Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/14/mod_q_quest/

MoD seeks 'budding Qs' in SME engagement push

Pops open porkbarrel small tin of spam

By Lewis Page

Posted in Small Biz, 14th November 2008 11:13 GMT

The UK Ministry of Defence says it is keen to hear from "budding Qs who think they could supply the armed forces of the future with high-tech gadgets and gizmos". To that end, the MoD has organised an "innovation day" at Glasgow University.

"The Support for Operations seminar is our way of taking the Centre for Defence Enterprise on tour," said Dr Helen Almey - the Centre's head.

"There is a strong tradition of research and development in Scotland and we hope to be able to build on this to ensure our front-line forces have the best battle-winning technologies for the future," she added.

Bond purists will by now be spluttering into their dry martinis. Q actually works for the Foreign Office, not the MoD, to name just one of the solecisms here.

But it seems that in any case this isn't a recruitment push for the MoD's equivalent of the SIS tech-services arm. Rather it's a stab at trying to get some defence pork out to Scottish SMEs.

You don't have to be Scottish, though, or even go to the Glasgow seminar (Kelvin Gallery at the University of Glasgow on 19 November between 10am and 5pm). If you've got a cunning tech notion which could help our boys and girls on the front line win their battles and come home safe, you can submit a proposal online.

The Centre for Defence Enterprise has been up and running for six months, during which time it says it has received "more than 130" proposals. Six of these have so far been recommended for funding totalling £1.7m - many more are still under consideration.

So the MoD is reaching out to SMEs, to some degree. However you have to say that it would be better to be a traditional huge defence contractor with hundreds of employees to use as hostages in screwing cash out of the government. You might then be able to sell the MoD stuff at several times the market rate, scooping billions in extra revenue - not a paltry few hundred thou here and there.

And neither garage inventors, SMEs nor aerospace globocorps really seem to fit the label "budding Qs".

So it's a confused message from the MoD at best. ®