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Manufacturing is coming back; that’s the recent trend sweeping across the western world. With examples of production being ‘reshored’ becoming more common, possibly the more interesting question isn’t why is manufacturing suddenly returning, but how could we have convinced them to stay in the first place?
The manufacturing industry is and will continue to be a hotbed of innovation and cutting-edge design. Harnessing this creativity, taking a concept to those who could best be served by it and ultimately supporting it are vital in fostering an industry which is dynamic, agile and exciting to work in.
Playing a crucial role in all three of these roles is the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), providing that much-needed link between the needs of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and those that can potentially meet them.
Though it has origins that can be traced back hundreds of years, the Dstl was officially formed in July 2001, and has more recently became the key focus within the MoD; designing, formulating and commissioning programmes with industry (large and small), academia and other research organisations.
The Dstl grew from the idea that work should be completed by external suppliers, unless there is a clear reason for it to be conducted or led in-house. To date, almost 60 percent of the £400 million MoD non-nuclear defence research programme, managed through the Dstl, goes to industry and academia.
Some of the areas covered by the Laboratory include armour and protection, counter-terrorism, cyber, land and joint logistics, medical, security and weapons, to name but a few. Arguably it’s most important task however is promoting itself, ensuring not only that industry knows it exists, but the services and assistance it can provide.
To help in this constantly growing and evolving task, the Dstl has three robust weapons of its own to call upon:
The Programme Office:
Established to coincide with the Dstl’s enhanced remit in 2010, the Programme Office manage contracts for work that the Dstl doesn’t need to complete for security reasons. The focus of the Office is very much on the long term benefits of science and technology research, and is principally delivered for the most part through industry.
Much of the work conducted revolves around exploring new capabilities and technologies, but also at the heart of the Office’s role is to understand what the market currently has, or could have in the near future, and understanding how defence could make use of that in the future.
The Centre for Defense Enterprise (CDE):
The CDE provides a first point of contact for anyone with a research proposal for disruptive technology, a new process or innovation that has a potential for defence and security application. Especially useful for those who haven’t considered applying their product or technology to these areas in the past, the CDE has received more than 3,000 proposals since opening in 2008, with research contracts to date worth a total of over £23.5 million.
As is quite often the case, what is originally designed exclusively for the military has a certain capacity to filter down to the public sphere. When the Dstl’s research uncovers subjects which may have a civilian application it reaches out to Ploughshare Innovations, which maximises these opportunities by managing the commercial licensing of industry of Intellectual Property (IP) developed by the Dstl.
With a track-record of enhancing client’s capabilities and competitive edge, Ploughshare is able to lower associated technology risk, reduced R&D costs, hasten speed to market and provide advanced IP support and protection.
Case Study – Super Bainite Armour Steel:
In a collaboration between Dstl Professor Peter Brown, Harry Bhadeshia, Tata Steel Professor of Metallurgy at Cambridge University and Dr Carlos Garcia-Mateo, representing the National Centre for Metallurgical Research, Madrid, and previously of the Cambridge University resulted in the invention of super bainite.
An armour steel with superior ballistics properties compared to conventionally rolled steel armour, super bainite has both military and civilian applications, and is currently licensed to Tata Steel through Ploughshare.
A truly cutting-edge invention, the steel will be manufactured exclusively in the UK and be turned into seven different items, including perforated armour plates for use on future frontline armoured vehicles. The steel demonstrates how forming partnerships between the Dstl and industry, combined with investing in R&D can result in troops having access to the latest inventions in frontline equipment and technology.http://www.science.mod.uk/Engagement/enterprise.aspx