Dstl and the importance of a coherent R&D ecosystem

The Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) released in 2015 stressed the vital importance of science, technology, and research and development to the long term protection of UK national interests. Our national defence and security apparatus, including the industrial supply base and their R&D capabilities, require investment and a focus on innovation to keep ahead of adversaries around the globe.

For decades the UK has maintained its position as a world leader in science and technology, not only in the defence and security fields, but across many disciplines. The decision to turn the MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (Dstl) into an Executive Agency of the MOD has the potential to help achieve the Government’s view of a more coherent national R&D ecosystem. This must be done with an acute understanding of exactly how the industrial base can interact with the Executive Agency going forward and how the long term vision for Dstl’s capabilities will fit with that of industry.

techUK is committed to working with Dstl (and wider MOD) and industry members to better align our R&D priorities and eliminate the wastage and duplication of effort that can affect R&D activities.

Dstl has a good history of industrial engagement and some of the most vital urgent operational requirements delivered in recent years have come as a result of close collaboration between Dstl and industry partners. Likewise initiatives such as R-cloud and Ploughshare exemplify new ways of working that attract companies and individuals not traditionally associated with defence. The techUK Defence Research and Technology Council has facilitated industry engagement in recent years that has helped our SME community better understand where they can support Dstl’s aims.

Important to this announcement is the continued freedom for Dstl to work with and support other government departments who have an interest in the UK defence and security R&D capabilities. The ability for Dstl to work with departments such as the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, and intelligence agencies is a vital part of the whole of government approach to national security that the SDSR 2015 so strongly advocated. Technologies such as exploitation of data, particularly big data, cyber security, biometrics, autonomy, and many others will all have impacts on these departments in the coming decade. The UK technology industry work to support national defence and security interests throughout all government departments and would welcome efforts to make this R&D landscape more coherent and efficient. techUK would welcome the opportunity for industry to better show how their involvement with multiple UK defence and security customers can lead to efficiency savings and greater interoperability in the long term.

Maintaining industry line of sight across the 9 capability areas of Dstl and the long term goals for these capabilities will be an essential part of Dstl’s effectiveness in the future. techUK is keen to work with Dstl and wider MOD to ensure that our members are confident they understand Dstl’s intentions in these capability areas, and feel, where appropriate, that they can work in collaboration and support these goals.

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