Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

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Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
Agency overview
Formed2 July 2001
Preceding agency
JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
HeadquartersPorton Down, Wiltshire
Employees5,500[citation needed]
Agency executive
  • Paul Hollinshead
Parent agencyMinistry of Defence Edit this at Wikidata

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is "to maximise the impact of science and technology for the defence and security of the UK".[1] The agency is headed by Paul Hollinshead as its Chief Executive,[2] with the board being chaired by Adrian Belton.[3] Ministerial responsibility lies with the Minister for Defence Procurement.


Dstl was formed from the July 2001 split of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). Dstl was established to carry out and retain the science and technology work that is best done within government,[4] while work that could be done by industry (forming the majority of DERA's activities) was transferred to Qinetiq, a government-owned company that was later floated on the stock exchange.

Dstl absorbed the Home Office's Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) in April 2018,[5] taking on CAST's role[6] to apply science and technology to support the Home Office's operations and frontline delivery, provide evidence to support policy, and perform certain regulatory functions.

Dstl was a trading fund of the MOD from its formation until 2016, when it became an executive agency of the MOD.[citation needed]


Most of Dstl's funding comes from the MOD, while a small portion comes from other government departments and commercial sources. In 2016/17, 91% of Dstl's £587m income came from the MOD.[7]

In April 2015, Dstl completed a major reorganisation, merging twelve operating departments into five divisions. The motivation behind this change was to enable more coherent and productive delivery to customers and simplify access routes for suppliers.[8]


  • Martin Earwicker (2001–06): Chief Executive from its creation in 2001, until he left in 2006 for the Science Museum.[9]
  • Frances Saunders (2006–11): took over as acting Chief Executive in May 2006[10] and was appointed as Chief Executive in August 2007.[11][12] On 29 June 2011, Saunders announced to staff that her post had been advertised and that she would not be applying.[13]
  • Jonathan Lyle (2012–17): formerly Director of the Programme Office at Dstl, placed into an acting role and was appointed in March 2012.[14]
  • David Marsh: acting Chief Executive from September 2017 to January 2018.[15]
  • Gary Aitkenhead[16] (2018–2021).[15]
  • Doug Umbers: interim Chief Executive from April 2021 to February 2022.
  • Paul Hollinshead (2022 - )


Dstl carries out a broad range of work from high-level analysis to support Ministry of Defence policy and procurement decisions, to technical research in defence areas such as biomedical science and electronics, alongside operational work such as forensic analysis of explosives[17] and providing paid volunteer scientists to Iraq and Afghanistan to provide rapid scientific advice to British forces. It has done work for around 40 government departments and agencies including the Home Office and Department for Transport.[18] It undertakes research with both industry and academia to achieve its role.[19]

Following a review and consultation process initiated by MOD's Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA), it became responsible for the formulation and commission of MOD's non-nuclear research programme from 1 April 2010, under the responsibility of the Dstl Programme Office.[20][21] Within the Programme Office were 16 domains[22] with some established as Science and Technology Centres, including Armour and Protection, Cyber and Influence, Counter Terrorism, and CBR (Chemical, Biological and Radiological).[23] These centres fund research via the Centre for Defence Enterprise,[24] also part of the Programme Office.[25]

A subsequent MOD CSA-led review in 2015 into MOD's science and technology capability recommended that the commissioning of science and technology should be independent of the delivery.[26] Following this, the commissioning role was moved to Defence Science and Technology (DST) within MOD Head Office, with Dstl focusing on delivery.[citation needed]

Within the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 was a proposal to create "a government-backed service designed to help small and medium-sized businesses bring new ideas to market more quickly".[27] In 2016, it was announced by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon that this 'Defence and Security Accelerator'[28] would have access to an £800m innovation fund and build on the 'Centre for Defence Enterprise' model, operating within Dstl.[29]

In 2017, Dstl began a five-year programme of innovation in space science.[30] In 2019, Dstl opened a new satellite ground control station at Portsdown West to support future space research.[31]

In March 2020, scientists from Dstl began supporting Public Health England to better understand COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.[32] By January 2021, around 300 scientists were said to be involved with COVID-19 support.[33]


Research Cloud (or R-Cloud) is the Dstl's supply chain marketplace for science and technology research.[34] Version 4 went live on 1 December 2020.[35] R-Cloud frameworks cover eight "capability areas":

  • Command, Control, Communication and Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR);
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN);
  • Counter Terrorism and Security (CT&S);
  • Cyber;
  • Human Capability (HC);
  • Integrated Survivability (IS);
  • Platform Systems (PS);
  • Weapons.[36]


Current sites include:

The former CAST sites at Langhurst, West Sussex and Sandridge, Hertfordshire were closed around 2020 after the 2018 merger of CAST into Dstl.[5]

Sections of 150-millimetre-thick (5.9 in) pre-atomic steel plate uncontaminated with radionuclides, recovered from HMS Vanguard, were used for the shielding of the whole body monitor at the Radiobiological Research Laboratory (now Dstl) at Alverstoke, Gosport, Hampshire.[40]


Ploughshare Innovations[edit]

In April 2005[41] the technology transfer company Ploughshare Innovations Ltd was formed to manage and exploit intellectual property within Dstl.[42] Dstl and Ploughshare Innovations have successfully spun-out several new companies including Alaska Food Diagnostics[43] and P2i Ltd.

See also[edit]

  • The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) – an international defence science and technology collaboration between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • DARPA – US Defence Agency responsible for the development of new technology for the US military.
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation – a branch of the Australian Department of Defence that researches and develops technologies for the Australian defence industry.
  • Qinetiq – the part of Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) privatised in June 2001, with the remainder of DERA renamed Dstl.


  1. ^ "About us". Dstl. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Dr Paul Hollinshead, MBA, OBE". UK Government. 26 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Dstl: membership". GOV.UK. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Framework Document" (PDF). Dstl. November 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) becomes part of Dstl". GOV.UK. 24 April 2018. Archived from the original on 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  6. ^ Home Office Science: Centre for Applied Science and Technology: An Introduction (PDF). United Kingdom: Home Office. 2016. pp. 3–4. ISBN 978-1-78655-083-5.
  7. ^ "Defence Science and Technology Laboratory annual report and accounts 2016 to 2017" (PDF). Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  8. ^ Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (22 June 2015). "Annual Report and Accounts 2014/15" (PDF).
  9. ^ Smith, Michael (16 July 2006). "Wanted: gadget wizard to replace the real life Q". The Times. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  10. ^ "House of Commons – Defence – Minutes of Evidence". 2011. Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Press release: Heading up Defence Science – New Chief Executive appointed at Dstl" (PDF). 16 August 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2011.
  12. ^ Gilbert, Natasha (20 November 2007). "Interview: Frances Saunders | Education | The Guardian". The Guardian. London. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  13. ^ Global email to all staff dated 29/6/11
  14. ^ "Jonathan Lyle named as new Dstl Chief Executive". GOV.UK. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Defence Science and Technology Laboratory appoints new Chief Executive". GOV.UK. 30 November 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  16. ^ "Gary Aitkenhead – GOV.UK". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  17. ^ Gardham, Duncan (11 July 2007). "'We've never seen a bomb like 21/7 devices'". The Daily Telegraph. London. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  18. ^ "Who we work with". Dstl. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013.
  19. ^ "Industry". Dstl. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013.
  20. ^ "The Strategic Defence and Security Review and The National Security Strategy". 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  21. ^ "Dstl to become the key focus of science and technology within MOD" (Press release). Ministry of Defence. 19 March 2010. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  22. ^ National Archives (UK)
  23. ^ "Science and Technology Centres | dstl | Defence Science and Technology Laboratory". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014.
  24. ^ "Centre for Defence Enterprise". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  25. ^ "The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  26. ^ "A review of MOD's science and technology capability (Executive summary)" (PDF).
  27. ^ National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom (PDF). HM Government. November 2015. ISBN 9781474125963.
  28. ^ "Defence and Security Accelerator – GOV.UK". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Defence Innovation Initiative – Speeches". Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Three...two…one…blast off! Dstl launches £50 million Space Programme". GOV.UK. 4 October 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  31. ^ "Defence Secretary outlines future space programme". Royal Air Force. 18 July 2019. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  32. ^ "Military stands up COVID Support Force". GOV.UK. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  33. ^ "Covid-19: UK Dstl helps NHS to address vaccine related challenges". Army Technology. 18 January 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  34. ^ Dstl, Access R-Cloud (Version 3.0), accessed 21 May 2021
  35. ^ Dstl, Access R-Cloud (Version 4.0), accessed 21 May 2021
  36. ^ Government Online, R-Cloud Framework Renewal – Ministry of Defence, published 6 February 2017, accessed 21 May 2021
  37. ^ "Fort Halstead's Dstl research laboratory to close". BBC News: Kent. 17 June 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  38. ^ "Building state-of-the-art facilities at Dstl". GOV.UK. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  39. ^ "Fort Halstead project". JTP. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  40. ^ Cowling, Giles. "From Land, Sea and Air". Defence Management Journal. 31. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012.
  41. ^ "House of Commons – Defence – Eighth Report". 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  42. ^ "Ploughshare Innovations – Intellectual Property Licensing for Dstl – Ploughshare". 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  43. ^ Stewart, Heather (4 May 2004). "MoD tries to turn swords into shares | Business | The Guardian". The Guardian. London: GMG. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 12 June 2011.

External links[edit]