New Defence science and technology laboratory hub locating to Helix

A new hub for The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will be based at Newcastle Helix.

Advancing technology and an increasingly connected world has meant that the threats to the UK and wider world’s security have evolved, taking on an increasingly digital guise. With it, the defence of people, data, infrastructure, and the economy have also had to adapt. Science and technology are used as a counter strike to mitigate threats to safety from a range of sources including hostile states, terror organisations, organised crime, pandemics and climate change.

The new Dstl hub, based at the National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) in Newcastle, will undertake data science and artificial intelligence related research to accelerate the responsible adoption of artificial intelligence across Defence and aim to make important contributions towards the new Defence Artificial Intelligence Centre announced by the Prime Minister in November. This follows the £16.5 billion increase in Defence spending over the next four years which was announced in 2020. This includes £6 billion investment in research and development from the Ministry of Defence, with an extra £1 billion specifically on science and technology.

Supporting world-class defence from the heart of Newcastle

Housed within the NICD, Dstl will seek to build on the existing focus of the NICD which is to accelerate innovation in data. The location of the Dstl unit will allow it to tap into the strong talent that is available within region due to its proximity to world-class universities with a high proportion of STEM and computing students.

The Newcastle hub is also expected to create opportunities to build and strengthen links with Defence units in the region such as RAFX (RAF Experimental based at RAF Leeming), Catterick Garrison and units in the region.

The new recruits will be at the forefront of keeping the UK safe from a wide range of threats including hostile states and terrorist groups as well as global challenges such as pandemics and climate change whilst also supporting the Government’s Levelling Up agenda and has great support and enthusiasm from wider Government colleagues.

Andrew Fraser, Dstl’s Programme Lead commented: “The support we have had from Dstl leadership and Ministry of Defence seniors has been invaluable in making this new team a reality.

"Over the past 12 months we have had some really positive engagement with a range of organisations in the area including: Invest Newcastle, Newcastle City Council, North of Tyne Combined Authority, North East LEP, etc. I would want to highlight in particular the support from the teams at the NICD and Newcastle University who have been excellent since day one in the advice, assistance and encouragement they have provided us in establishing this new team.

"AI has the potential to be applied to a vast range of defence problems including optimising the maintenance of infrastructure; rapidly identifying the people and platforms we need to send to a disaster zone as part of a UK response; to finding the crucial needle in a haystack of complex data reducing cognitive burden on operators.

"Dstl will have access to an abundance of suitably qualified potential staff that will allow us to meet our ambitions to strengthen the diversity of our workforce with the skills, knowledge and expertise to drive exploitation of world leading science and technology from the UK’s academic institutions. We are really excited about working with the NICD and being part of the growing North East data eco-system, Dstl is seeking to grow its national footprint, and Newcastle will be a Dstl S&T Hub with a focus on AI & Data.”

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