An ambitious Defence building programme at the heart of Dorset, dedicated to the pursuit of innovation and technologies of the future, has reached a significant milestone with the completion of the first building at the site.
The Defence BattleLab, which includes an Army BattleLab, will also 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.
Now “Building One” a 450 square metre workshop space which forms the “Army BattleLab” is complete and Defence personnel will shortly begin moving in to use the facility.
In its first ten years, the building programme aims to create 90 new local jobs and add £4 million to the local economy.
Celebrating the progress of the project, Brigadier Matt Cansdale, British Army Head of Future Force Development, said: “We are delighted that the Army and Defence BattleLab remains on course for completion this year.”
“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”.
The Defence BattleLab will enable 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 first 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.
The Defence BattleLab project marks a £5.7m collaboration between the MOD, Dorset Council and the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP Chair, 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. Dorset LEP is committed to unlocking the skills of our future workforce to support initiatives such as the Defence BattleLab”
“Where there is synergy across other sectors we will endeavour to facilitate and encourage communication across the sectors and in the regional education system to feed this initiative. This commitment is included in our Local Industrial Strategy and our Dorset Investment Prospectus. We look forward to connecting our regional network in support of the Army's drive for innovation.”
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 also have the potential to be commercialised in the future.
There is already considerable work 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, such as 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 20th May. This webinar event, which will include briefs from the Army, Royal Navy, DSTL and Dorset Council, will outline the current ambitions and future of the project. Please sign up here at this link.
Councillor Tony Ferrari, Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, Assets and Property at Dorset Council, added: “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. We’re pleased at the progress being made with this project and I personally cannot wait to see the finished facility later in the year.”