A THREE-day army defence and security event has been hosted at a “state of the art” facility at the Dorset Innovation Park.

The Defence BattleLab in Winfrith opened after nearly £6m of investment from the Army, Dorset LEP and Dorset Council – hosting a first of its kind Hackathon event.

The event showcased future training and product development needed to meet national security requirements, with members of the Ministry of Defence, RAF and others in attendance.

Hackathon drew together teams from across the British Army and the UK tech and defence sector to develop software and algorithm-driven solutions to address real-world challenges faced by the Field Army.

Bournemouth Echo: Hackathon event at the BattleLab in Dorset Innovation Park. Picture: Corporal Cameron Eden/MoD CrownHackathon event at the BattleLab in Dorset Innovation Park. Picture: Corporal Cameron Eden/MoD Crown

Solutions were designed to address issues such as understanding routes for military convoys, the impact of environmental factors on future missions or deployments, and the best ways of extracting casualties.

Critically, the leading solutions will be developed and tested in the field within just a three-month period, transforming the Army’s ability to procure innovative technology at the tempo required to remain competitive in today’s digital age.

Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Bowman is responsible for the BattleLab facility in the Innovation Park. He said: “We’re taking a very different approach to how we normally complete our dealings with suppliers and possible contractors.

“We’re looking predominantly for small to medium enterprises in the Dorset area who have innovative defence ideas that we can facilitate development for. We have the ability now to offer them office space to rent or borrow, we have the BattleLab for experimentation and trials and we’re adding to the Dorset prosperity agenda in many ways.

“The Hackathon is really our first major event where we’re trying to develop a more open and collaborative relationship with contractors. We hope they can then join us on the park to develop technologies.

He added: “We’re a vehicle to allow the Army, the Navy, RAF and defence as a whole to collaborate in a non-threatening space to become more approachable, more open and work together to come up with potential defence solutions. We’re keen to draw people in who’ve got something we can help them develop and sell.

“I’m really excited by the opportunities that this will present such as the ability to utilise 5G. We’ve had WiFi issues here and services within the park reconfigured it completely and within minutes we were back online – traditionally that would have taken weeks.”

Alongside the BattleLab is a three-storey office workspace building which is still under construction. Floors will be occupied by the Army as well as small businesses to provide them space to work on projects before testing in the BattleLab.

Bournemouth Echo: Office space adjacent to the BattleLab, due for completion in NovemberOffice space adjacent to the BattleLab, due for completion in November

Gordon Fong, director of Kimcell, said: “The BattleLab name is becoming known across the security sector with more visitors and new tenants coming to the business park because of it adding to local job creation.

“This is not about warfare, it’s about making the country safer and saving lives and I think that this is a massive opportunity for Dorset and the south west as an epicentre for defence technology.”

The office and conference building is due for completion in early November.