UK hi-tech defence needs unveiled

Britain’s Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies, has unveiled his country’s new defence technology plan.
The Defence Technology Plan (DTP) marks the first time the British ministry of defence has unveiled its long-term research needs. It underlines the importance of science and technology in providing cutting-edge kit for the battlefield, Davies says. 
“Innovation is at the heart of our success on the battlefield and by launching the DTP …, we are looking to embrace and encourage novel, cutting-edge ideas to provide our future forces with the latest technological advances so they can stay one step ahead of the enemy.
“It is more vital than ever that we exploit new and emerging technologies because the threats our troops face are always evolving. To do this, we need to make the best use of the defence industrial base, as well as the wealth of ability and expertise found among small businesses, talented individuals and academia.”
Underlining MoD’s commitment to science and innovation, the Minister announced that close to £2 million is being spent on a number of research areas. He highlighted:
Ø      Portsmouth-based company Mindsheet was awarded £28 000 for a month-long project to make their Unmanned Ground Vehicle robot, Testudo, more rugged and user-friendly.
Ø      Team Stellar has been awarded a £1.3 million contract to take their integrated Saturn system to the next level of capability.
Ø      London-based Swarm Systems has been awarded a £115 000 contract to develop their idea of a co-operative swarm of micro-UAVs.
Ø      Blue Design Ltd, from Hove, has been awarded £96 000 to develop its D3O shock absorbing material for troops’ helmet lining.
Ø      Teledyne Defence Limited, based in Shipley, West Yorkshire, has been awarded £246 000 to research ways to help pilots operate in dust clouds caused by rotor blade downdraft.
Also on show at the launch was the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (DSTL) Portable Integrated Battlespace Bio Detection Unit, which is capable of detecting the full biological warfare threat spectrum from a unit the size of a suitcase.
MoD Science and Technology director Paul Stein said the DTP says “new technology could lead to significant benefits for future combat forces. The evolving, web-based plan sets out to encourage fresh thinking and engagement with new and existing defence technology suppliers.”
The plan also introduces five Capability Visions designed to stimulate new technologies and new uses of existing ones. They are:
Ø      Reducing the burden on the dismounted soldier – challenging industry to lighten the load on a soldier to 25kg while maintaining and improving personal protection levels.
Ø      Future Protected Vehicle – lightweight vehicles to achieve the effectiveness and survivability of a main battle tank.
Ø      Reducing operational dependency on fossil fuels – finding options for alternative sources of energy supply, management and use in future operations.
Ø      Novel Air Concept – a cost effective, reusable uninhabited air system that operates within the urban landscape.
Ø      Electronics Defeat – understanding the threats of and to sophisticated electronic systems and information technology and how they can be protected against.
Davies also issued a call to industry to propose suitable solutions to these challenges. He says proposals can be submitted to the MoD through the  website. The ideas will then be assessed by the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE).
CDE head Dr Helen Almey adds her “task is to anticipate, prepare for and meet the forthcoming challenges by being highly innovative, agile and flexible in our approach to defence science and technology.
“We can only do this by actively seeking novel and exciting ideas and contributions from across industry, academia and other enterprises.”
The launch also marked the publication of the MoD’s Innovation Procurement Plan, part of a pan-Government initiative to encourage and promote innovation.