18 Sep 2017

Defence Minister announces world-leading UK innovation at DSEI 2017

The Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin has announced some of the latest developments in UK defence innovation at this year’s DSEI event in London.

The Minister used her keynote speech on DSEI’s Innovation Day to unveil 25 winners of the MoD’s “Last Mile” challenge.

Earlier in the year, the Ms Baldwin challenged industry and academia to design pioneering technology to get vital supplies to soldiers on the front line. Developing systems for unmanned delivery of combat supplies will reduce the risk to troops and improve efficiency.

The challenge looked to draw on the rapid progress of the private sector in the development of delivery drones and automated deliveries. More than 140 organisations from small-and-medium-size-enterprises to large defence companies submitted entries.

Winning ideas include disposable supply trailers, autonomous hover-bikes and airborne vehicle ‘swarms’. The 25 projects chosen have a total contract value for this phase of almost £2 million and will produce demonstrator models of the concepts for testing by UK personnel.

Part of the MoD’s £800m Innovation Initiative, and led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) with the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), the contracts are worth £3.5 million over three years.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said: “The Last Mile Challenge is a great example of how we are engaging with a real range of businesses and harnessing innovation to help our military right up to the front line.

“From these autonomous vehicles to next-generation body armour, we are investing our rising defence budget and £178 billion equipment plan in the technology that will keep our Armed Forces and the UK safe.”

The Defence Minister also announced the launch of an overhauled Defence Suppliers Portal, which streamlines engaging and bidding for contracts with the MoD. Working more effectively with SMEs is a key defence priority, and the MOD has committed to spending 25% of procurement money with SME suppliers by 2020.

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