourage SMEs to work as part of their supply chains as well as meeting our own target to procure from SMEs.”
Defence Infrastructure Organisation Commercial Director Jacqui Rock gave a progress update on DIO’s mission to turn its statement of intentions in its Commercial Strategy into a practical commercial transformation.
She also outlined the vast opportunities available to the supply chain through the Defence Estate Optimisation Programme.
Jacqui told the audience: “The opportunities for suppliers to get involved on the DEO Programme are vast. It touches construction, disposals, new builds, family accommodations – it touches everything.”
Professor Trevor Taylor from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) then delivered a thought-provoking talk on the role of artificial intelligence within defence acquisition.
He examined the perception of AI and its potential functions within the defence framework and how the technology’s capability was dependent on data.
Professor Taylor commented: “Always think about AI in terms of the data available. Do we have the data? If the data isn’t available, AI doesn’t work.
“What AI brings, initially at least, is this area of identification, diagnosis and analysis, which it will offer with likelihood and probability. That is very important when you think of it in a defence context.”
Following Professor Taylor, Tracy Buckingham, Head of Operations and Security Exports at the Department for International Trade’s Defence & Security Organisation, spoke about the role of DIT DSO and the importance of defence and security exports in terms of the economy, providing countries with the right to a defensive capability, and enhancing overseas engagement.
The UK defence and security export market is worth £13.8 billion, with a massive 87% of the UK’s defence exports to be found in the aerospace domain.
Tracy also explained how DIT DSO plays a crucial role in the MOD’s drive for innovation. She noted: “We have a proud tradition of innovation and we are a key part in identifying potential pipelines and export markets for those innovative products.”
Jason Fox, best known for his role on hit TV show SAS: Who Dares Wins, ensured the last address at the Keynote Arena was standing room only as he gave his thoughts on motivation and leadership, sharing his experiences of undertaking high-risk missions whilst serving in the Armed Forces.
Knowledge Transfer Zones
DPRTE 2019 hosted five Knowledge Transfer Zones, each featuring a range of educational sessions that allowed attendees to discover and share ideas for the five themes.
With innovation continuing to be a major driver in the defence industry it was no surprise to see the Technology & Innovation Zone attract a large number of visitors.
Andrew Cunningham, Executive Director for Innovation at the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC), kicked off proceedings with a talk on the potential of cross-sector innovation from a defence perspective.
Other highlights included DASA Innovation Partner Jim Pennycook’s session on engaging with innovation, where he outlined the advantages for innovative companies working with DASA.
The Supply Chain & Partnering Zone was another hotspot for the event as attendees sought information on how they could engage and actively pursue new business development opportunities across the wider supply chain.
This included a demonstration from Caroline Hose from the MOD’s Strategic Supplier Management Team on the new sub-contracting function on Defence Contracts Online (DCO) – the MOD’s online portal for sharing information on contracting opportunities and market engagement events.
David Wharton, Head of Account Management at the Crown Commercial Service, also explained CCS’s collaboration with DIO and how this would help DIO push out frameworks worth over a potential £13 billion over the next ten years.
The Buyer Excellence in Procurement Zone saw the Procurement Advice and Support Service (PASS) put on a series of 30-minute interactive sessions delivered by Principal Consultant, Eddie Regan. Elsewhere, the Export & Business Growth Zone allowed UK SMEs to learn more about exporting opportunities and the practical assistance available from DIT DSO.
Finally, the Doing Business with the US DoD Zone saw representatives from the Department of Defense provide advice and guidance on how to access the wealth of opportunities available within the world’s largest defence procurement marketplace.
Andrew Wilson, President of JGW International, had this advice for companies looking to break into the lucrative US defence marketplace – and again, innovation was key.
He said: “The real issue for British companies is that they need to find a technology that is lacking in the States. It’s got to be a unique product and be a capability that the US military needs.”
The event also featured seven Networking & Collaboration Zones – Supply Chain Engagement, Defence Procurement Pavilion, Innovation, Defence Market Engagement, International Exporting, US DoD Engagement and the Product Showcase Exhibition – which provided a wealth of opportunities for attendees to meet and discuss buyer and supplier opportunities.
The Defence Procurement Pavilion was a constant hive of activity as attendees took the opportunity to speak with representatives from the Army, Air and Navy Commercial Teams as well as those from DE&S, DIO, the Submarine Delivery Agency, MOD ISS and Doing Business with Defence.
The Product Showcase Exhibition provided a platform for around 120 organisations from the public and private sectors to promote their products and services directly to key decision makers in the defence market.
What surprised many of those who hadn’t attended the event before was the vast range of sectors represented, including IT; portable buildings; clothing; haulage and logistics; digital modelling; environmental services; and fire safety.
Gavin Shepherd from Commerce Decisions commented: “DPRTE brings together a whole community of buyers and bidders to enable them to network and look for better solutions to the problems that the marketplace poses.”
Companies such as Meile, who were demonstrating the important role laundry plays in the defence sector, were delighted with the early engagement opportunities DPRTE afforded them.
Jessica Tobias-George from Meile explained: “It’s really important for us as an organisation to engage with our potential buyers early on in the process. It’s good to speak to them and find out what their requirements are so that we can proactively respond to those requirements.
“It’s been a really good event for us to meet people and find out more about the sector and potentially follow up with those enquiries.”
The event continues to surpass itself every year and plans are already under way for DPRTE 2020, which will again take place in Farnborough on 1 April next year.
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