Business: Take Advantage of MoD Support; Paul Adams, Technology Diversification Manager of the Defence Diversification Agency Wales, Outlines the Opportunities for Indigenous Businesses in the Lucrative Field of Defence Research and Development Work

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Adams

IS your company innovative? If so, you'll already be enjoying, typically, five times more market share than your non-innovative competitors.

Innovation isn't just about invention, it is also about improving current processes, and successful innovation can have a positive knock-on effect on supply chains.

The Welsh Assembly Government noted the importance of innovation by recently launching the Wales for Innovation action plan.

Wales was one of the first four countries in Europe to sign up to the European Commission-funded Regional Innovation Strategy and the Welsh Development Agency, along with other local business support agencies, has been charged with the task of ensuring innovation is not only encouraged but implemented. Recent research has revealed that Wales lags behind other parts of the UK in the development of new products and procedures. The report showed that while the UK as a whole spends 1.3% of its GDP on industrial research and development Wales spends only 0.4%.

This is frequently attributable to the fact that few Welsh companies are in sectors that traditionally invest in research and development. Many of the larger ones have their headquarters or research and development departments located elsewhere.

The bulk of the Welsh economy is based upon SMEs (small to medium enterprises) that frequently lack the time, resources and ``critical mass'' to carry out research and development of their own. Furthermore, while EC technology transfer programmes and Welsh academia are major regional assets to support technological innovation there are no major government research institutions in Wales.

The Defence Diversification Agency works closely with the WDA as a delivery partner in increasing Welsh innovation.

In brief, the DDA was created by a government White Paper in 1998 in recognition of the fact that MoD laboratories and prime contractors were producing cutting-edge science and technology research that could be readily shared with the private sector for wealth and job creation.

The DDA was given the main task of facilitating this transfer of technology between UK companies and the defence science and technology base. Its main, but not entire, focus is towards assisting SMEs. It has been working in partnership with the WDA for the past three years, offering technology transfer to Welsh companies in a broad range of industrial sectors ranging from automotive to electronic to construction. This typically takes the form of consultancy or complete projects for research, product development, access to intellectual property or testing and evaluation, all with the assistance of MoD experts. …