Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2016, held at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff on 16 March, promised to be one of the most important defence events of the year – and it certainly delivered on that promise. MOD DCB features writer Paul Elliott was there to see what the event had to offer.
Over 1500 attendees enjoyed this year’s event, with DPRTE succeeding in its goal to educate and promote opportunity within the defence supply chain.
The networking opportunities for buyers and suppliers alike at DPRTE 2016 were priceless. The MOD Buyer Engagement Village and Prime Contractor Engagement Village were both teeming with activity, with MOD and industry buyers meeting precisely the calibre of innovative suppliers they were hoping to meet.
For businesses looking to sell to both the Department directly and to Primes, the opportunity to engage in face-to-face discussions was one not to be missed. The Social Media Cafe was another area of the event that proved very popular with delegates, serving as a strong business to business networking hub.
The Keynote Arena was where delegates discovered what opportunities lay ahead in the defence marketplace. The first speaker of the day was Barry Burton, Director of Corporate Affairs at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation.
Mr Burton is responsible for DE&S strategic governance, reputation, infrastructure and security, and he said events like DPRTE really matter. His appearance at DPRTE 2016 saw him speak about the DE&S focus on its customers and how the organisation is transforming, as well as innovation, a key theme for DE&S and a core element in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
There is currently a transformation programme in DE&S with a focus on procuring better and ensuring there is the right commercial capability within the organisation.
Mr Burton commented: “Underpinning everything is innovation. It’s a key theme and we’ve been refocusing on innovation as a key issue for us as an organisation and it will be driven by rationality and necessity. We require to do more with less and some of our tried and tested responses simply don’t work anymore.
“We need to be more efficient at all levels of defence, from senior decision makers through to the workshop floor; we will only be able to deliver the best for our personnel on the front line if we adopt a combined approach to innovation and improvement going forward.
“An event like DPRTE today provides an excellent opportunity for industry professionals to meet with the MOD’s procurement team. It provides a forum within which we can better understand our respective issues, some of the constraints and challenges that we each face and how over time we might use an innovative approach to change things.”
DE&S seeks to work with a defence industry that is innovative, and there was a call for businesses to be proactive in support of this. Pointing to proactive innovation in Silicon Valley, Mr Burton urged suppliers to get ahead of the game.
He explained: “Don’t become complacent and wait for us to tell you what we need; you could be thinking in advance and have conversations to ensure we find a solution to drive a better outcome. We’re certainly open to that discussion.
“We can’t get better at getting better without your help. Having a set-up such as DPRTE where hundreds of exhibitors are able to come and have conversations and exchange knowledge is a really good opportunity for all of us. It’s great that it’s not just industry here but also a range of my DE&S colleagues as well as people from the wider MOD, all of which provides an excellent environment for sharing ideas.
“The Ministry of Defence wholeheartedly supports this event precisely because it’s focused on getting the very best from industry, our defence procurement and acquisition organisation, and our science community. The knowledge in this arena is the envy of the world and it’s important to seize the opportunity that today represents.”
Mr Burton went on to highlight some areas where the MOD has particular interest in the near future. He said: “Firstly, over the course of the next few months you will start to see a lot more action in DE&S in terms of transformation. 2016 for us is the pivotal year in which we change quite fundamentally some of the ways we deliver programmes to our equipment customers.
“Now is the time when we implement some of the changes that we’ve been building up to over the last two years as a bespoke trading entity.”
Next to the podium was Steven Morgan, Commercial Director at the Ministry of Defence. Mr Morgan spoke about refreshing the MOD’s policy on small and medium-sized enterprises and outlined some of the changes that are being made to help small businesses win more defence contracts and generate more profit.
He said: “The SME agenda is an important part of our agenda. In my experience our SME community tends to be more innovative, they generally have fewer costs and overheads, they are more likely to exploit the intellectual property that we allow them to retain, and they are hungrier. All of those factors make involving SMEs in our programmes a smart idea.”
The MOD is looking to develop an SME contract that is two-three pages long and free of the kind of jargon and detail that need not apply to smaller firms. Mr Morgan has also set about encouraging Tier 1 contractors to outsource more work to SMEs.
The MOD intends to publish a league table so that those companies who are committed to outsourcing will be recognised, while those who disregard it will be identified.
Other speakers of note were Mike Stone, Chief Digital and Information Officer at MOD ISS, who gave an in-depth account of the programmes of work MOD ISS is working on now and in the future; Paul Clarke, Director of Xenubis, who gave a solid overview of the dangers posed by cyber crime; and Andrew Caldwell of Dstl, who spoke about the role of science and research post-SDSR. It was an enlightening keynote agenda that delegates will have taken a lot away from.
Away from the Keynote Arena, the four Knowledge Transfer Zones were also busy throughout the day with delegates looking to learn more about research and technology; exports and business growth; procurement and the supply chain; and buyer excellence. Knowledge-sharing was everywhere at DPRTE 2016.
DPRTE 2017 has already been announced, and will take place once again at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff next 30 March. If DPRTE 2016 was anything to go by, then next year’s event is set to be another not-to-be-missed date on the defence procurement calendar.