Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s new regional base in Newcastle has opened, kicking off plans to expand the agency’s footprint around the UK.
Seven employees have already started working at the hub, which is based at The Catalyst, the home of the National Innovation Centre for Data.
The arm’s-length body, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, is recruiting 15 new staff in total to work at the unit.
Defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin opened the hub at a ceremony in Newcastle last week alongside MoD chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean and Dstl’s new chief executive Paul Hollinshead.
“This is a really exciting time for Dstl and our drive to support UK science and technology,” Hollinshead said.
“The hub already has seven members of staff working at The Catalyst building, and we look forward to harnessing further talent from across the region to deliver the best scientific advice and solutions to the MoD and the country.”
Hollinshead joined Dstl in February from the Defence Nuclear Organisation, where he was warhead director.
Dstl is aiming to have all staff based at the site by spring 2023, with recruitment for the remaining eight positions currently ongoing, with six AI and data science specialist roles being recruited.
The small team will “carry out AI and data science-related research to help defence turn data into information advantage, and to accelerate the responsible and ethical adoption of AI across defence”. It will be supported by locally-based innovation organisations the National Innovation Centre for Data and the Defence and Security Accelerator, the MoD body that funds and exploits innovations in defence and security.
Defence minister Jeremy Quin said: “It’s vital that defence is open, outgoing and engaged, tapping into the best ideas across the UK.
“The Dstl science and technology hub in Newcastle will help spread Dstl’s geographic reach and harness the brilliant minds of the scientists, engineers and academics to develop cutting edge data science and artificial intelligence to support our national security.”
Dstl said it is investigating opportunities for science and technology hubs around the UK to access new suppliers, including industry, small and medium-sized enterprises and academia, and alternative recruitment opportunities.
This is in response to the government’s emphasis on science and technology in the UK – one of the key tenets of the prime minister’s flagship levelling up agenda – and Dstl’s “drive for diversity and the recruitment of core skills”, the agency said.
The government’s levelling up white paper, published in February, included plans to increase public investment in research and development by 40% by 2030.
As part of this, the white paper outlined plans for the MoD to expand Dstl’s regional footprint.
Newcastle is Dstl’s first northern location, with the body’s other sites in Salisbury, Sevenoaks and Hampshire.