skip to Main Content

UK MoD opens BattleLab to drive innovation, launches Land Industrial Strategy (LIS)

Key stakeholders in the UK’s new BattleLab – From left to Right: Cllr Spencer Flower; Brigadier Matt Cansdale, British Army, Head of Future Force Development; Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP Chair; Cllr Tony Ferrari Photo: UK MoD – Crown Copyright

The UK Ministry of Defence has opened a new hub in Dorset designed to spark innovation and push the boundaries of technology used by the UK Armed Forces. The Hub , named Defence BattleLab, is designed to foster closer collaboration between the Armed Forces, industry and academia and represents the first-ever Land Industrial Strategy to modernise military operations.

Building on successful global models of innovation and other work across UK Defence, the Defence BattleLab will bring together military personnel, academic institutions and private sector companies to trial and experiment cutting-edge technology, says the UK MoD in a statement.

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.

In addition to the opening of the Defence BattleLab, the UK MoD also launched the new Land Industrial Strategy (LIS), underpinned by more than £85 billion investment in equipment and support for Britain’s Armed Forces over the next four years.

The LIS – the first strategy specifically for the Land sector – recognises past delivery challenges and the rapid increase in the sophistication of land technology.

“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 planBrigadier Matt Cansdale, British Army Head of Future Force Development, said.

By getting disparate groups to share the same space, the new Defence BattleLab will foster collaboration and creativity to push new technological boundaries – an approach that has proved successful with many global innovation hubs.

Facilities at the Defence BattleLab include:

  • Access to the UK’s only multi-domain ranges at Lulworth Cove, comprising 15,000ft of cleared airspace, available sea area and a live-fire-capable range
  • A live trial and showcase workshop for digital and physical technology
  • Three 5G testbeds which will allow for testing in a secure, closed network
  • Over 100 rentable desks for companies and half a floor for Defence staff across a large open plan office

While there is no one single focus for the organisations involved, the BattleLab seeks to encourage free thinking and novel approaches for challenges across the land, sea and air military domains.

“As the pace of technological change continues to spiral, Defence must be forward leaning and innovative in its approach,” said UK Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin. “Collaboration and innovation will be the catalysts to maintaining advantage over our adversaries.

“This will be supported by our new Land Industrial Strategy, which will increase transparency with industry to help drive joint working,” he added.

The Defence BattleLab is a joint project between the Defence Innovation Unit, single Services, Dstl, DASA, and two local government organisations, Dorset Council and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership. It is designed to help bridge the gap between the MOD and innovative companies, especially in the small to medium sector.

Since soft launching last summer, the Defence BattleLab has hosted numerous Hackathons, defence technology showcases and workshops across emerging technologies for all areas of defence.

The facility seeks to take advantage of Dorset’s location, with major Navy and Army establishments in Portsmouth, Plymouth, Bovington, Blandford, Warminster and Salisbury Plain all in easy reach.

“As a centre of excellence for collaboration between SMEs and Defence users, [the Defence BattleLab] is a vital cog in the developing Defence innovation ecosystem and vector into wider networks,” said the Head of one of the UK’s innovation organisations, NavyX, COL Tom Ryall, RM. “It brings together the most innovative companies with users, under one roof, and alongside a world class test range.

“The Army is undergoing it’s most radical transformation in more than 20 years to deliver Future Soldier, including spending more than £40bn in the next ten years,” said Deputy Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Sir Chris Tickell KBE. “This demands more from us, our delivery agents, and our industry partners.

“Our commitment to innovate and to work more closely with industry are underpinned by the Land Industrial Strategy and made manifest in facilities such as the Defence BattleLab. I could not be more excited to be a part of the launch for these fundamental aspects of our modernisation.

The Strategy seeks to modernise equipment and advance it onto the frontline more quickly. It will empower defence to take decisions earlier on the viability of programmes and bring the right equipment into service faster.

Key platforms, such as armoured vehicles, will serve for decades, so the focus will be on working with industry to integrate iterative physical, electronic or digital upgrades during their lifespan, helping maintain a decisive battlefield advantage.

Back To Top