How to work with or sell to Dstl: industry, academia and other research organisations

How to sell to Dstl if you are in industry, academia or other research organisation.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) believes that work should be conducted by external suppliers unless there is a clear reason for it to be done by Dstl.

Around half of the £320 million Ministry of Defence (MOD) science and technology (S&T) research programme, managed through Dstl, goes to industry and academia to deliver.

As well as the MOD S&T programme, some areas of Dstl’s work are funded from other government sources. Because of the nature of this work, much of it is carried out in-house by Dstl, but there are still opportunities for suppliers to get involved. Read our science and technology procurement criteria (MS Word Document, 39.5KB) for more detail.

Dstl’s programmes

Dstl manages the delivery of its customers’ work through a number of programmes, using expertise from across the organisation and placing work externally wherever possible. These programmes detail the full breadth of work by subject area.

SME Searchlight

SME Searchlight as a programme of activity aiming to engage with non-traditional Defence suppliers and SMEs to meet the needs of a £40 million - £45 million increase in research expected to be placed externally from programmes across Dstl. Searchlight is in line with the Government’s and MOD’s intent to increase external spending with SMEs. Companies benefit in turn from increased funding and being at the cutting-edge of research and technology.

The increase in demand for new research opportunities extends across Dstl, with a number of priority areas identified. The four areas for initial focus are RF, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and wargaming.

As part of Searchlight, events, workshops and consultations run by Dstl will take place in partnership with Aerospace and Defence Suppliers (ADS), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Team Defence Information and TechUK, to bring companies together from across industry sectors. A target of 60% of suppliers who have not have worked with Defence before has been set for events, with the aim of bringing these new companies into Dstl’s supply chain.

Through Searchlight we will help suppliers get easier access to Dstl opportunities for cutting-edge research by joining R-Cloud, one of our commercial frameworks or through the Defence and Security Accelerator. Importantly, SMEs retain the Intellectual Property rights to any innovation in most cases, boosting their long-term prosperity as well as that of the UK. For more information email

Defence and Security Accelerator

The Defence and Security Accelerator focuses on innovations which can provide advantage to defence and national security to protect the UK from its adversaries. It funds the development of suppliers’ innovative ideas and provides support through to potential application. The Accelerator also funds innovations for defence and security which support economic growth and prosperity in the UK.


There are many different opportunities for organisations to work with Dstl, either directly or indirectly, via a contract. Dstl places a range of different types of contracts from proof-of-principle contracts through to enabling contracts. Some contracts may be placed with a single organisation, other contracts will bring in suppliers as and when needed, giving opportunities for new suppliers. Dstl may specify how much of a contract must be placed with SMEs, academia or other organisations and how much can be carried out by the prime contractor.

Depending on the nature of the contract, these are usually advertised via the Defence Contracts Online portal and MOD Defence Contracts Bulletin and the Official Journal of the European Union.


R-Cloud is a commercial framework which helps Dstl’s suppliers bid for contracts. It provides easy-to-use, direct access to current and future research requirements. It also aims to reduce the cost of trading with Dstl and simplify the contract process. Find out more about R-Cloud.

Serapis framework

The Serapis framework, which is due to go live in spring 2019, will focus on the areas of C4ISR (command, control, computers, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), space systems, synthetic environments, and simulation technology to support human capability development. It is being set up to enable Dstl to reach the most diverse expertise available. Find out more about Serapis.

DECANT framework

The DECANT (Defence Capability for Autonomous and Novel Technologies) framework, which is due to go live in spring 2019, aims to drive autonomy into defence and security research by building a supplier network for innovative and cutting-edge underpinning autonomous systems technologies. It will provide a new route to market to help deliver Dstl’s Autonomy Programme.

Synthetic Environment Tower of Excellence (SE Tower)

The SE Tower is a mechanism which enables the Ministry of Defence (MOD), industry and academia to work together on future areas of research for mutual benefit. Find out how to get involved with the SE Tower.

PhD programmes

Dstl operates a number of PhD programmes. We welcome applications to PhD level research calls from UK institutions with leading academics, research groups or research centres.

Deterrence And Assurance Academic Alliance

The UK Deterrence and Assurance Academic Alliance (DAAA) aims to stimulate new thinking, and reinvigorate UK expertise, on deterrence and related topics such as assurance, coercion and conflict escalation. Find out more and view events

Ploughshare Innovations Limited

Ploughshare Innovations was formed in 2005 to commercialise and exploit Dstl’s intellectual property generated from its research. Since its creation, Ploughshare has commercialised more than 110 technologies and launched eleven spin-out companies, mainly for civilian applications. Ploughshare has also negotiated licences in the defence field leading to research being pulled through into defence products. Find out more on the Ploughshare website.

Easy Access Intellectual Property (IP)

Dstl is an Easy Access IP organisation. Easy Access institutions promote new ways of sharing IP to make it easier for researchers and industry to work together. Find out how you can access Dstl technology under the Easy Access IP scheme.

Innovate UK

Dstl works closely with Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, whose goal is to accelerate economic growth by supporting business-led innovation. Dstl and Innovate UK collaborate on technologies where there is potential for ‘dual-use’ innovation, where the technology could be applied to both defence and civil market sectors, and jointly fund competitive research calls in areas of specific interest – usually through Innovate UK’s competitions process. Find out more about competitions managed by Innovate UK.

Dstl’s supplier eBulletin: inSIGHT

inSIGHT is a regular defence, science and technology eBulletin written for Dstl’s external suppliers. It covers the latest science and technology news and events, developments in Dstl’s programmes, information about new and existing contracts and case studies.

Subscription to inSIGHT is free. Subscribe to inSIGHT and read the latest edition here.

Published 1 July 2014
Last updated 15 April 2019 + show all updates
  1. Addition of information of SME Searchlight initiative
  2. Added a new academic alliance
  3. A web link edit.
  4. Description and length of term amended on University Defence Research Collaboration (UDRC) in Signal Processing.
  5. Added a new open call for the University Defence Research Collaboration in signal processing
  6. Removed MURI (Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative) from list of ways to work with us, as none are currently planned.
  7. Added Serapis details.
  8. Updating CDE with the Defence and Security Accelerator following organisational change
  9. Added information and link for the Dstl Synthetic Environment Tower of Excellence (SE Tower).
  10. Added details of the US DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) programme.
  11. Added information about Easy Access IP.
  12. First published.