Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence


Annex B

TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATION—A KEY ELEMENT IN THE R&D PROCESS

  1.  Technology Demonstrators are physical or virtual (computer-based) entities, simulating systems or subsystems. They are used throughout industry and universities not only to demonstrate and validate, in a practical environment, promising technology that has emerged from the laboratory, but also to test the integration process of several technologies into one system. It is this technology integration process that is often the most problematic and risky part of the product development; therefore, Demonstrators are a critical part of the risk-reduction process in taking base technologies through to products. Table 1 shows how, in the R&D process, Demonstrators form a bridge between generic research and product-specific development, where promising technologies are tested for use in a specific product.

  2.  Only technologies that have a reasonable chance of maturation are subject to Technology Demonstration. In this respect, Demonstrators have a commercial focus on the technologies' end use. They should not be confused with prototypes, which are designed to be working versions of the final product and form part of the subsequent development process.


  3.  Technology Demonstrators are a vital bridge in translating research into industrial products. They therefore help to minimise technical and financial risk, and reduce time to market. Some earlier costed examples are listed below at Table 2, together with their benefits.

  4.  The use of unproven technologies can easily lead to high costs and delays during development and during the product's lifetime—even to cancellation or product failure. Demonstration in the R&D cycle is a proven method of reducing the risks and reducing the need for costly prototyping further into development. The National Audit Office reported that the cost/benefit ration of Demonstrators for defence programmes was 6:1.

FROM DEMONSTRATOR TO EUROFIGHTER

  It is estimated that the £190 million investment in the Experimental Aircraft Programme Technology Demonstrator saved the Industry and Government £850 million in development costs for the resulting Eurofighter and shortened the development time by one year. Similarly, the XG40 Demonstrator for Eurofighter's EJ200 engine cost £135 million but saved £650 million from the development programme. Demonstrators may sometimes appear expensive, but are in fact a fraction of the total development cost—typically less than 10 per cent.

  5.  Demonstrators are also a powerful marketing tool; they directly enhance the commercial prospects of an emerging product by providing clear and measurable information on its viability to investors and potential customers. Potential products are more likely to attract development funds and reach the market if Demonstrators have been involved.

Table 2

SOME EXAMPLES OF TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATOR BENEFITS
ProgrammeCost Direct Benefits
Jaguar Carbon Fibre Wing (1976-82)£30 million The first Carbon Fibre Wing manufactured in the world;
Development of design and manufacturing methods, process, standards and Qualification still used today.
The structure was tested to failure to enable the validation of design calculations and complex structural properties.
Fully Co-bonded Structural Front Fuselage (1977-82) £5 millionFurther development UK skills, techniques and experience in building large CFC structures.
Gaining knowledge on the effect of CFC structures to aircraft electrical systems, spearheading R&D work in the electrical/electromagnetic implications of CFC.
Enabled advanced facilities to be built enhancing BAE SYSTEMS's capability in CFC manufacture and positioning the UK as a major world player.
Jaguar Fly By wire (FBW) (1977-84)£13 million Research in to Active Control Technology.
Enabler to certification of Digital Flight Control Systems (FCS).
Drove increased capability on EMC testing in the UK and the first lightning strike on an operation aircraft which continued flying post testing.
Experimental Aircraft Programme (EAP) (1983-92) £185 millionReduced Risk of Quadraplex FCS for Delta wing/Canard Configuration.
Expanded knowledge and capability of agile highly unstable fast jet configurations.
Encompassed and flight tested new materials (eg Aluminium Lithium and CFC Honeycomb) with a large weight saving.
Development of CFC Wing and Foreplane (learning from experiences with JAS wing).
Proved ability to demonstrate complete aircraft systems at low cost and at short timescales.
1st Glass Cockpit on UK aircraft.


  6.  Despite the proven cost-effectiveness of Technology Demonstrator programmes in recent years there has been a steady decline in associated UK Government funding; for example, in the last 13 years Government investment in experimental research, which includes Technology Demonstration, has fallen by 46 per cent. This was brought into sharper focus by the National Audit Office, which pointed out that reduced funding for demonstration programmes was partially responsible for cost increases and delays to Government projects. Additionally, the HoC Science and Technology Select Committee recently recommended that the Government should assume a greater role in supporting development and Technology Demonstration where the risks are high, but are outweighed by the potential rewards if the projects are successful. The Committee also recommended that the Government should support the development of large-scale demonstration facilities to provide UK companies with a better means of carrying out "proof of concept" research.

  7.  Examples of the Technology Demonstrator programmes, which the aerospace industry believes are of high priority, in terms of maintaining or improving its competitive position worldwide, are outlined at Appendix 1. The industry would welcome discussions with Government officials on how these and other programmes can be funded.


 
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Prepared 13 June 2002