The UK Ministry of Defence will invest £3.1 million ($5.65 million) into the Defence Innovation Centre, along with a further £2.6 million ($4.74 million) from Dorset Council & Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership. The Defence Innovation Centre will be built at the Dorset Innovation Park, the county’s Enterprise Zone.
The British Army, as the lead for this project, has called its part of the centre the Army BattleLab, which is aiming to be operational by spring 2021, providing 1,100 square metre new office space and 450 sq m new workshop space for Ministry of Defence (MoD) innovation, and associated conference and collaboration space.
The Army BattleLab will feature an engineering workshop, as well as joint working and conference areas for use by the Army and wider MoD, for at least 15 years. In its first 10 years, the program aims to create 90 new local jobs and add £4 million to the local economy.
UK Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said, “The Army’s BattleLab in Dorset will build close industry relationships while 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.”
As a highly equipped space, the BattleLab 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 be commercialised.
The Army will use the Army BattleLab as the physical manifestation of ARIEL – the Army Rapid Innovation and Experimentation Laboratory. It will allow the end users, the soldiers, the opportunity to work with innovative industries in a shared space, allowing ideas to be developed, and technology and equipment to be refined.
BattleLab will mean exciting events, such as the Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE), will become more routine and increases the potential to scale up new and innovative technologies.
Major General Jez Bennett, Director Capability, added, “The Army BattleLab offers an unparalleled opportunity for the Army to engage directly and persistently with industry, small and medium enterprises and institutions who can help us think about our challenges differently.”
Early engagement between end users (soldiers) and those who have the expertise to develop technology, combining our requirements and experience, will change how we develop and procure unique and technical capabilities going forward.
Lieutenant General Christopher Tickell CBE, Deputy Chief of the UK General Staff, said, “We are looking forward to progressing the Army BattleLab initiative, which is not just an example of our commitment to engage, but also an opportunity to extend the effort outside big set pieces like AWE. The chance to accelerate prototype warfare – testing and experimentation – and lead this area of Defence innovation, and to work with industry on a more regular footing.”
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Dorset boasts a particularly strong defence sector and is home to the Army’s Armoured Trial and Development Unit in Bovington, the Royal Corps of Signals training centre in Blandford, and a unique training area at Lulworth Cove, which includes cleared airspace up to 5,000 feet, making it ideal for experimentation and trials to occur.