How to sell to or work with The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)

Guidance on the many ways to work with us

Who we are and what we do

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) ensures that innovative science and technology contribute to the defence and security of the UK. Read more about us

Dstl is an executive agency, sponsored by the Ministry of Defence. The following Framework Document sets out the relationship between Dstl (an Executive Agency) and its sponsor Department, the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Read our Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Framework Document Dstl Frameworks document (PDF, 438KB, 23 pages)

Our Aim

To ensure that our customers are provided with the best science and technology, research and capabilities to enable them to protect the UK’s security and to advance the UK’s interests, both now and in the long term; and in doing so, to obtain the best possible value for money for the taxpayer.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) start from the presumption that work should be conducted by external suppliers where so ever possible and unless there is a clear reason for it to be done by Dstl itself.

Read our science and technology procurement criteria for more detail science and technology procurement criteria (MS Word Document, 39.5KB) Currently around half of the £320 million Ministry of Defence (MOD) budget for the Defence Science and Technology (S&T) research programmes that is managed by Dstl, goes to industry, academia and others to deliver.

As well as the centrally-funded MOD S&T programmes, Dstl receive funding for S&T Research direct from Defence Front Line Commands (FLCs) and other government departments (OGDs) .

Dstl is keen to encourage innovation and to work with suppliers who have not traditionally supplied to Dstl (or the MOD) and to work further with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and is constantly striving to reduce barriers to entry for new suppliers. We hope that the following information supports this aim and is helpful.

Dstl’s programmes

Dstl manages the delivery of its customers’ work through a number of programmes, using expertise from within Dstl and externally from suppliers. These programmes detail the full breadth of work by subject area.

Many opportunities exist to support delivery of these programmes either by selling directly to Dstl, or by working with and through our existing (Framework) supply partners to provide goods and/or services to Dstl as part of the wider Supply Chain (or Supply Ecosystem)

How we buy goods and services

The European Union Procurement Regulations drive UK law for public sector procurements and alongside MOD procurement policy provide the main control framework for all Dstl procurements.

This means that, (as a public sector organisation), we procure in a different way to industry. Open competition is the default position. We set objective selection and award criteria in our tenders, are fair and transparent and will be held accountable for procurement decisions in a way the private sector is not.

We do not operate “preferred” supplier lists.

Guiding procurement principles include:

  • non-discrimination (on grounds of nationality),
  • equal treatment (of all suppliers),
  • transparency (we act in a fair and non-discriminatory manner),
  • mutual recognition (of equivalent documents and standards).

Overview of a typical competition;

  1. The requirement(s) is advertised As a requirements driven organisation, first we identify what we need to buy and then we advertise this. Suppliers then have the opportunity to express their interest (EoI).

  2. We issues a pre-qualification questionnaire We often use an initial questionnaire to “pre-qualify” suppliers.

  3. Suitable suppliers are invited to tender Suppliers that meet the pre-qualification selection criteria are then invited to tender.

  4. Tenders are then evaluated using objective assessment “award” criteria We independently assess all tenders (bids) using pre-agreed / published criteria.

  5. Supplier selection A supplier(s) is selected for contract based on the tender assessment.

  6. Contract award A contract is awarded to the successful bidder. A debrief is available to all suppliers.

How to find contract opportunities

We advertise tender and contract opportunities valued over £10,000 in the Defence Contracts Online (DCO) portal. Access and registration to the MOD’s opportunities (including Dstl opportunities) in the DCO portal is free of charge.

Our large frameworks contractors are encouraged to advertise sub-contracting opportunities on the DCO, however we suggest you also engage via the contractors’ own websites. Find out more about our Frameworks Dstl Frameworks (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 17.5KB) and how to join the Dstl supply chain. Dstl procurement framework (PDF, 460KB, 4 pages)

We also use the Government’s Contracts Finder portal; here central government departments and other public bodies advertise tender and contract opportunities valued at £10,000 and above. Access to Contracts Finder is also free of charge.

Contract opportunities which fall within the scope of EU Public Procurement Regulation thresholds are additionally advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Dstl also has its own Dynamic Procurement System (DPS) called R-Cloud (Research cloud). R-Cloud enables Dstl to match suppliers’ capabilities and skills to its requirements, Suppliers can apply to join the R-Cloud at any time by registering If matched to a requirement the supplier is then invited to express their interest in the opportunity and a competition including that supplier is held. Find out more about R-Cloud

Requirements below £10,000 are often one off projects these are procured / bought in accordance with our internal policy for low value purchasing.

Doing Business with Defence- Opportunities and Innovation in the Defence Supply Chain

SME Searchlight

Dstl is keen to encourage new and innovative suppliers - particularly non-traditional defence suppliers and SMEs -to join the Dstl supply chain (Supply Eco System). Whether this is through direct contract engagement, or indirect through the likes of the many large framework contracts operated by our Defence Prime Contractors. Dstl often specifies 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 themselves.

SME Searchlight is a Dstl programme of activity actively seeking out and engaging with non-traditional defence suppliers and SMEs to meet the needs of a £40m - £45m increase in research spend expected to be placed externally from programmes across Dstl in 2019 /20 and thereafter. It is important to also note that, SMEs retain Intellectual Property rights to innovation (in most cases), boosting their longer-term prosperity as well as that of the UK.

Dstl have set a target to attract 60% of such potential suppliers who attend Searchlight events and who have not worked with Dstl / Defence before being brought into Dstl’s supply chain. SME Searchlight supports both government and the MOD’s publicly stated intent to increase external spending with SME’s to 25% of all spend by 2022 in the MOD Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Action Plan 2019-2022 and provides really significant opportunities for such companies to benefit from increased funding whilst being involved at the cutting-edge of defence research and technology.

Four defence capability areas are currently being prioritised by Dstl for FY 2019/20:

1.Radio Frequency

2.Artificial Intelligence (AI)

3.Synthetic Biology


Throughout 2019 /20 Dstl is holding a series of Searchlight events, workshops and consultations in partnership with the various trade bodies and associations; Aerospace and Defence Suppliers (ADS), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Team Defence Information and TechUK, with the aim of bringing companies together from across industry sectors. Join us:

Dstl launches SME ‘Searchlight’ to harness innovation

For further information join Dstl Searchlight on Twitter or email

SMEs are encouraged to join R-Cloud and apply to be part of our Frameworks’ supply chains

Dstl Values - other opportunities and useful information


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.

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)

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.

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


Codes of conduct for suppliers and grant recipients

The Codes of conduct for suppliers and grant recipients outline the standards and behaviours expected from suppliers and grant recipients, and reiterate the government’s approach to working with suppliers.

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.

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

The Defence Suppliers’ Forum (DSF)

The Defence Suppliers Forum (DSF) is the major conduit for MOD-industry relationships


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

CPNI and the National Cyber Security Centre

CPNI and the National Cyber Security Centre have produced some guidance for Academics Trusted Research and Industry Thinking securely about your business aimed at raising awareness of risks associated with working internationally.

Published 1 July 2014
Last updated 21 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance added

  2. Addition of information of SME Searchlight initiative

  3. Added a new academic alliance

  4. A web link edit.

  5. Description and length of term amended on University Defence Research Collaboration (UDRC) in Signal Processing.

  6. Added a new open call for the University Defence Research Collaboration in signal processing

  7. Removed MURI (Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative) from list of ways to work with us, as none are currently planned.

  8. Added Serapis details.

  9. Updating CDE with the Defence and Security Accelerator following organisational change

  10. Added information and link for the Dstl Synthetic Environment Tower of Excellence (SE Tower).

  11. Added details of the US DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) programme.

  12. Added information about Easy Access IP.

  13. First published.