What is the UK-French MCM ITP? What does it deliver? And how do you get so many different participants together to share their ideas for future technologies? Mark Owen explains here.
The Materials and Components for Missiles Innovation and Technology Partnership (MCM ITP) is a research fund jointly sponsored by the UK and French Ministries of Defence, through UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and France's Direction Generale de l' Armement (DGA). It is an opportunity open to all UK and French companies and academic institutions. Launched in 2007, the MCM ITP develops novel, exploitable technologies for generation-after-next missile systems intended to equip the Armed Forces of the UK and France.
The MCM ITP predates the Franco-British co-operation established at Lancaster House in 2010, but perfectly encapsulates how by working together the two countries are achieving more together than in isolation. The MCM ITP is aligned into eight technical domains: systems, infrared and radar sensors, solid propulsion, air-breathing propulsion, warheads, safety and arming units and fuzes, materials and electronics. Each is led by one of the MCM ITP industrial consortium partners. These domain leads use horizon scanning internally within each of their organisations to determine project ideas to put forward. The MCM ITP also identifies the technologies projects for funding by issuing a public annual call for proposals, which is advertised in both countries.
There is strong participation in the MCM ITP from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and academia with 76 participating in the programme to date, and a total of 121 organisations involved in the overall programme. This ensures that innovation can be found and encouraged from within the largest possible community. The next round of new projects starts in September 2016.
Every few years a conference is called where the participants in the ITP and other interested parties come together to review the outputs. The most recent event was held in Brighton last year during October and was attended by over 300 delegates, representing more than 80 organisations. Some of the projects that were showcased included a next generation intelligent mission planning solution, and a “snail charge” rocket motor. The latter maximised missile range without adding missile length and materials, so that it could withstand the harsh environment experienced by vehicles travelling at supersonic and hypersonic speed.
The success of the MCM ITP is due to a number of factors. The first is the engagement and support from all the key stakeholders, our two customers in the UK and France, industry (including the SMEs) and academic institutions. Bringing all of these people together in an integrated trusted environment with the flexibility and openness has enabled innovation to grow and flourish.
The second factor is the joint funding model has been pivotal in making the ITP successful. The two government customers have 50/50 funded this programme and industry has then matched that funding. That fact shows that everyone believes in the ethos and aim of the MCM ITP. Within the annual budget of up to 12.5 million euros, 30% is targeted towards SMEs and academia.
Finally, the MCM ITP is a real partnership model. Everybody within the MCM ITP is working as real partners: joint incentives, joint risk sharing and joint ownership on the outputs with the joint desire to exploit them.
Looking to the future, what is important for the continued success of the MCM ITP is to remain relevant to the UK and France. We need to sustain our focus on affordable technology that has a clear and direct military benefit. As the military endeavours of our two customers shift and evolve, so must we all, to ensure we deliver their future complex weapons.