Lighting the SpaRk on Innovation

Raytheon UK announces its SpaRk 2015 Research and Development competition winners

They sound like something out of Star Wars: Electromagnetics, hi-power converters and anti-corruption memory devices. But these are no lightsabers out of fantasy. They are real-world technologies driving innovation at Raytheon UK.

That innovation was the goal of the company's third annual Small to Medium-sized Enterprise Partnerships Advancing Raytheon Knowledge research and development competition, better known as SpaRk. And the 2015 SpaRk winners are Original Perspectives Limited, Dismantle Engineering Limited and the University of Nottingham, the latter winning for the second year in a row.

The competition, designed to foster innovation through collaborative relationships with U.K.-based small to medium-sized enterprises, academia and the supply chain will bolster Raytheon's growth in Intelligence and Security, Power and Control and Defence.

"When we launched the competition in 2013, our ambition was to build strong collaborations with small businesses and universities for mutual benefit, and I am delighted to say we have done just that," said Richard Daniel, chief executive of Raytheon UK. "We are continuing to support two of our 2014 winners — Plextek and the University of Nottingham — with additional funding, so they can further their R&D projects, and we will be working with our three new partners over the coming year."

Selected from more than 20 entries, the 2015 SpaRk winners will each receive a grant of up to £50,000 to undertake a three-month technological research project aligned with Raytheon UK's principle business areas, with the potential opportunity for future funding to complete a longer, second-stage project.

This year's Defence challenge was focused on special mission aircraft equipment fits. Manned or unmanned, special mission aircraft often require different equipment fits for specific missions. Raytheon required the solution to consider flexible electrical interfaces and alternative mechanical interfaces; be multi-use and/or easily exchangeable; maintain consistency with stringent airworthiness requirements; and deliver low size, weight and power.

Gloucestershire-based Original Perspectives Limited, Dismantle Engineering Limited (OPL) specializes in electromagnetics and antenna design. It addressed Raytheon's need to quickly and easily change equipment both inside the aircraft and fitted externally, such as antennas. Its proposal will research the use of so-called smart, electromagnetic metamaterials in the design of an aerodynamic, multi-frequency, single-structure antenna.

Metamaterials have properties that could be used to build smaller, more aerodynamic antennae, and cover more frequencies with fewer antennae. "The benefits to the business are in delivering air platforms with improved performance due to lower aerodynamic drag and also, increased flexibility in the equipment fit to the aircraft," said Dr. Peter Langsford, an engineering fellow within Raytheon UK's Defence team.

The University of Nottingham was granted the Power and Control SpaRk R&D award for Aerospace Electrical Power Systems. This collaborative effort will research an optimised, harsh-environment machine design combined with matched high-power inverters. Through this project, Raytheon aims to exploit its world-leading High-Temperature Silicon Carbide (HiTSiC) technology for higher volume, limited-lifetime parts.

"It is clear that offering high-temperature, integrated circuit technology to potential customers stimulates them to think of solutions which are enabled by the technology. We therefore require the solution to be highly reliable, efficient and maintain operability under extreme conditions," said Steve Clerkin, Raytheon UK's business sector lead (Aviation Electrical Power Systems), Integrated Power Solutions. "This project is a great opportunity for Raytheon's power systems capability to develop a market solution to this demanding challenge."

The Intelligence and Security business will fund a research project with Kent-based Dismantle Engineering to reduce the risks associated with memory corruption in low- power, embedded microprocessor systems. There is a growing market for next-generation embedded devices and applications, but they need to be made secure. The research focuses on ways to protect applications through the device platform layer, whilst placing relatively few constraints on the applications developer.

"Through this research area, Raytheon will gain understanding and insight into 'Internet of Things' platforms and methods to secure them," said Alan Darbyshire, I &S systems architect Raytheon UK.

Raytheon UK has already awarded more than £500,000 to business enterprises and universities around the country. "Successful technology development requires investment," said Roy Donelson, director of Programme Delivery and Mission Assurance, Raytheon UK. "Last year, our SpaRk competition sponsored the exploration of technologies such as automation tools for identifying vulnerabilities in software, designs for a common power module for aviation, and sensor networking for navigation. These are already capturing the imagination of some of our engineers and technologists."