Dstl's Customer and Supplier Communications Manager Hayley Higgins describes the importance of Dstl's presence at trade event.
For the fifth year running, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has attended the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability (DPRTE) event.
Focused on getting industry and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) together in one space, over the years this event has put Dstl in contact with suppliers from different backgrounds including people we have worked with before and those we haven’t.
We are always keen to take the opportunity to meet with the supplier community face to face. It is important to understand the problems facing suppliers, and what areas they are growing their business in. Without these interactions, we wouldn’t get the chance to understand what the supply base is looking for from MOD and in return sharing what the MOD is looking for from suppliers.
In particular, the conversations we had with people at this event ranged from suppliers looking to grow new capabilities but wanting to understand if defence would have a future need for it to, more generally, what routes there are to engage with Dstl. The latter is a common one and we recognise it can be confusing with multiple routes to work with Dstl.
So this year at DPRTE we tried to focus on simplifying that. We had representatives from each of the main routes to working with Dstl, this included Easy Access IP, Ploughshare Innovations, Commercial frameworks, R-Cloud and the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE). This meant there was always someone around to provide information and an entry point to Dstl and in turn, MOD. Hopefully we were able to explain that these routes are set up for different purposes and for suppliers at different stages in their business.
It was good to see that the presenters within the Key Note Arena were also recognising the priority to engage with suppliers and in particular, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Most of the presenters were from an MOD background and the one theme that came through was around innovation, not surprising as this was a theme highlighted within the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). However, some of the talk around innovation was more around improving how we work together, making MOD’s processes easier to follow and therefore easier to contract with.
Andrew Caldwell, who represented Dstl within the Key Note Arena, talked about the need to generate new ideas into the system, to help MOD make a step-change in some capability areas to maintain our strategic edge. This may mean having to undertake higher risk research but with a potentially higher pay off, such as the challenges the current Disruptive Capabilities programme is championing. This is what businesses are doing on a daily basis, so having interactions with MOD at events such as DPRTE and really understanding the direction that MOD is going will help grow the necessary capabilities within both government and industry, while hopefully making that high risk less risky.
There is a long way to go but events like this help MOD and Dstl to understand the problems facing suppliers, and work on solutions. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting 2 people together, listening to each other and finding the links.