Ministry of Defence's Science and Technology portfolio – GOV.UK

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Published 6 June 2022

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The Defence Science and Technology Portfolio is a series of programmes and standalone projects designed to meet the Ministry of Defence (MOD)’s capability needs and to ensure the UK armed forces remain at the cutting edge of technology.
This guide gives an overview of each programme and standalone project for the benefit of industry, academia, other government and non-government organisations and partners.
To deliver on the scale and ambition set out by the MOD’s Chief Scientific Adviser will require a whole-of-UK effort as well as collaboration and cooperation from international allies.
Sustaining strategic advantage through science and technology (S&T) is the first objective of the UK’s combined security, defence, development and foreign policy.
The coming decade will see the ability to advance and exploit science and technology as an increasingly important metric of global power and an essential driver of economic, political, and military competition.
Thus, sustaining the UK’s status of a science and technology superpower and retaining these associated advantages is crucial for our national security and prosperity.
Over the next 4 years, the MOD will invest at least £6.6 billion in research and development (R&D) and this Science and Technology Portfolio will ensure defence sustains operational advantage, can make the right decisions, and generate prosperity for the UK.
Predominantly, the following programmes and projects will be delivered by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), but partners in industry and academia will be crucial to delivery with significant funding available and opportunities to collaborate.
The portfolio has been designed by Defence Science and Technology in partnership with our stakeholders to ensure MOD’s science and technology activities:
Notably, this portfolio pivots emphasis in science and technology towards key capability challenges and high-risk generation-after-next research in emerging and little understood technologies as highlighted in the MOD’s Science and Technology Strategy 2020.
Generation-after-next is capability that does not exist and contributing technology is not fully understood.
Concepts will be ‘leap ahead’ and world leading to challenge the boundaries of current and emerging understanding.
Respond to threats and opportunities of emerging technologies affecting our ability to conduct ISR in all domains and environments through affordable resilient solutions.
Develop the capability for multi-domain integration and ability to coordinate effects globally enabling us to execute joint operations against adversaries with well integrated and resilient capabilities.
Improve the UK’s ability to compete against adversaries below the threshold of conventional conflict and address our vulnerabilities, especially in the information environment.
Develop highly capable systems to target adversaries in new ways across all domains; develop novel means of delivery of hard power and effective protection against highly capable adversaries.
Generate affordable, survivable capability responsive to rapidly evolving threats operated within a denied electromagnetic environment and be interoperable with our allies and partners.
Further strategic context can be found in the MOD’s Science and Technology Strategy.
The following sections cover 25 programmes within the Defence Science and Technology Portfolio that have significant funding and collaborative opportunities for industry and academia.
As the focal point for defence’s science and technology investment in materials science, exploit global developments and innovation in materials science to enable UK defence and security to maintain strategic and operational technological advantage.
The Advanced Materials Programme will primarily focus on ‘technology push’ in 3 key areas. Technology push is an essential aspect of research in new technology to drive the development of new products.
The areas are:
The Advanced Materials Programme will:
To deliver advanced materials science and technology in the defence context requires access to:
The benefits of this programme are that:
Programme Manager – Graham Pitt
Delivering the underpinning research required to adapt and exploit emerging AI technologies to drive solutions to defence’s key challenges.
The technical challenges of this programme are to:
The programme draws mainly from the AI and Data Science strategic capability and is required to support the development of UK capability in this area.
It is likely to also need to access to skills from:
We need a multidisciplinary team of Dstl, industry, academia and military staff. We recognise many people are working in these fields and we wish to draw upon, link into, enhance collaboration and partner with already established AI excellence hubs.
The benefits of this programme are that:
UK Defence Air capability delivered at the time and place of its choosing, more efficiently, with fewer people, through the application of new and emerging technologies and evidence-based advice, provided by suitably qualified and experienced personnel.
The programme aims to demonstrate and evaluate future military capability by integrating technologies and concepts from across the science portfolio, industry and civil funded research. It matures and integrates underpinning technologies to create capability solutions at the system and system of systems levels.
The programme will also:
Delivery of this programme requires:
The benefits of this programme will be:
Dstl Air Systems Programme Manager, Steve Simm
Supporting the operationalisation of autonomy across defence now; while driving cutting-edge autonomy options for the future.
The technical challenges of this programme are to:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are in:
Programme Manager, Jon Godsell
Outpacing chemical, biological, radiologicial and nuclear (CBRN) adversaries and threats through cutting-edge science to provide operational advantage for UK defence and security.
The technical challenges of this programme are to:
Delivery of this programme requires:
This programme will:
You can also engage with us via the UK Industry’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Special Interest Group (CBRN-UK)
Through science and technology, MOD has advanced options to enable resilience, reach and autonomous interoperability in its communications and networks in order to enable multi-domain integration and deliver against defence’s multi-domain C4 challenge.
Defence is already facing the challenges of increased demand for information, with more sensors collecting more data, and increased speed of data analysis and decision-making with machine learning and artificial intelligence applications. At the same time, there is an increasing demand for communication resources, due to the growth in novel battlefield assets, such as remote and autonomous systems. All these systems require access to the electromagnetic spectrum for communications, for information, and for command and control.
The Communications and Networks programme will be investing in potential solutions to these challenges, from the novel use of the electromagnetic spectrum, alternative communications mechanisms, adaptive and autonomous networks, and novel data routing algorithms, to improve the availability of secure information to military systems and decision-makers at the time and place of need.
The programme is looking to grow and access a diverse community of suppliers, including universities and academics, non-traditional defence suppliers, as well as the established defence primes, in order to stimulate innovation and to accelerate potential solutions through to concept demonstration.
We anticipate an increasing requirement for military systems to communicate and to sense, while defending against electronic and cyber-attack, and for this to be done in close proximity, if not simultaneously, in time, in the electromagnetic spectrum and using the same sub-systems. We refer to this as C5I convergence (command and control, computing, communications, cyber and information).
To achieve this we will:
The programme will invest to grow the communications and networks, and information systems capabilities, through enhanced collaboration and partnership with industry, with academia and with wider government.
Enhanced investment in the generation-after-next of communications and networks, and information systems will ensure:
The Crime and Policing programme provides UK policing, the criminal justice system, fire and rescue services, UK Border Force and the Home Office with science and technology expertise, applied advice and solutions that underpin crime, policing and security capabilities and counter criminal and terrorist activity in the UK.
The technical challenges of this programme include:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This programme will:
This programme is run on behalf of the Home Office
Through science and technology, MOD has options to ensure that the UK’s military capabilities can be effectively and consistently defended against adversary cyber activities and threat.
The programme will move the focus beyond identification of vulnerabilities and protection and detection of cyber events, towards technology enabled automated response and recovery. This will include development of S&T approaches to both proactively and reactively defend current, next generation and generation-after-next military niche equipment from evolving adversarial cyber-enabled capability.
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This programme will deliver science and technology to achieve operational advantage, evidenced and effective decision making, strategic influence and enhanced science and technology through collaboration and by creating prosperity.
Defence is better prepared for the future through revitalised investment in science and technology futures activity to identify potential, incubate and rapidly test hypotheses and promote emerging insights of generation-after-next science and technology.
This will provide the stimulus for an agile science and technology portfolio and influence key defence decision making.
It will also create strategic advantage and address defence risk through the exploitation of an evidence-based understanding of the potential impact of emerging insights from the global science and technology.
Current low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) developments in robotics indicate that rapid developments in specific technology areas are likely to have significant implications for the future of defence and security over the coming decades, through for example offering completely new ways of operating.
Are you working in this field and have any novel innovative ideas how defence could employ robotics for operational advantage? If so we would like to hear from you.
We are interested in the emergence of room temperature superconductors, which could lead to improvements in energy efficiency, and the reduction in energy requirements, mass, volume, or waste thermal output of components and systems that would utilise them.
Are you working on science and engineering of room temperature superconductors that will unlock their exploitation in prototype or early products within the next ten years or so? If you have novel innovative ideas for how we could work together to accelerate their maturity and want to get involved we would like to hear from you.
Vibration and sound can cause potential issues in the reliability of magnetic legacy hard disk drives (HDD).
Are you working on ways of mitigating such issues? Could you help us to develop mechanisms that would improve the resilience of our systems? If you think you can then we would love to hear about your ideas and work with you to mature them.
Many of our vehicles operate in challenging terrains and it is considered that the incorporation of granular fluids into damping and suspension mechanisms could lead to improved ride comfort and reduced noise levels for our servicemen and women.
If you are working in this area of have novel innovative ideas that could help us to develop such mechanisms then we would like to hear from you.
Would it be possible to develop a compact high efficiency electrolysis system capable of powering future military platforms or operating bases, replacing current fossil fuel based propulsion or energy generation systems and helping us to meet our targets for reducing our carbon footprint?
If you are interested in this technology and have novel innovative ideas how we could work together to mature a compact system then we would like to hear from you.
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This programme will:
Provide ground breaking science and technology, delivering technologies and other enablers that support the UK nuclear enterprise in providing:
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are:
Research has developed capabilities and services to allow synchronisation and coordination of electromagnetic activities, including enhanced electronic attack, to enable multi-domain operations and effects in the future electromagnetic environment (EME).
The enterprise system and architectures able to fuse and analyse data from radio frequency (RF) systems across an area of operation and enable the remote delivery of targeted EM effects. Delivering a step change in capability compared to current standalone systems and integrating the EM domain alongside air, land, maritime and space as an integral part of future multi-domain operations.
Seeking to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in EM systems and standards to disrupt and degrade adversary capabilities.
Degrading our adversaries’ situational awareness and protecting our forces from being targeted via the EME.
Providing protection to UK platforms and systems from threats while providing increased resilience against the pace of evolving threat technologies.
Providing tactical situational awareness and characterising adversary EM activities to enable precision electronic attack.
Enabling rapid prototyping and assessment of EM concepts and technologies through the use of real and synthetic environments alongside modelling and simulation.
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
Defence is critically dependent on the EME as a means to locate adversary activities, communicate and deliver effects (both offensive and defensive). Furthermore, multi-domain operations and effects are not possible without operational independence in, and control over access to, the EM environment.
The benefit of this research is to deliver the UK a step-change in:
Phil Sparrow, Dstl EMA Programme Manager
Cutting-edge science and technology and robust evidence for effective decision-making for next-generation and generation-after-next weapons to provide hard power operational advantage while ensuring sustainment of critical UK suitably qualified and experienced personnel (SQEP), facilities and tools.
We bring together game-changing technologies developed by scientists and engineers in industry and academia, alongside our own expertise, to find ways to revolutionise the future battlefield and support modernisation initiatives. Our aims are to:
Our weapons systems capability brings together a broad range of scientific and technical disciplines to support the full lifecycle of development, from refining requirements to bringing new concepts into service, covering:
The programme supports the following strategic benefits:
Simon Zavad, Programme Manager
Revolutionary novel sensing concepts and underpinning technologies to deliver pervasive, resilient situational awareness and targeting in future difficult congested and contested environments to enable operational advantage and freedom of action against complex and diverse threats.
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme will be:
Dr John Robertson, Programme Manager
Enhancing the defence workforce, now and for the future.
Identifying, developing and testing concepts and interventions to help defence achieve superiority through its people capability.
Improving learning effectiveness and efficiency, driving strategic change in learning, and developing future generations of learning systems representing the future operating environment.
Understanding and addressing risks to securing and sustaining the people component of capability, demonstrating duty of care, and providing inclusive environments.
Generation-after-next human-machine interfaces, and integration of the human and technological elements of future systems.
Understanding the demand signals for future People capability in terms of knowledge, skills, experience and other characteristics and how these differ from today.
Identifying game changing people concepts, people-focused horizon scanning and technology watch.
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are:
Equipping defence with evidence and analytical tools to prepare it for the future with high-level policy, investment of resources and support to make strategic operational decisions.
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme will be:
Science and technology to protect and optimise performance of UK forces to increase survivability and reduce vulnerability.
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The Human Performance and Protection programme will:
To demonstrate a high speed weapon (HSW) airframe with supporting sub-systems and develop future hypersonic concepts and technologies to provide transformational and affordable options to deliver operational advantage for the future UK armed forces.
The technical challenges of this programme are to:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are that:
Richard Crabtree
Rosie Davis
Through science and technology, defence can harness the behavioural and analytical science and the socio-technical capabilities to provide improved methods, tools, and techniques, to develop influence, command and control – integrating these elements to create advantage for defence and wider government.
The technical challenges of this programme are to develop:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are that:
From concept to capability: enabling the British Army to achieve technological and operational advantage.
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
The programme involves a wide mix of capabilities relating to the Land domain. This includes analytical, engineering and scientific skillsets spanning expertise across the Land Environment:
The Land Systems Programme will exploit capabilities from across Dstl, industry, academia and international relationships to:
The benefits of this programme are that:
Richard Hooper, Land Systems Programme Manager
From concept to capability: delivering the science and technology that enables the Royal Navy to achieve technological and operational advantage.
The technical challenges of this programme are in:
The programme involves a wide mix of capabilities relating to the maritime domain. This includes analytical engineering and scientific skillsets spanning expertise across above and underwater capabilities.
The benefits of this programme are:
The Missile Defence Science and Technology Programme supports the 2020 MOD Science and Technology Strategy intent by ensuring that the Missile Defence Centre (MDC) is able to operate as the UK’s centre of excellence for missile defence and maximise the opportunities presented through collaboration with international partners and working closely with UK industry and academia. Specifically, the programme will fund research to underpin the development of generation-after-next capabilities and sustain critical capabilities on behalf of UK defence and security.
The technical challenges of this programme are:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are that decision makers:
Provide an integrated, effective and responsive UK Government science and technology capability for countering explosive threats, devices and associated systems; delivering operational advantage, and minimising the risk to life on defence and counter-terrorism operations in the UK and abroad.
The technical challenges of this programme are:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are:
Image copyright Airbus
Through science and technology, MOD has investment options to build strength in Space, and has matured its approach to Space as an operating domain to meet the ambitions of the Defence and National Space Strategies.
The technical challenges of this programme include:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
The benefits of this programme are that:
Drive and develop world leading science and technology that promotes options to support strategic operational advantage for the Specialist Users (SU) in delivering unique, timely global effects with high precision and minimum signature. Achieve this through the analysis, acceleration and demonstration of generation after next novel concepts and technology, guiding and combining all-source science and technology into systems solutions.
The technical challenges of this programme are:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This programme will:
Establishing a suite of scientific and technical demonstrators and research projects to enhance defence understanding of potential solutions to support and sustainability problems.
The MOD Climate Change and Sustainability (CC&S) Strategic Approach sets out the ambition, principles and methods needed for UK defence to meet the challenges of climate change.
If you are working on solutions that will help address the most pressing current sustainability issues and emission targets we want to hear from you to help develop an understanding of the potential options for research studies and demonstrators to enable defence to assure and sustain capabilities given climate change and meet national and departmental aspirations, including Net Zero 2050.
Logistics and support is a critical task for MOD and represents a significant proportion of defence expenditure. We want to work with you to identify future technologies and processes that can deliver a step change for defence support, and subsequently future MOD, including baselining future energy requirements, future energy technologies, utilising data science, autonomy and automation, modern maintenance regimes, additive manufacturing techniques and influencing culture and behaviours.
Are you working on power, energy storage, conversion and transmission? This is one of the 7 technology families set out in the Defence Technology Framework. As such it is judged to be one of the foundational areas of technology that UK defence believes will be critical to drive innovation and radical transformation across a range of MOD activities, from optimising the performance of military equipment, to reducing its cost, to enabling new or enhanced military effects. It is also key to supporting the intent of defence to reduce environmental impact.
MOD needs to be able to rapidly test and evaluate (T&E) systems developed from the science and technology community, in order to be able to safely deploy technology with the confidence that it will perform to a known level.
MOD needs to be able to rapidly take advantage of science and technology innovation and we want to work with you to co-create a T&E Enterprise that is dynamic, agile and primed to deliver UK defence’s future technological, safety and operational challenges in order to maintain operational advantage.
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This programme will:
The following sections cover 4 standalone projects of the Defence Science and Technology Portfolio that have significant funding and collaborative opportunities for industry and academia.
Synthetic biology can be defined as the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world, for useful purposes. Engineering biology is the process of identifying synthetic biology solutions and translating them into products, or in MOD’s terms, capability.
Engineering biology is a disruptive technology. Synthetic biology and engineering biology can provide new capability for UK defence and security, solving historically intractable defence problems.
The top 3 challenge areas identified as potentially benefitting for engineering biology approaches have been identified as:
Current processes to make existing military grade materials suffer from various drawbacks: availability of raw materials, unsustainable costs, high energy consumption, handling of toxic waste, and possibly compromising on some desirable properties to meet performance requirements. For many of these problems, traditional materials approaches have made progress but are facing diminishing returns on their efforts.
The UK Government has also made commitments to zero carbon targets in the future, which means pursuing less energy-intense approaches.
Consequently, availability of many military relevant materials becomes limited and poses potential supply-chain risks for these countries.
There is also a pressing need for novel materials to provide new or enhanced capabilities, such as functional materials, where existing traditional materials science approaches have failed to make much progress.
Engineering biology concepts could provide a step change in power and energy provision, addressing several challenges currently faced in the area.
High energy batteries can be flammable and explosive when abused. Approaches that can mitigate this either at the chemistry level by using novel cell materials or using engineered biology materials to prevent fire and thermal runaway as an appliqué to standard commercial off-the-shelf cells would be of interest.
Despite significant research and advances in batteries (and other power sources) new military capability still require higher energy rechargeable batteries in smaller weights and volumes. Next-generation rechargeable batteries promise over 400 watt-hour per kilogram and 800 watt-hours per litre but there is interest in any technology that can improve these metrics even further. Primary (non-rechargeable) batteries are used less often, but are still used where their even higher specific energy and energy density warrants it. Engineered biology approaches to produce very high specific energy (>500 watt-hour per kilogram) and (1000 watt-hours per litre) single use batteries would also be of interest.
Sensing is a fundamental enabler of defence and security activities. However, there is always a requirement for more sensitive sensors to a wider range of stimuli. Robustness is also necessary to avoid, for example, dazzling of sensitive sensors.
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
Project Manager
To provide a single, coherent and targeted focus for science and technology to inform the defence vision, achieve desired outcomes and lead the strategic ambition for human augmentation (HA).
The Human Augmentation project is collaborating with academia and industry to facilitate the generation of innovative approaches that will answer the question: ‘Where could human augmentation technologies be applied to achieve competitive advantage for UK defence and security?’
The project is interested in generation-after-next technologies that deliver a competitive advantage to UK defence and security by:
Examples of candidate human augmentation technologies include (but are not limited to):
Further examples can be obtained from the Defence Technology Framework 2019, and the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) strategic implementation paper 2021.
In addition to exploring novel technologies (as well as considering novel ways to use combinations of existing technologies), the project is developing tools to support the potential implementation of human augmentation technologies by informing strategies that test and evaluate potential options. This includes the development of an ethical framework for human augmentation and the use of wargaming.
The project is also working with the UK armed forces to identify their problems, the challenges that they face (now and in the future) and their likely needs. The intent is to explore where human augmentation technologies could be applied to support the personnel who defend the UK and maintain national security.
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This programme will:
At the cutting edge of laser and plasma physics, the PULSAR project is exploring a wide range of defence and security uses of ultra-intense lasers (UIL). The aim is to mature the underpinning science making future applications possible.
The technical challenges of this programme are:
Delivery of this programme requires capabilities in:
This project will:
To be the lead steward (and indispensable source) of technical support – science, engineering, technology, analysis – to operations and crises. To deliver timely, evidence-based and actionable responses to meet the urgent needs of operations in the UK and overseas, and at times of emergency.
Support to Operations and Crises facilitates the application of multi-disciplinary, cutting-edge skills that reside throughout the MOD’s strategic science and technology capabilities. It enables the MOD’s research portfolio to deliver novel solutions to urgent challenges directly to the front line (defending the UK and keeping it secure).
The vision is achieved by deploying experts or reachback to assured technical advice at the right time, in the right way and to the right people who need it most urgently. Informing strategic and tactical decisions by responding to commanders’ urgent science and technology requirements. The project sustains and prepares a capability that is fit for purpose now and for the future.
The top technical challenges are:
The needs of UK defence and security encompass all strategic capabilities. This project applies enterprise leadership to empower each capability to deliver coherent, state-of-the-art technical support to operations, national emergencies and crises.
Supporting military commanders and senior decision-makers to minimise risks and/or maximise the impact of planned actions. Through directly leveraging scientific (including engineering science), technological, and analytical advice where and when needed.
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