Manufacturer warns government to purchase more from SMEs

Posted on 9 Jan 2012
Craig Fletcher (left) explains workings of Cubewano engine to Andrew Mitchell MP

Cubewano, a Midlands-based engine manufacturer, has warned the government that the Ministry of Defence must purchase more from SMEs, or risk intellectual property developed in the UK being sold to foreign-owned defence conglomerates.

The company, which has 11 patents for its innovative engine and military generator technologies, met with its constituency MP Andrew Mitchell today.

Craig Fletcher, founder and managing director at Cubewano, asked the MP for Sutton Coldfield to encourage the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology to provide more backing to firms who are looking to supply to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Following similar criticisms of the government after its decision to award Siemens the Thameslink train contract over Bombardier, which has a large factory in Derby, this is the latest case of UK manufacturers’ concern over government support.

Cubewano completed a multi-million dollar contract supplying its engines to the US Army last year, and has adapted its core technology to create a new portable range of ‘Hornet’ generators which run on military-standard heavy fuel and can be carried into theatre by just one soldier.

The company must now gain an initial order from either the MoD or a foreign military in order to secure the capital to take its generator range from prototype to production.

Mr Fletcher indicated that the company was at a crossroads and that tooling to bring the Hornet generators into production will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, making decisions over funding a high priority.

Fletcher said: “We could probably secure grants from the MoD to help us develop even more patents and innovative technology – but this doesn’t help us get our latest product to market.”

The company must now look to one of the larger players in the defence industry to either partner with or sell its intellectual property to so that the generators can move towards production and receive a procurement pipeline into the military.

Andrew Mitchell MP with a Cubewano engine
Andrew Mitchell MP with a Cubewano engine

Fletcher commented: “We have already had interest from major defence players in the USA and India who want to acquire our patents wholesale – however this would come at an unfortunate production and intellectual cost to both the region and the UK.”

According to Cubewano, the product has the potential to attract worldwide demand, with one military customer expressing an interest in purchasing 10,000 units over a number of years.

“Perversely, once the product is in production we know it will be demanded by our own Armed Forces,” said Fletcher. “However, they will in likelihood be purchasing a product manufactured abroad with profit on British-developed intellectual property passing to a foreign defence behemoth rather than a hi-tech innovator right here in the Midlands.”

In a damning indictment of the government, Fletcher concluded: “the government must do more to support companies like us so we are not put in the position of having to sell intellectual property abroad.”