By James Crook at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London

London 2012 marathon silver medallist Shelly Woods unveiled the new racing wheel today as the partnership between UK Sport and BAE Systems was announced todayAugust 22 - Triple Paralympic medallist Shelly Woods has unveiled a new racing wheel here today which is said to be capable of improving athletes' acceleration by up to 20 percent, as BAE Systems announced a new four-year £800,000 ($1.25 million/€940,000) partnership with UK Sport to give British athletes the technological cutting edge over their rivals.

The official research and innovation partnership will follow on from the one that ran from 2008 and played a role in Britain's first individual Winter Olympics gold medal in 30 years in the skeleton at Vancouver 2010, won by now-British Skeleton vice-President Amy Williams, who was also in attendance today along with British Skeleton team manager Dave Moy.

Developed in Bristol at BAE Systems' research and development centre, in partnership with sports wheelchair manufacturers Draft and high performance sports specialists Angle Consultancy, the new advanced composite wheel is stronger, faster and lighter than previous designs.

The wheel is also three times stiffer than previous models to reduce the "toe-in" force, which causes the wheel to bend inwards due to the punching motion on athletes' push strokes, reducing friction between the athlete and the track, thus improving speed and acceleration.

"Paralympic sport is growing year on year in strength and depth, and being able to make use of the best in British engineering, thanks to this partnership between BAE Systems and UK Sport, can help keep British athletes at the forefront of this fiercely competitive environment," said London 2012 marathon silver medallist Woods.

"Having access to this kind of expertise gives us a huge boost and motivates me to train hard and continue to work on my racing technique every day, safe in the knowledge I have wonderful support around me."

A basic overview of how the new technology will benefit British athletesA basic overview of how the new technology will benefit British athletes

UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl spoke of the ambitious aims for Great Britain at Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016, and how the partnership with BAE Systems can make these goals a reality.

"Our goal is to win more medals at both winter and summer Olympics," she said.

"It's a hugely ambitious goal but its right to be ambitious.

"The nation expects a lot and we have high aspirations.

"We are the envy of the world at this point in terms of the resources we can put behind British success and the BAE partnership is providing critical ingredients."

"We've got access to about 18,000 extra brains that can help develop solutions to support our team being successful, and you are able to apply military technology to sport in the way that athletes could never have dreamed possible.

"The incredible work to come out of the first phase of partnership is just the beginning, and as we aim to win even more medals at Rio in 2016, we are delighted to be continuing to work closely with BAE Systems in helping our athletes operate at the cutting edge of their sport."

Simon Howison, engineering projects director at BAE Systems, believes that the partnership can not only enhance elite athlete performance, but also encourage young people to choose engineering as a career and help the industry grow and develop in the UK.

"This partnership will continue to help us demonstrate how engineering can be applied in many different areas and encourage more young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths," he said.

"We're hugely proud to work with British athletes and help support incremental gains in performance that might make a real difference to the nation's sporting success."

Preparations are already underway at BAE to apply wind-tunnel technology and expertise to help improve the racing speed of the British bobsleigh team, whilst the company continues to investigate and develop a simulator to enable British taekwondo athletes to develop new skills while significantly reducing the risk of injury through repetitive impact.

Taekwondo simulator infographicResearch and development is underway for a taekwondo simulator, which would reduce the risk of injury and cut costs

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said: "The difference between success and failure in sport can often come down to the smallest of margins.

"The cutting edge technology from BAE Systems contributed to British athletes' incredible success in the run-up to and during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"I am pleased that BAE Systems' partnership with UK Sport will continue to support our best athletes, with Sochi and Rio on the horizon.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
June 2011: BAE Systems provide over 15,000 hours of expertise to support British sport