Public Sector

Published: May 12, 2021 | Updated: May 12, 2021

Defence BattleLab reaches a key milestone as first building in £5.7m collaboration completed

Pictured (left to right) Brigadier Matt Cansdale, British Army, Head Future Force Development; Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP Chair, and Cllr Tony Ferrari, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, Assets and Property, Dorset Council.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

An ambitious defence building programme, dedicated to the pursuit of innovation, has reached a significant milestone.

The first building has been completed at Dorset Innovation Park, the county’s economic development site at Winfrith.

The Defence BattleLab facility marks a £5.7m collaboration between the MOD, Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Dorset Council.

The Defence BattleLab, which will include an Army BattleLab, will feature an engineering workshop, as well as joint working and conference areas for use by the UK’s Armed Forces and the wider MOD, for the next 15 years.

In its first ten years, the programme aims to create 90 new local jobs and add £4m to the local economy.

The Defence BattleLab will allow the MOD to work in collaboration with academic institutions, corporates and SMEs.

Known as the ‘Army BattleLab’, a 450 square metre workshop space, is now complete and defence personnel will shortly begin using the facility.

The building will be joined by an additional 1100 square metre new office space complete with meeting and conferencing facilities and is on track to be complete later this year.

As a highly equipped space, the site will enable the MOD to work directly with academic institutions, defence primes, small and medium enterprises and wider industry to develop new products and technologies which could have the potential to be commercialised in the future.

Considerable work is already underway to encourage innovation to meet defence needs.

The MOD’s recently published Defence and Security Industrial Strategy, which outlines the MOD’s strategic approach to the UK’s defence and security industrial sectors, highlights the Defence BattleLab as a great opportunity to focus on specific challenges, and to accelerate exploitation of new technology.

Dorset boasts a particularly strong defence sector and is home to many MOD establishments, including the Army’s Armoured Trial and Development Unit in Bovington, the home of the Royal Corps of Signals in Blandford, and the training area at Lulworth Cove which is used by all elements of the UK’s Armed Forces.

The Defence BattleLab project has its next formal engagement sessions with industry on May 20.

The webinar event, which will include briefs from the Army, Royal Navy, DSTL and Dorset Council, will set out the current ambitions and future of the project.

To attend the webinar sign up here.

Leading up to the lab gaining operational status, Dorset LEP is arranging a virtual preview on May 28.

It will outline the range of business support available for Dorset’s SMEs working in, or looking to diversify into, the defence and security sector.

This will include hearing from both Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth about their industry engagement programmes as well as funding opportunities available through the national Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).

You can sign up here.

Brigadier Matt Cansdale, British Army, Head Future Force Development, said: “We are delighted that the Army and Defence BattleLab remains on course for completion this year despite recent turmoil.

“This reflects a huge amount of excellent collaborative work from all the partners in this project and is indicative of the strong relationships and commitment from the whole team.

“The completion of this workshop is an important stepping stone and will allow us to start using this facility in its intended purpose of engaging with industry in a more collaborative manner.

“Future Soldier is the British Army’s plan to transform itself into an asymmetric Army for the Digital age.

“It is a bold and transformative plan, and the Army BattleLab will be at the heart of how we deliver on this plan.”

Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP Chair, pictured left, said: “The Dorset partnership of Dorset LEP, Dorset Council, local business and academia are committed to supporting the objectives of the British Army to bring a focal point for high tech and innovative industry to respond to the Army’s challenges and future strategy.

“We share the ambition of the Army to grow an ecosystem of highly innovative companies.”


Cllr Tony Ferrari, Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, Assets and Property at Dorset Council, said: “The Defence Battlelab reflects Dorset’s historical links with the Army, forged over many generations, married with our current place at the cutting edge of technology.

“There are many strands that have come together to make Dorset the right place for the Defence Battlelab, such as Lulworth Ranges and 5G coverage, so it’s exciting to see institutions from different centuries brought together to deliver solutions for today’s armed forces.”