With a combination of innovation and prosperity likely to feature very large within the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR 2015) Lincoln based Inzpire is to me a perfect example of success and of what can be done here in the UK with just a little bit more imagination and hard work. Young, different, already successful and yet still brimming with ideas how to do things even better and expand, Lincoln based Inzpire really is one of the most exciting young companies that I have had the pleasure of meeting in many a year.
With turnover rising fast (this grew 46% in the year to August 2014) and increasingly being considered an employer of choice for those whose careers in the military have already or may be about to end and who can with the high level experience garnered in Royal Air Force, Royal Navy or Army service can add specialist military thinking and knowledge to the wider defence industry piece Inzpire has not only grown very fast but has also earned great respect for what it has already achieved.
So what does this very interesting specialist services based company do? Inzpire is a provider of sophisticated combat proven Mission Systems, Managed Services, and Training to the UK MoD and to some other overseas Armed Forces. Examples of what the company does include training Army Apache pilots at Middle Wallop, providing the Defence Synthetic Air-Land Training at RAF Waddington and also supplying certain critical embedded Typhoon fast-jet capability at RAF Coningsby.
Formed ten years ago by a group of like-minded individuals whose military flying careers had been drawing to a close I am told that between them Inzpire people have amassed in excess of 100,000 hours of military fast-jet and combat helicopter experience and some 800 years of combined military operation ‘cockpit time’ experience in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.
A very strong military ethos runs deep through all that Inzpire does but this is in my view just one part of what sets the company apart from much of the rest. Another is its determination and ambition to be the most respected defence company in the world. Ambition is all well and good of course but in this case there is sufficient customer evidence to conclude that as the company and its proven product capabilities further matures it really is standing above its pers.
Arguably Inzpire has and continues to be leading a revolution in the military-industrial relationship and if that is true then you begin to understand why such ambitions are not unrealistic. The client strategy behind what Inzpire sets out to do is to bring and combine deep seated military values such as honour, integrity and trust to the forefront of what is deemed to be a true military-industrial partnership.
Led by CEO Hugh Griffiths, a former Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado F3 flight commander, Qualified Weapons and Electronic Warfare Instructor and a past leader of the Royal Air Force analysis team at the Defence Science and Technical Laboratory (DSTL) there is no shortage of real air power related experience. Griffiths also brought in significant in-depth experience of operational analysis and operational test and evaluation. The same is true of Mark Boyes, Missions Systems Director while Alan Whittle, Managed Services Director has significant experience in aircraft engineering and as a Senior Flying Instructor on British Army Apache Helicopter and also on Lynx and Gazelles.
With a company strategy having set out to develop a completely new style of defence/industry model that could deliver on budget and on time but that would also draw on real-world experience Inzpire set out to be different right from the start. The reality is that having designed the perspective to being ‘an integrated and proud partner, that can save lives, save money and promote prosperity as part of a team translates to this being a sleek operation that is both genuine, passionate, nimble, agile and willing.
Inzpire Mission Systems Group produces products used in 15 attack, support and search and rescue helicopters plus fast jet fighter platforms. For instance, Inzpire provides six Qualified Helicopter Flying Instructors to the British Army to teach all aspects of the UK Apache Attack Helicopter Conversion-to-Type course at the Army Aviation Centre at Middle Wallop. Built on software capability development products these include the GECO family of tablet-based mission systems for both airborne and land applications. GECO (Air) provides a proven digital cockpit for almost any platform, enhancing existing on-board avionic systems on legacy aircraft right through to the latest 5th generation aircraft. This includes digital moving maps navigation, performance planning, safety of flight, datalinks or high resolution satellite imagery and tactical overlays. These ‘apps’ can be knee mounted or integrated into the aircraft and are aimed to enhance safety, increase situational awareness and increase mission performance.
It is worth noting here that GECO is combat proven through use on UK MoD aircraft in Afghanistan and Libya. It is in use with the British Army Apache helicopters, RAF Tornado and Typhoon jets, and has been selected by Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) for use in nearly all UK MoD helicopters. Abroad GECO has been purchased by the Jordanian Armed Forces for use in its F16 fast jets and across its military helicopter fleet.
Managed Services included helicopter services, synthetic training, human factors and safety, air-land integration, integrated sensors and systems, remotely piloted air systems expertise and also in regard of ISTAR. This division is responsible for training the British Army to fly Apache helicopters, instructing RAF pilots in cockpit skills, for supporting UK Typhoon operations in the form of providing technical subject matter expertise and also for providing expertise in simulation and synthetic environments. Together, they design, produce and deliver a very comprehensive range of products and services through seamlessly integrating with military colleagues.
The Company is the only external provider of Human Factors training to the RAF and British Army, and has delivered this training for the past 6 years; all British military pilots (including members of the Royal Family) receive vital Human Factors training and the company has a growing team of Unmanned Air System (UAS) experts that between them have over 25,000 flying hours on UAS operations and programs.
Inzpire was, as so many great British ideas, inventions, products and services have in the past been, born over a glass or two of wine shared amongst a small group of military friends. Timing may have been an accident but intention certainly wasn’t although I doubt that anyone had much of an idea what lay ahead. Ten years and more on the manner of the original idea inception still appears to inform Inzpire management and team thinking. I said earlier that Inzpire is based on a military ethos and so it is. But it is also based on an ethos of building a business that makes a difference. The bottom line is that this is as much about a business that is growing bigger by the day but also one that is about giving back.
Inzpire employs only the most experienced and imaginative operational aircrew as part of the Whole Force Approach, and matches these people with professionals from other disciplines that have the same value-led, service-orientated attitude and approach. Inzpire is as I have already implied, passionate and very proud of its military heritage. So it should be along with the innovative approach to providing service and value.
As if to back up a lot of what I have said Inzpire has fairly recently been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation) and has been ranked as being 3-Star ‘extraordinary’ Best Company accreditation for employee engagement. Awards such as these are very important and I note that Inzpire is ranked 21st in The Sunday Times list of the 100 Best Companies to work for. There are plenty of other awards too.
CHW – London – 15th October 2015
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS