31 October 2002 | David Arminas
The Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) has called on UK suppliers to beef up their research and technology work.
David Gould, deputy chief executive of the DPA, said that if suppliers want a bigger share of Ministry of Defence (MoD) work, they will need to concentrate on their own suppliers that have invested in research and can bring their work to the front line more quickly than before.
"We need to put the technology more quickly into the hands of the front-line user," Gould told the Jane's Economist Defence Industry Conference in London.
Gould told SM: "The challenge is for people involved in research, whether civil or defence, is to get more involved directly with the DPA and the big prime contractors.
"When we have our regular supplier development meetings with prime contractors, we should be interrogating them about how they are making it easy for people in their supply chain who are doing useful research to get through to them.
"It comes under placing technology in the supply chain, and that is absolutely my concern."
Gould's comments came at the launch of the MoD's defence industry policy paper, which singled out research as "the critical factor in the future prosperity of the defence industry".
Bob Ison, managing director of CAE (UK), a Canadian provider of military simulation and training, said the paper and Gould's comments were a call for major defence contractors to drill into their supply chain to find out what research is under way.
"In the future, contractors seeking MoD work will have to show they have done more research and so you will look for more of it in your supply chain partners," he said.
But there was widespread concern that the government was unfairly giving more grant money to QinetiQ - its former research agency, Dera, now in the middle of a controversial privatisation - than private firms.
"The target of government money for military research was supposed to be about 50:50 between QinetiQ and the rest of UK industry," Ison said.
By quantity, the share of work looked fairly balanced, he said, but by value, QinetiQ's share "may be closer to 90 per cent".