Dstl chief exec Gary Aitkenhead quits to take up private-sector role

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory COO Doug Umbers will serve as interim chief
Gary Aitkenhead photographed by Louise Haywood-Schiefer for Civil Service World

By Jim Dunton

07 Apr 2021

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced that chief executive Gary Aitkenhead has stepped down from his role to take a new job in the private sector.

In a brief statement, the arm’s length body sponsored by the Ministry of Defence said yesterday that Aitkenhead was joining an unnamed “global technology company”.

Dstl said chief operating officer Doug Umbers would step up as interim chief executive while a successor to Aitkenhead was sought. The organisational structure on the laboratory's website suggested that the change had taken place with immediate effect.

Wireless communications specialist Aitkenhead joined Dstl from digital radio firm Sepura in 2017. Before joining the business he worked for Motorola for 24 years.

Umbers said Aitkenhead’s time at Dstl had included overseeing the 3,800-strong organisation’s response to 2018’s novichok incident in Salisbury, its support to combat Covid-19, and its wider work to deliver the science inside defence and security.

“Gary has led and overseen a number of high-profile activities during his time at Dstl, and we wish him well in his next venture,” Umbers said.

He added: “I am looking forward to leading Dstl’s world-class experts to deliver cutting-edge science and technology.”

In a 2019 interview with Civil Service World, Aitkenhead said he had not planned on working in government until he was head hunted for the top position at Porton Down-based Dstl. However he said he had been intrigued by his its mix of “scientists and engineers working across the full spectrum of technology, doing just about everything you can imagine”.

At the time, Aitkenhead said he had spent half of his career as an engineer and the other half in sales and business leadership.

He told CSW he had always been driven by “seeing technology being put into people’s hands to do something useful” and that Dstl was a chance to help address the significant challenges faced by the defence and security sector.

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