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MOD searches for the manufacturing solutions of the future

Machines that build themselves, electronics embedded in skin-thin layers of material and clothing that changes colour to alert the wearer to chemical agents – these are the ‘James Bond’ style future technologies on the horizon, that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) are searching for.

MOD is inviting research proposals from the UK’s most inspiring innovators ranging from academia to entrepreneurs to small and medium enterprises to multinational defence giants, with the aim of informing future research in the area of design, fabrication and manufacture.

The call will be launched in Cambridge on 12 June and will remain open until 17 July. Guest speakers will include Andrew Gill of the Institute for Manufacturing, part of the University of Cambridge and British writer and critic Bradley Quinn.

The call for proposals is funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl’s) Futures & Innovation Domain and will be managed by the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE), the first point of contact for any person or organisation, regardless of size, who has an innovative idea with a potential defence and security application.

Dstl technical lead Ian Youngs said: "In the future, the possibilities are endless. What we’re hoping to achieve with this call for proposals is to understand the innovative ideas that are currently being formulated in the brightest minds of UK industry and academia. We are seeking insight to the future technological landscape within which future defence equipment will be developed and supplied.

"CDE exists to reduce the barriers to entry for innovators and organisations with high-risk, high-potential-benefit ideas which could be matured and exploited by defence in support of UK security. We’re looking to learn what already exists in the design, fabrication and manufacture sectors that may be applied to UK defence and what is being examined for the future to get the most value from research funding."

In particular, this CDE call is looking for but not limited to:
Versatile, distributed manufacturing and upgrade including:
‘Zero-cost’ upgrades – this call aims to understand how the commercial sector is positioning itself to react to rapid changes in manufacturing. MOD seeks a demonstration of promising technologies business models, and evidence of the potential of conceptual ideas.

Additive manufacturing materials – the call aims to increase the number of materials which can be utilised in this rapidly developing technique. Particular areas of interest include combinations of structural, multifunctional, nano- and meta-materials to reduce lead times, increase performance, improve environmental sustainability and speed up production.

Intelligent systems and embedded electronics – Dstl is searching for short, innovative, proof-of-concept projects that will demonstrate the state of the art and future potential for defence and security applications from embedding intelligent sensing, processing, communication and other functionality within components and structures through the use of enhanced design fabrication and manufacturing techniques.

Bio-manufacturing – innovative proposals are sought in areas where design, fabrication and manufacture can benefit by learning from biological principles and using biological processes.

Quantum computing – how can manufacturers and designers harness significant advances in computing power? What are the most compelling ideas for designing and developing products to harness potential future quantum computing capability?

Guest speaker at the launch event, Bradley Quinn, said: "CDE’s conference is timely, and presents an exciting forum for civilian designers and defence industry specialists to address the technical challenges stimulated by military needs. New concepts for clothing that enhance the performance of soldiers are already beginning to emerge."

To attend please register on the CDE website www.science.mod.uk. You can contact the CDE by email cde@dstl.gov.uk or 01235 438445.

Proposals can be submitted online until the call is closed at 1700 on Wednesday 17 July 2012, the launch event will be at a seminar on 12 June, there no charge for attending the seminar.

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