Innovative, collaborative, impactful: Dstl release five-year corporate strategy

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has published its Corporate Plan detailing how it will continue to play a vital role in protecting the people of the UK by providing solutions for defence and security over the next five years.

The purpose of Dstl within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is to deliver high impact science and technology (S&T) in support of the UK’s defence, security and prosperity.

Demand for Dstl’s services is set to increase to over £700m in FY2019-202 – a rise of £150m in the past two years, which reflects the growing need for S&T services that can provide high impact advice and solutions to a diverse range of threats.

The document sets out Dstl’s ambition that by 2024 it will be recognised as a Centre of Excellence for UK Defence & Security S&T.

This will be achieved through the anticipation of future S&T potential and delivering game-changing capability that provide strategic advantage over adversaries.

The Modernising Defence Programme, through the phrase ‘technology-led modernisation’, reinforced the importance of innovation and technology in the sphere of defence. This is also true in relation to UK security and fight against terror.

In 2018, Dstl underwent a strategic diagnosis of its environment and as an organisation. The analysis highlighted three strategic objectives against which Dstl aligns the work it does:

  • Through S&T, shape the future of defence and national security via relentless focus on our customers’ challenges and needs
  • Ensure defence and security can exploit the best science and technology capabilities on demand
  • Become an agile organisation that is fit for the future

It is here where Dstl will focus its efforts to achieve its vision. Gary Aitkenhead, Dstl’s Chief Executive, explained: “Dstl’s purpose remains to deliver high-impact Science & Technology for the UK’s defence, security and prosperity. This delivery continues to be against the backdrop of a rapidly changing defence and security environment. These changes are fast moving and wide-ranging; from the changing threat environment to budget demands on us and our customers – all of which we must continue to respond to as an organisation.

“This presents challenges but also great opportunities for Dstl as the benefits of S&T for defence and security become increasingly apparent.”

Dstl have recognised the need to be a step-change in terms of introducing S&T into thought processes across defence and security thinking.

It is envisaged that creating a greater level of trust with Dstl’s customers will result in exerting a greater level influence on how and where S&T can support their requirements, with a focus on high impact delivery and on future exploitation. Improved communications and real effort to get Dstl recognised internationally as a brand in its own right are seen as key to achieving this.

Also identified as part of the strategy is the continuing need for Dstl to increase its effectiveness in collaborating with its partners to fulfil its role as capability steward for the MOD.

The acceleration of S&T innovation and investment in non-Defence and Security sectors requires Dstl to constantly refine the capabilities required for the long term, and to enhance its approach to collaboration and partnering.

This will enable the organisation to guide and harness the leading-edge innovation and expertise necessary to provide sustained UK Defence and Security capability advantage.

The report states that in order to sustain quality delivery, Dstl will seek to become much more agile, with improvements and investment to be made across the organisation including its leadership, accountability and governance, infrastructure and investment in people.

Dstl plans to develop both its internal capability and exploitation of the external supply chain to bring together the best possible S&T services to support its customers.

In terms of future investment, Dstl are midway through an extensive capital programme required to sustain and enhance specialist infrastructure on long-term core sites. An Internal Portfolio team has been established to ensure Dstl is able to optimise current investments.

The team is responsible for co-ordination, prioritisation and oversight of Dstl’s portfolio of internal programmes and projects. To support the capital plan and future operations of the Dstl estate, the organisation will review and refresh our infrastructure strategy. This will deliver a long-term vision that will include fixed infrastructure and services including Information Technology.

Mr Aitkenhead said: “We have seen a growing demand from customers for our advice, assurance and research. We are proud to have delivered affordable and effective solutions to our customers that have saved lives and money, as well as supporting the growth of the UK economy.

“Our teams and experts are the people best placed to identify areas where we can innovate, prioritise activity, challenge customers, communicate and drive the organisation forward. Our strategy gives us a shared set of priorities but will increasingly empower our people to create impact.

“I am proud to lead Dstl as we continue to provide solutions to the challenges of defence and security and wider Government through high-impact S&T.

“Our people remain at the heart of our and the UK’s capabilities, whether on operations today, or preparing for those of tomorrow.”

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