Military urged to transfer its technology…

April 22, 2010

Military urged to transfer its technology
THE IDEA that Britain’s leading position in military technology automatically helps its industrial base has taken a new blow.
A report by the electronics committee of the government’s National Economic Development Council says that the type of companies that lead the military electronics market are precisely the companies that are unable or unwilling to develop products for civilian customers.
The report’s author, Sir Ieuan Maddock, a former chief scientist at the Department of Industry and says the Ministry of Defence is partly to blame for this stagnation in “technology transfer”.
The bulk of the ministry’s technically-sophisticated work goes to companies or divisions of companies that deal almost exclusively with the Ministry of Defence.
And most companies that deal in both military and civilian products admitted to Maddock that transfers between the two “did not happen to anything like the extent that was desirable”.
Maddock visited defence contractors such as Ferranti, GEC-Marconi, Mullard, Plessey, Racal and Thorn-EMI in his investigation.
Maddock reports that most firms are hostile to the idea of moving people between civil and military sectors: “There already exists a large culture gap and it is getting even wider.”
In the long run and this situation is bad for Britain’s industry, Maddock argues, because the technology gap is growing all the time between companies working on advanced defence electronics (in which Britain leads the world) and these struggling to retain some of the consumer electronics business.
In contrast, before the Second World war, British civil industry was a leader in products such as radios and cathode-ray tubes which could be adapted quickly for military purposes.
“The brilliant inventiveness of the engineers and scientists…would have been of little avail if this strong industrial base had not existed.”
The Ministry of Defence’s own research establishments also came in for criticism for playing too great a role in specifying, designing and managing defence projects.
Maddock urged the laboratories to set up “industrial applications units” to find civil uses for their projects.
According to the report and the only way for Britain to benefit from its military strengths in rebuilding an electronics industry is for a massive, government-sponsored effort in technology transfer.
This cannot be achieved by existing military contractors moving into civilian markets for which they have few skills, but by giving the market-oriented companies more access to “front-line” technology. Drivers to pay
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If the trial is successful the Hong Kong government will extend it to cover the entire colony.

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