A NEW state-of-the-art Ministry of Defence innovation centre has opened.

In its first 10 years, the Defence BattleLab facility, near Wool, aims to create 90 jobs, add £4 million to Dorset's economy and enable the MOD to work in collaboration with academic institutions, corporates and SMEs.

The facility, at Dorset Innovation Park, Winfrith, will be used by the UK’s Armed Forces and the wider MOD for the next 15 years.

Defence procurement minister, Jeremy Quin said: "As the pace of technological change continues to spiral, Defence must be forward leaning and innovative in its approach.

"This will be supported by our new Land Industrial Strategy, which will increase transparency with industry to help drive joint working."

The project marks a £5.7m collaboration between the MOD, Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Dorset Council.

It will help bridge the gap between the MOD and the UK’s world class innovative companies, especially in the small to medium sector.

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 facility seeks to take advantage of Dorset’s location, with Bovington, Blandford, and plains all within easy reach.

Defence innovation director Clare Cameron said: "Defence Innovation is excited to co-fund the new Defence Battlelab as we boost our partnerships with talented industry innovators, to more rapidly deliver the battle winning technologies of tomorrow."

Dorset LEP chair, Cecilia Bufton said: "We believe the Defence BattleLab has real potential to attract investors, inspire collaborations and encourage more SMEs into the county."

Deputy chief of general staff, Lt Gen Sir Chris Tickell KBE said: "The Army is undergoing it's most radical transformation in more than 20 years to deliver Future Soldier, including spending more than £40bn in the next 10 years.

Facilities at the Defence BattleLab include access to the UK’s only multi-domain ranges at Lulworth, comprising 15,000ft of cleared airspace, available sea area and a live fire capable range.

While there is no one single focus for the organisations involved, the BattleLab seeks to encourage free-thinking and novel approaches for challenges across the land, sea and air military domains.

Cllr Tony Ferrari, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth, Assets and Property, said: "Dorset delivers a unique combination of facilities that allow organisations to closely develop products with military users, faster and more interactively than using traditional means.

"The Innovation Park provides leading edge 5G technology, and maps on to a long established military infrastructure of Lulworth Ranges with free fire, cleared air and sea space.

"It also links to the Army's Signals and Comms organisations at Blandford, and the Royal Marines at Poole.

"The Defence BattleLab offers an unprecedented opportunity for industry to collaborate with the military, delivering capability to our armed forces faster than has ever been possible before."