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Delivering value through unprecedented times; delivery by SMEs through COVID-19


Tom O'Byrne - Head of Supply Chain Development

SME (Small Medium Enterprise) conceptual image showing meshing cogs with things like targets, light bulbs and people in them

Over the last 15 months, we have globally experienced an unprecedented impact to our ways of working, from our movements being restricted and increased remote working to adopting new technologies and different ways of working. This has impacted all organisations globally regardless of industry, size or available resources. Often however those that have experienced the greatest impact are small businesses, in turn felt by the wider supply chain and economy.

Micro-, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are vital to the global economy, according to the data provided by the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), SMEs worldwide account for 90% of all businesses, 70% of all jobs and contribute 50% to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These business are also critical to QinetiQ as suppliers, partners and members of the wider defence industrial supply chain in our home (UK, US and Australia) and priority (Belgium, Canada and Germany) countries.

Resilience through Uncertainly

It has been over these months that SMEs in support of QinetiQ have continued to deliver with agility, passion, energy, flexibility, and an innovative entrepreneurial DNA to overcome or manage the risk and restrictions posed by COVID-19 on QinetiQ, our customers and wider supply chain.

Below are a few stories on how SMEs have continued to deliver in the face of COVID-19 uncertainty.


Remote working or working remotely

MOD Hebrides is the largest Test and Evaluation Range in Europe, occupying 115,000km² of segregated airspace allowing UK MOD, industry and international customers to conduct a wide range of trials, experimentation and rehearsal. The range includes use of St Kilda, an isolated archipelago 64 kilometres (40 mi) west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. The sites remote location, restrictions on movement imposed from COVID-19 and reported construction industry material shortage increased the challenges of a civil engineering project. MacAulay Askernish Ltd, a local SME, said “We worked in synergy with QinetiQ throughout the project, overcoming all obstacles to achieve our combined goal, with this requiring innovative solutions that came to fruition through collaboration, unifying disciplines and conviction. The project not only delivered the intended outcome but ultimately, the greatest value of this project came in the positive broader effects and social value contribute to the long-term wellbeing and resilience of this fragile community”.

Helping to manage uncertainty through technology
The last 15 months have created a range of uncertainties irrespective of industry, caused by a pandemic, which has strained and disrupted logistic networks and led to shortages in the global supply of some products and materials. Our ability to manage these uncertainties has above else helped us to reduce impact and pursue opportunities. Risk Decisions is a risk solutions SME, allowing the ability to capture, analyse and manage risks and opportunities, in order to make timely, risk-intelligent decisions. In return, we “have helped Risk Decisions innovate and advance the software capabilities of Predict!, contributed to the Risk Intelligence (RQ) white papers series and spreading good practice by presenting at community events. It’s collaboration at its best.” 

Continued Customer Delivery
Through the pandemic, we have continued to successfully deliver to our customers, supported by our own suppliers continued delivery to us despite the challenges posed. Castle Air have worked with us for a decade and our collaboration has only grown over this time. A key enabler in delivery of Flight Test Professional training, Castle Air provide a complete Part 145 Maintenance and Part M Continuing Airworthiness Management service for our rotary wing air fleet which continued through the pandemic achieving 100% service availability with no loss of service resulting from their outputs. Embedded within the operations at Boscombe Down, this offers a comprehensive service and allows for ongoing continuous improvement. Last year, Castle Air and QinetiQ expanded their joint effort by extending from Boscombe Down to deliver the LTPA Range Helicopter Service in North-West Scotland providing further Part 145 and Part M services as well as introducing a civil operation capability to fly our new Airbus H145 helicopter. A relationship that continues to go from strength to strength, Castle Air’s flexible and pro-active SME approach gels exceptionally well with our delivery methodology.

A little support goes a long way

As a large organisation, we continue to assess how else we can support SMEs through the procurement process. At QinetiQ, we seek to remove barriers of entry for SMEs, we use systems and tools from pre-qualification to e-souring, all to increase speed to contract and remove duplication. We collaborate with SMEs and those that represent SMEs, such as Trade Bodies, to continue to improve our ways of working, whilst applying proportionately to our commercial deals. We look to support SMEs by providing orientation and guidance through the procurement process. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognised that in March 2020, a risk looming was financial stability of SMEs and so started to pay SMEs early which has now passed the milestone of paying early more than £100m to more than 1000 SMEs.These small differences have been fed back to us as helping SMEs, enabling them to focus more time on the requirement and delivery than the “red tape”.

Throughout the pandemic despite of that challenges posed, SMEs have been able to call upon the grounding traits of agility, passion, energy, flexibility, and innovation to continue to deliver for our customers.

QinetiQ is a company that prides itself on creating collaborative ecosystems, solving real-world problems and creating tangible outcomes. Working with our customers, partners, and suppliers we look to create unrivalled capability through the best of industry.


If you are an SME and would like to know more about working with QinetiQ, please check out our SME Hub or reach out directly by email here.


Featured SMEs

MacAulay Askernish Limited: Founded in South Uist in 1949, MacAulay Askernish Ltd is a privately owned family run Civil Engineering Contractor operating throughout the Western Isles and Highlands with fully accredited Quality, Health & Safety and Environmental procedures. www.askernishquarry.com

Risk Decisions Limited:  Risk Decisions is a pioneering global risk solutions company, located in the UK, North America and Australia. Risk Decisions deliver practical enterprise risk solutions and services at project, programme, portfolio, product, functional, operational and strategic level, to enable you to meet your business objectives and achieve a positive Return on Investment (ROI) in risk management. www.riskdecisions.com

Castle Air Limited: Castle Air are a highly respected presence in the Aviation Industry and specialists in helicopter charter, sales, management, engineering and pilot training. They have over 40 years’ experience in the charter, management and sales of aircraft. Over this time Castle Air have proven themselves to be a permanent and prominent force in an ever changing industry and are unique in that they offer their customers a complete end-to-end aviation service. www.castleair.co.uk

SME (Small Medium Enterprise) image with logos of three SMEs