Defence and security company, Saab announced the winner of its 2010 Innovation Award at its Centurion office on 27 February 2011. Cobus van der Merwe of Saab’s Electronic Defence Systems (EDS) Business Area became the first South African to receive this prestigious award for his innovation in conceptualizing the LEDS Active Protection Solution.

LEDS offers an enhanced survivability method to combat vehicles. The system uses detecting mechanisms and mechanical solutions for high-speed directable launchers to dispense counter missiles. Van der Merwe identified the operational need, conceptualised a world-leading solution and generated the first requirement statement for it between 1995 and 1997. In 2001 he revisited the original concept and requirements and conceptualised what has today become the LEDS Active Protection Solution.

“I am honored to be recognised in this way,” said van der Merwe after receiving his award. “The only way that a radical idea in my head could have ever become a reality is through teamwork. I therefore must thank the team that contributed to making this possible. This award highlights the importance of working together towards a single objective that you are passionate about. It is because of the passion I have for what I do and persistence that I am receiving this award.”

South Africa is Saab’s second largest home-market after Sweden with the company employing approximately 1200 people between its Centurion and Cape Town offices. The protection of locally developed Intellectual Property, like LEDS, takes priority despite the company being Swedish owned.

During an introductory speech at the awarding ceremony, Micael Johansson: President of EDS within the Saab group said, “Saab is committed to South Africa and to seeing it develop its technology base and increase its footprint in the sub-Sahara region. Cobus van der Merwe’s energy and persistence in realising his idea has not only made him proud, but EDS and the larger Saab group as well. We appreciate his contribution and take pride in awarding hard work and dedication”.

Now in its eighth year, the Innovation Award is presented annually to one or several innovators employed by Saab worldwide and recognises outstanding innovation that has contributed to strengthening business opportunities for the Saab group.  In the motivation and appointment of award winners, special attention is given to how Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for the Innovation, in particular patents, have been secured.

LEDS has already realised its first Land Electronic Warfare sale to a NATO customer and significant international interest as an Active Protection Solution (APS).  It is fast becoming one of the international benchmarks for APS.