Strategic Partners - BAE Systems

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Dr Steve Harris, Head of External Partnerships and Brokering at BAE Systems, talks about working with EPSRC.

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Dr Steve Harris, Head of External Partnerships and Brokering – BAE Systems

I’m Steve Harris from BAE Systems.  I have worked for the company for 28 years and I am currently Head of External Partnerships and Brokering.  Today we are in our research lab within our military aircraft division in Filton and we are in the corrosion test lab and this is one of our exciting corrosion test chambers.

The company has a strong partnership relationship with the EPSRC, originally established by one of my predecessors John Murphy, and we have tried to work with them in real partnership, open partnership, for at least 15 years.  Pound for pound, the UK university system is the best in the world.  The ideas that you can get from a university can be astounding to be frank and we see the university as supplying those seeds, those grains, those things for the future which we then move on and translate.

We often go with one problem and discover the solution to several new ones, also the disruptive nature.  The universities are fantastic at discovering the next thing that’s going to game change.  So this particular type of corrosion sensor, we have a wide suite, is basically a canary, this one’s white so I know it’s for an F35.  So that first strike burns out, that’s our traffic light and that’s a warning, saying that it’s a corrosive environment in there.  When the second one starts burning out we start thinking I need to do some maintenance.  When the third one goes we go in.  The whole basis of the science behind this came from working with some of our top universities, Manchester, Birmingham and Surrey universities spring to mind.  Without their knowledge and their understanding we couldn’t have even started because it was from talking to them we understood how to study corrosion.

EPSRC is fully behind getting small companies and businesses working with universities.  They put tool sets in place.  I’ve always got sound advice.  They have always said have you thought about this centre, this academic, a lot of these little companies, it’s all about how smart they are and they are clever.  They are smart and they are clever, you can get a lot of that from working with a university and you can keep on moving forward.  One stop shop, all the answers you have ever wanted. EPSRC - go and make use of it.