UK Unveils Defence Technology Strategy
Britain has made significant strides in changing its overall approach to defense acquisition over the past few years, from the proliferation of long-term support partnerships and a move toward true through-life equipment management for key military platforms to the SMART Acquisition initiative and the UK Defence Industrial Strategy released in December 2005. As part of those broader efforts, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently released their Defence Technology Strategy, which sets longer-term R&D priorities.
With an annual spend of approximately GBP 2.6 billion (about $4.9 billion), the MOD is a very large investor in Research & Development – everything from micro-satellites and battery augmentors/substitutes to an inhaled spray cures for bubonic plague. This new strategy sets out in detail those technologies which the MOD believes should be supported and brought from concept to front line delivery more quickly. It will also launch several initiatives designed to bring smaller enterprises into these R&D efforts and widen the range of potential programs…
For instance, a “Competition of Ideas” will run until January 31, 2007, wherein innovators can suggest practical solutions to specific technical challenges facing the MOD. Ideas which have promise will receive funding of up to GBP 300,000 (abut $550,000) to demonstrate their potential under controlled conditions.
The MoD may also wish to investigate the USA’s successful SBIR research program as a potential long-term model.
Another UK MoD initiative is a Grand Challenge to produce an autonomous or semi-autonomous system designed to detect, identify, monitor and report a comprehensive range of physical threats in a complex urban environment.
In a release announcing the new strategy, Lord Drayson added:
“We are seeking the best new ideas that can rapidly be turned into equipment for our Armed Forces. As someone with a background in business and scientific research, I am well aware how difficult it is for smaller companies and research laboratories to get large organizations interested in their ideas. Through the Grand Challenge and the Competition of Ideas, I believe we will make it much easier for them to approach MOD.”
Read the full report [PDF].
This strategy follows the ‘Maximising Benefit from Defence Research‘ report released earlier this month [Full report, PDF format]. Commissioned by Chief Scientific Adviser Prof. Sir Roy Anderson, it examined the research program that is funded by the MoD’s Science Innovation Technology (SIT) Directorate, to the tune of about GBP 500 million annually (about $940 million).
In the course of this year-long study, over 240 individual research projects were subjected to external peer review of their quality, the first time Defence research has been opened up to external scrutiny on such a scale.