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
Employees3,738 (03/2016 FTE)[1]
Agency executive
  • Gary Aitkenhead
Parent agencyMinistry of Defence

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."[2] The agency is headed by Gary Aitkenhead as its Chief Executive, with the board being chaired by Sir David Pepper.[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 the majority of DERA's activities and that suitable for industry was transferred to Qinetiq, a wholly owned government company before being 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, provision of evidence to support policy, and provide certain regulatory functions.

Dstl existed as a Trading Fund of the MOD from its formation in 2001 until 2016, when it became an Executive Agency of the MOD.


Dstl is an executive agency sponsored by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Most funding comes from the MOD, while a small portion comes from other government departments and commercial sources. According to 2016/17 figures, 91% of Dstl's £587m income came from the MOD.[7]

In 2015 Dstl completed a major reorganisation, merging twelve operating departments into five divisions on 1 April 2015. The motivation behind this change was to enable more coherent and productive delivery to customers and simplify access routes for suppliers.[8]


Dstl has had four permanent Chief Executives:

  • Martin Earwicker (2001–06): was Chief Executive from its creation in 2001, until he left in 2006 for the Science Museum.[9]
  • Dr 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]
  • Gary Aitkenhead[15] (2018–): in September 2017, David Marsh – Capability & Delivery Director – was appointed acting Chief Executive. On 30 November, 2017, Gary Aitkenhead was appointed and took up the role in January 2018.[16]


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 Apr 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 funded 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.

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]


Current sites include:

The functions of the two former CAST sites – Sandridge and Langhurst – will be transferred to Dstl's core sites of Porton Down and Portsdown West by 2020[33].

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.[34]


Ploughshare Innovations[edit]

In April 2005[35] the technology transfer company Ploughshare Innovations Ltd was formed to manage and exploit intellectual property within Dstl.[36] Dstl and Ploughshare Innovations have successfully spun-out several new companies including Alaska Food Diagnostics[37] 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.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Defence Science and Technology Laboratory annual report and accounts 2015 to 2016" (PDF).
  2. ^ "About us". Dstl. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  3. ^ "New Chairman of the Dstl Board". Dstl. 8 July 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) becomes part of Dstl". GOV.UK. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  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. ^ "MoD searches for a new James Bond-style Q". Daily Mail. London. 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  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: GMG. 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". Ministry of Defence. GOV.UK. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  15. ^ "Gary Aitkenhead – GOV.UK". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Defence Science and Technology Laboratory appoints new Chief Executive – GOV.UK". Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  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. ^
  19. ^
  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. ^ DSTL Press Release dated 17/6/2011
  32. ^ "Building state-of-the-art facilities at Dstl". GOV.UK. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  33. ^ "Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) becomes part of Dstl". GOV.UK. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  34. ^ Cowling, Giles. "From Land, Sea and Air". Defence Management Journal. 31. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012.
  35. ^ "House of Commons – Defence – Eighth Report". 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  36. ^ "Ploughshare Innovations – Intellectual Property Licensing for Dstl – Ploughshare". 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  37. ^ 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]