General view of a sign for Porton Down Science Campus in Wiltshire 150318 CREDIT PA
UK

Dstl Boss Makes Plea For Scientists To Fight Terror Threats And Future Pandemics

The MOD is investing £6bn in research and development, including an extra £1bn specifically on science and technology.

General view of a sign for Porton Down Science Campus in Wiltshire 150318 CREDIT PA

The boss of the UK's secret military laboratory stated that "we cannot counter the threats of the future alone" in a unique public plea with scientists to join the fight against terrorism and hostile states.

Doug Umbers, Head of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down, near Salisbury, is urging academics, researchers, inventors, engineers and people in science and technology to consider turning their attention to tackling threats to national security.

On behalf of the Government, he has reached out to take part in a summit on 22 July to see what opportunities are available and is even targeting those who have not thought of working in defence previously.

In his public appeal, Mr Umbers said: "I am calling on each and every one of you to think about how your work contributes to keeping our families, friends, and communities secure, safe, and prosperous – and to consider working with the organisation I lead, Dstl, to supercharge that effort."

He listed the "many" threats as anything from "hostile states and terrorist groups through to global challenges such as pandemics and climate change".

Over the next three months, jobs will be advertised for about 300 defence scientists to work for Dstl, with the aim of creating "pioneering military equipment" and keep the country safe from a "huge range of threats".

Watch: Battling coronavirus at Dstl Porton Down.

The coronavirus pandemic had shown "in the starkest circumstances" the crucial role science and technology play in keeping "our loved ones out of harm's way" and, in developing a vaccine so quickly, "what we can achieve at breakneck speed when we work together", he said.

His comments come as the Government bids to make the UK a "science and tech superpower" by 2030, with the ability to "monitor, protect and defend" the country's interests as part of the Integrated Review.

As part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Dstl works to provide Armed Forces and Government with cutting-edge resources to tackle threats.

Plans for forthcoming projects include progressing work in artificial intelligence, cyber, space, robotics and looking for other inventions and advancements in science and technology.

Mr Umbers said: "We need to harness the power of science, technology, engineering and innovation from across the private and academic sectors – from the individual inventor, to tech start-ups and beyond."

In 2020, a £16,5bn increase in defence spending over four years was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

As part of this, the MOD is investing £6bn in research and development, including an extra £1bn specifically on science and technology.

Part of its work is to try to counter future threats from hostile states such as China and Russia.

Cover image: PA. 

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