Published: August 26, 2020 | Updated: August 27, 2020

“Major boost” as Dorset chosen for £5.7m Defence Innovation Centre creating 90 jobs

The Royal Signals, pictured on deployment, are among the MOD establishments in Dorset. Picture: Army image. Crown copyright.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Ninety jobs are expected to be created with the building of a new Defence Innovation Centre in Dorset.

The £5.7m centre will be sited at Dorset Innovation Park at Winfrith, the county’s enterprise zone, pictured right.

It’s been hailed as a “major boost” for the county’s already impressive defence sector.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is funding the lion’s share – £3.1m – with Dorset LEP allocating £1.5m from the government’s Local Growth Fund.

Dorset Council is contributing the remaining £1.1m.

The centre will incorporate the Army BattleLab.

It will allow the MOD to work in collaboration with academic institutions, corporates and SMEs to develop new products and technologies with the potential to be commercialised.

The new Defence Innovation Centre is aiming to be operational by next spring.

It will provide 1100m2 of new office space and 450m2 new workshop space for MOD innovation as well as associated conference and collaboration space.

The centre aims to create 90 new jobs and achieve a direct GVA (Gross Value Added) of £4m in its first ten years.

Dorset already boasts a strong defence sector and is home to many MOD establishments.

They include the army’s Armoured Trials and Development Unit at Bovington, the Royal Corps of Signals training centre in Blandford and the training area at Lulworth Cove which is used by all elements of the UK’s armed forces.

Dorset Innovation Park is the county’s only economic development site with enterprise zone status.

It is fast developing into an advanced engineering cluster of excellence for the South West, building on its strengths in marine, defence, energy and cyber-security.

Jim Stewart, pictured right, Chair of Dorset LEP, which oversees the strategic development of the enterprise zone said: “This large-scale investment is a major boost to Dorset’s defence sector.

“Dorset is renowned for its strengths in innovation and this new MOD workspace will enable these sectors to flourish even further.

“We are delighted that the MOD has chosen Dorset Innovation Park for the location of its Army BattleLab and we look forward to working with them on its success.”

Jeremy Quin, Defence Minister, said: “The Army BattleLab in Dorset will build close industry relationships, whilst exploiting cutting-edge technologies to keep our armed forces sharp in the face of new and changing threats.

“This initiative will foster talent and innovation and will drive future success.”

Cllr Gary Suttle, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth and Skills, pictured left, said: “This new Defence Innovation Centre project comes as a further significant asset to Dorset and underlines the importance of supporting innovative defence-based business.

“I’m excited to see how the project continues to come together.

“Dorset Council has a long association with the Ministry Of Defence and the armed forces in general.

“We hope that this is seen as another development that will give long term confidence to businesses that might be looking to invest in our local economy.”