DASA at DPRTE 2019: Driving innovation

With the desire to innovate and collaborate with the supply chain fundamental to MOD strategy, Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) will return to Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE), which this year is taking place at Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre on 28 March.

DPRTE provides organisations such as DASA with the opportunity to engage with and hear directly from suppliers.

Dr Lucy Mason, Head of DASA, explains: “Being at these events provides us with a chance to speak directly to suppliers, to raise the profile of DASA and what we can offer suppliers.

Networking is always a really important element of open innovation, and I always make sure I hand out plenty of business cards!”

Dr Mason had some trepidation about the levels of interest she would generate before delivering her session last year but her fears were soon allayed as a large crowd gathered to learn more about the role of DASA.

“I had resigned myself to a fairly small audience, when there was quite a rush and by the time I actually started, it was standing room only at the back.

“That’s always a great sign of a lot of interest, and I think with DASA being fairly new there was a lot of curiosity about what we were doing. Afterwards there was a big crowd over at our stand so hopefully I piqued people’s interest.”

Dr Lucy Mason became Head of DASA in March 2017 and is now approaching the second anniversary of her appointment. Under her stewardship, the organisation has made significant strides in a relatively short space of time.

She explains: “I’m incredibly pleased and proud at what DASA has achieved in only two short years, increasing our reach enormously and being present in every part of the UK through our network of Innovation Partners.”

Indeed, the response to DASA has been remarkable. By the end of January this year, DASA had received nearly 1600 proposals from over 730 different organisations (60% from SMEs) and placed contracts worth over £50 million on over 350 proposals. 55% of the funding was awarded to SMEs.

Dr Mason said: “We have launched 28 competitions across a diverse range of defence and security challenges, run three hackathons, and run our Open Call for Innovation, which is open 24/7 for great ideas.

“We have encouraged new suppliers who have not worked in defence or security before, and nearly 40% of the proposals we received came from ‘new’ organisations.”

Looking back at the last 12 months, Dr Mason is quick to recognise the role her team at DASA has played in these successes and points to the launch of its new London Hub in White City as another notable milestone:

“Growing my team to 50 people and seeing the team evolve has been very exciting for me, it’s been a real privilege to work with such a fantastic group of people who are all so passionate about what we are doing.

“I was also very pleased to launch our new London Hub last summer, which is a partnership with Imperial College London and is based at the Translation and Innovation Hub in White City; this offers us great opportunities to be based outside Government and up close to lots of interesting academics and start-ups, as well as wider industry.

“More generally we’ve started to make headway in getting innovative ideas further through the system and achieve some real impact, although of course it can take time to innovate!”

So how useful is DPRTE for DASA in terms of its ability to engage with the SMEs and the supply chain?

Dr Mason explains: “It’s really important for Government to get out and about outside the London ‘bubble’ and to understand the challenges and issues facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

DPRTE Official Event Partner: DASA

“We all want the UK to be prosperous and safe, and that means tapping into the vast amount of innovative thinking and development there is around the country, so that we can all work together towards our shared aims. DPRTE is a good forum for these kinds of engagement opportunities with the supply chain.”

Dr Lucy Mason will join the DPRTE Keynote Arena line-up alongside other influential figures from across the defence procurement and supply chain marketplace and will provide an update on DASA’s activities.

She explains: “Building on what I said last year about DASA, I’ll be talking about developments in defence and security innovation and opportunities to get involved, along with some examples of the kind of thing DASA have been involved with over the past year or two.”

Looking further ahead, DASA is looking to build on these successes with more challenges and competitions, and other events such as hackathons, collaboration events planned.

Dr Mason says: “We’d like to work more closely in partnership with larger businesses, to see how they can potentially help us to co-invest in innovative SMEs and ensure better pull-through of innovation into real-world capabilities. And to that end, we are investing in defence and security industry partners to foster private sector routes to market, and an access to finance specialist to facilitate effective engagement between start-ups and growing companies with appropriate sources of finance and support.”

Dr Mason envisages that DPRTE will play a key role in achieving these ambitions.

She explains: “We’d like to broaden our networks even more and let people who may not have heard of us know about what we do, and the opportunities for them.

“We are always keen to hear about interesting ideas, products and services which can help defence and security to be even better, and our team will be at DPRTE to talk to people about how to apply for funding.”

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