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28 Nov 06. Defence Minister Lord Drayson today threw down the gauntlet to science and technology innovators and challenged them to get to grips with some of the dangers facing British Armed Forces on the front line today.

Soldiers patrolling in an urban environment face potential threats on all sides. Alleyways and rooftops provide ideal cover for snipers, while RPG teams can lie in wait at windows or in doorways. Street clutter can hide improvised explosive devices.

The Grand Challenge is a groundbreaking science and technology competition to discover new ideas for a system to detect and report these threats in real time to soldiers on patrol.

Providing they meet certain criteria, the winner of the Challenge will be awarded a contract by the MoD to develop their idea into a system that will be deployed on operations with British troops. They will also be awarded the R.J. Mitchell trophy, named after the designer of the Spitfire which went onto deliver decisive superiority in the Battle of Britain.

Lord Drayson said

“I am delighted to be able to throw down a challenge for the future that draws on the spirit of the past – R.J. Mitchell was an innovator whose bold Spitfire design went on to play a key role in one of the defining moments in this country’s history. The winner of the R.J. Mitchell Trophy will know that their ideas will be subject to the most rigorous testing and that they will potentially be saving lives on the front line.

“This is a fascinating challenge, and a huge opportunity for those who may not have worked in the defence sector before. By working together, I truly believe the MOD with the cutting edge of British scientists and engineers can capture the spirit of innovation that drove R J Mitchell, and provide a critical capability to the UK Armed Forces.”

The Grand Challenge aims to foster skills and innovation in the UK and is open to individuals and teams from the UK. Anyone interested in entering can register their interest and abilities to become part of the Grand Challenge Community for further information and invitation to key events Entries to the Grand Challenge must be submitted by May 2007. The best will be shortlisted to go through to the next phase. Funding may be available for the best of the shortlisted projects

The final judging event will take place in 2008 at a military training urban environment, with shortlisted entries pitted against each other in front of a panel of judges.

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