CDS wins Digital and Technology Innovation award

We are delighted and very proud to have won the MoD GEMS award in support of our Army colleagues for Digital and Technology Innovation.

The award was presented by Harriet Baldwin (MP), Minister for Defence Procurement at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, an organisation devoted to scientific education and research, based in London.

This is the second major award this project has won.

The GEMS award is for the e-learning solution developed for Operation Gritrock in response to the Ebola threat in West Africa.

Major Neil Weddell AGC (ETS): “This award recognises the hard work of a number of key people, both military and civilian, and could not have been achieved in isolation. Knowledge from the Army Medical Services (AMSTC), e-learning technical skills from CDS and the underpinning application of education theory and training experience from the AGC (ETS) demonstrates how truly collaborative work can be a force multiplier and contribute towards operational effect.”

Mike Collier Chief Technology Officer, CDS: “We are delighted and honoured to have worked with the Army on such a significant project that really did contribute to saving lives. The award is the icing on the cake.”

Watch the video for more about the impact of this life-saving project.

Why this project was critically important

In late 2014 the UK launched Operation GRITROCK; an 800-man mission to combat the spread of the Ebola virus across West Africa. Due to limited World Health Organisation guidelines on treating the virus, British military medical and educational specialists joined forces with e-learning contractor CDS to develop a bespoke, multimedia driven website to support the delivery of world-class medical training.

Designed to be accessible to all regardless of location or nationality, with just a few mouse clicks UK medical staff in training through to Sierra Leonean nurses in Freetown, all had access to the most up to date, professionally certified procedures for protecting themselves and their patients against Ebola.

Available 24/7, updated daily, the technical flexibility and international reach of the training site ensured that, as lessons were learnt and best practices identified, clinical processes on the frontline continued to mirror the practices and procedures being honed by the medical specialists in the UK. Application of adult learning theory combined with extensive use of video meant all users of the site, whether illiterate or highly qualified surgeon, could access and adopt the clinical protocols ensuring they remained competent and confident in one of the most demanding bio-hazardous environments of the 21st century.

Application of adult learning theory combined with extensive use of video meant all users of the site, whether illiterate or highly qualified surgeon, could access and adopt the clinical protocols ensuring they remained competent and confident in one of the most demanding bio-hazardous environments of the 21st century.


Military training specialists formed a bespoke team with army medical staff, CDS e-learning experts and DFiD to create the GRITROCK Training Development Team (TDT). Responsible for satisfying training demand for safe operation of military and civilian personnel in a high-risk environment, the training system was designed to be utilised during and subsequent deployment to Sierra Leone.

With limited World Health Organisation guidelines on treating Ebola, the team had to engineer novel training material for a diverse audience from illiterate to professionally qualified personnel, speaking a range of languages, from both military and civilian backgrounds.

The Learning Need was clear

To develop a modern, affordable, flexible training system accessible to all. Due to the international nature of the crisis, multiple time zones, remote isolated areas of operations and the fact knowledge of and treatment practices were evolving on a near daily basis, it became apparent that training material generated needed to be easily accessed by multiple organisations on a 24/7 basis. In October 2014 the clock started ticking for the GRITROCK TDT. Time was short – casualty rates were growing and spreading across the continent; every delay could result in more deaths.

The solution delivered:

Four force multipliers were generated to meet the primary training objective and enhance training effectiveness through the application of modern technology:

  • Interactive self-directed e-Learning micro training courses.
  • Video recording of critical Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) designed to develop familiarisation with medical kit and equipment ensuring everyone received identical training.
  • A tailor-made Internet micro-site (GRITROCK portal) was developed to host all SOP videos, instructor lessons, power-points and self-learning micro-lessons.
  • A standby e-learning team available to continually update The GRITROCK portal as and when new training practices developed. This fast response using Agile development methodology was essential to support the ongoing deployments required for Operation GRITROCK.

Impact of the project

The GRITROCK training programmes provide a lasting legacy and ongoing e-learning resource. The learning materials remain available for any subsequent outbreak, incorporating all of the lessons learnt and demonstrating value for money. Ultimately the key measure of success is the number of lives saved and medical personnel who managed to treat sufferers without becoming infected. At the peak of the epidemic 600 people lost their lives to Ebola every day. With effective medical intervention from Operation GRITROCK this figure dropped to less than one per day. Only one British medical worker contracted the disease.

Minimising Risk and Uncertainty:

  • The cost of CASEVAC of a patient was in the region of £200,000.
  • The British Army and UK Government faced significant reputational risk if a high number of UK personnel had become infected.
  • Personnel, family and stakeholders were reassured by the training programme.


  • Bespoke cost-effective training solution
  • Training undertaken at time and place desired by learner
  • Timely updating of material as new knowledge and experience emerged
  • Product now available for utility with any future health epidemic, home or abroad
  • Monitoring of learner training ensured effective record keeping and training management
  • Potential to ‘market’ the finished product to other military and civilian audiences

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