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Mar 08. General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited has launched a pioneering innovation centre for Britain’s knowledge-based industries, enabling rapid testing of new advances in technology by the Ministry of Defence, Britain’s leading universities, and high-tech small and medium size companies (SMEs). The EDGE™ UK, launched at the Northern Defence Industries (NDI) conference in Leeds on 29 February 2008, provides a collaborative environment for new equipment and software to be joined to existing defence communications and IT systems, facilitating speedy assessment and refinement of emerging capabilities for the armed forces and security services.

The original EDGE™ initiative, successfully developed in the United States by General Dynamics, provides a physical and virtual environment for collaboration projects between industry, academia and the US government. The initiative has been adapted for the UK by General Dynamics UK, a leading nurturer of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in accordance with the UK’s Defence Innovation Strategy, which calls for a “new environment for innovation within the defence supply chain” and notes that innovation is essentially “the successful generation and exploitation of new or, where appropriate, novel applications of existing technology.”

As well as helping innovative SMEs bring new capabilities to market, the EDGE™ UK facility will further develop the partnership-based concept of the UK’s unique Joint Systems and Joint Networks Integration Bodies (JSIB and JNIB). The Joint Integration Bodies, pioneered by General Dynamics UK and the MoD in delivering the UK’s flagship Bowman communications programme, bring together industry and the MoD to integrate key networks and systems into a coherent whole.

Speaking to the NDI Conference audience of business and defence leaders, Andrew Browne, Vice President C4I (UK) of General Dynamics UK, said: “EDGE™ UK will allow us to take best-of-breed science and technology innovations rapidly into fielded capability. This will provide our customers with a competitive edge. To do this, we need a physical and virtual infrastructure that will enable us to work closely, and collaborate, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia and customers. EDGE™ UK is an innovative first for Britain’s high-tech industries.”

“The MOD, major defence industries, universities and the DTI need to make a combined effort to identify innovative SMEs and their capabilities and improve means of engagement with them.”

Underlining this approach, on March 10th, Purple Secure Systems today announced that it has entered into a SME sponsorship arrangement with leading UK defence prime General Dynamics UK.

Innovative initiatives for enterprise and support for SMEs were proposed in the UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy, and have been reinforced since by defence ministers, for example at the Williams F1 centre in July 2007, when defence primes were urged to further nurture their supply chains and provide mentoring support to start-up enterprises in the sector.

The sponsorship will help Purple Secure Systems during its start-up period, without requiring commercial ties between the two companies. The arrangement will provide access for Purple Secure Systems to advice and guidance from a range of subject matter experts, in areas such as business planning and strategy, commercial and legal, supply chain management, export compliance, security, and marketing.

David Harris, Managing Director of Purple Secure Systems, said “We consider ourselves very lucky indeed to have this opportunity to benefit from General Dynamics UK’s considerable experience during a challenging period of our development and we are very grateful to them for providing this support. I am certain that this arrangement will greatly assist us in driving the development of our business in the right direction.”

“SMEs are vital to innovation an

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