Millions of pounds are being invested in Dorset to create a state-of-the-art innovation centre for the Ministry of Defence – a project that will create 90 jobs.

The centre will provide new office and workshops for MOD innovation, along with conference facilities.

Incorporating the Army 'BattleLab' it will enable the MOD to work in collaboration with academic institutions and a range of businesses to develop new products and technologies.

Establishing the Defence Innovation Centre at Dorset Innovation Park, the county’s economic development site at Winfrith, is a bold new joint working initiative and a major boost for Dorset’s defence sector, building on links the area has with the armed forces.

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is investing £1.5 million of the Government’s Local Growth Fund towards the centre's construction. The investment will be matched by £3.1m from the MOD and £1.1m from Dorset Council.

It will create 90 jobs and is expected to boost the economy by £4m in its first 10 years.

Dorset boasts a particularly strong defence sector and is home to many MOD establishments, such as the Army’s Armoured Trial and Development Unit in Bovington, the Royal Corps of Signals training centre in Blandford and the training area at Lulworth Cove, which is used by all elements of the UK’s Armed Forces.

The Defence Innovation Centre, as it will be known, will see the Army Innovation Team as the lead for the project and they have called their part of the centre the ‘Army BattleLab’, which is aiming to be operational by next spring. The BattleLab will feature an engineering workshop, as well as joint working and conference areas for use by the Army and wider MOD, for at least 15 years.

The Army says it will use the BattleLab as the physical manifestation of ARIEL – the Army Research Innovation & Experimentation Laboratory. It will give soldiers the opportunity to work with innovative industries in a shared space, allowing ideas to be developed, and technology and equipment to be refined.

Defence minister Jeremy Quin said: “The Army’s BattleLab in Dorset will build close industry relationships, whilst exploiting cutting-edge technologies to keep our Armed Forces sharp in the face of new and changing threats. This initiative will foster talent and innovation and will drive future success.”

Major General Jez Bennett, Director of Capability (Army) said: “The Army BattleLab offers an unparalleled opportunity for the Army to engage directly and persistently with industry, small and medium enterprises and institutions who can help us think about our challenges differently. Early engagement between end users – our soldiers – and those who have the expertise to develop technology, combining our requirements and experience, will change how we develop and procure unique and technical capabilities going forward. It is an exciting and innovative approach, directly supporting our transformation agenda, and we very much look forward to seeing how it progresses.”

Meanwhile Jim Stewart, Chairman of Dorset LEP, said: “This large-scale investment is a major boost to Dorset’s defence sector. Dorset is renowned for its strengths in innovation and this new MOD workspace will enable these sectors to flourish even further. We are delighted that the MoD has chosen Dorset Innovation Park for the location of its Defence Battle Lab and we look forward to working with them on its success.”