World-class defence and cutting-edge technologies: How Dorset is delivering for the UK’s security

Poole Harbour

By Cecilia Bufton, Chair of Dorset LEP

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership is partnering with Great South West to sponsor the Partnership’s Pavilion at this year’s UKREiiF in Leeds this May. UKREiiF is the UK’s biggest investor event, and Great South West’s presence with a dedicated Pavilion aims to attract investment into the region.

Cecilia has enjoyed a successful business career over 30 years, working in a range of companies from SMEs to multinational businesses and a Trade Association. She has held senior level roles in strategic marketing, sales and business development and brings to the Board her experiences of working in medical, pharmaceutical, digital health and wellbeing companies. Her career has involved the development and delivery of products and services that help change the way healthcare is delivered.

Cecilia is also Chair of NHS Dorset ICP, a Board Director for the Great South West Pan Regional Partnership, Chair of South West, and Wessex One Health Enterprise Network Chair of two national charities (Macular Society & Plant heritage) and a Trustee of Talbot Village Trust.

Cecilia is a science graduate with an MBA focused on international, strategic marketing and a certificate in Global Leadership from the University of Oxford.

How Dorset is delivering for the UK’s clean energy future

Dorset is a unique microcosm of future energy opportunities, with potential in all key low carbon energy sectors, from solar PV and offshore wind to hydrogen and energy storage, as well as having potential for marine energy, nuclear and bioresource. Our Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering sector has the potential to support supply chain developments for this sector. The historic onshore oil and gas production in the region, and salt caverns underlying Portland, offer opportunities for hydrogen, carbon and energy storage that are unique in the South of England. These important natural advantages mean that the area has real potential to be a leader in a net zero energy system. In addition, the area has many of the key sectors that can both benefit from, and help drive, the transition. This includes two international ports (Port of Poole and Portland Port), an airport (Bournemouth), a defence cluster with marine engineering expertise, universities leading on net zero innovation and skills, agriculture for bioenergy and sustainable food and more.

Why Dorset’s world-class defence sector is critical the the UK’s security

Dorset’s Defence & Security sector is a crucial part of the UK’s supply base, valued at £450 million and employing 12,000 people. As a strategic centre for Defence and Security, Dorset is anchored by a significant Ministry of Defence (MoD) presence engaged in research, development, and operations. The Defence and Security sector has seen 17% GVA growth over the last five years. 

Dorset’s geography and secure facilities provide an ideal environment for high-tech development and testing across land, sea, and air. Land-based ranges at Bovington and Lulworth, along with facilities at Blandford Forum, complement sea-based MoD ranges, offering comprehensive support to the UK armed forces.

Situated at Dorset Innovation Park, the Defence BattleLab is a result of a collaboration with the Ministry of Defence, Dorset Council and the LEP. This pioneering and unique facility serves as a hub for end-users and experts from various defence sectors, facilitating collaboration and engagement with the MOD.  The BattleLab aims to nurture and evolve innovative solutions by bringing together diverse minds to address complex challenges and emerging threats in defence. With technology rapidly evolving, including advancements in 5G, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and quantum computing, the defence sector strives to stay competitive by embracing transparency and collaborative approaches. 

As part of the government’s National Strategic Technology and Innovation Exchange programme (NSTIx), BattleLab serves as a Co-Creation Space for defence innovation. It not only encourages national but also regional development opportunities by fostering partnerships that might not typically collaborate.

Delivering food security with Dorset’s innovative agritech sector

Dorset is a global hub for Agritech R&D and innovation, attracting overseas businesses for many compelling reasons. With over 13,000 people directly employed in the sector in Dorset (including agriculture) the region is charged by a vibrant sector valued at £440 million contributing significantly to the South West’s Agri sector GVA of over £3 billion. 

The Agritech and Aquaculture sector has seen 44% GVA growth over the last five years. Notably, Dorset hosts world-class Agri-tech businesses, with Portland Port playing a pivotal role in handling substantial volumes of animal feeds and grains for both regional and international agricultural markets. Businesses in Agritech and Aquaculture flock to Dorset for its advantageous location within the agriculturally rich South West and its excellent water quality. Support from key organisations like the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS), Maritime UK South West, South West Agritech, and South West Aquaculture Network (SWAN) further enhances Dorset’s capability in this sector.

How Dorset LEP is delivering for the region

Dorset LEP’s role in supporting prosperity for the area includes developing the “Invest in Dorset” brand, kick-starting economic development with The Growing Places Fund, Business support and the delivery of Skills development.

This is a strong and dynamic partnership between the LEP, Bournemouth Christchurch & Poole Council and Dorset Council, bringing businesses and stakeholders together to drive investment and growth in our county. 

Dorset’s economy is fuelled by innovation, provides excellent business support and a great quality of life. With a total GVA value of almost £20 billion Dorset is an outstanding area of the UK for business. 

Our Inward investment programmes, working with Dept Business & Trade, are evidenced in our case study-based prospectuses for our priority sectors:

  • Advanced Engineering & Manufacturing
  • Agritech & Aquaculture
  • Defence & Security
  • Digital & Creative
  • Financial Services
  • Marine & Maritime

Growing Places Fund:

The Growing Places Fund provides short-term repayable loans to kick-start economic development projects in Dorset. To date, Dorset LEP has invested £17.3 million across 13 projects, including business parks, green hydrogen production, broadband infrastructure, manufacturing, and agri-tech innovation. 

Dorset LEP also runs:

Business growth, innovation, and productivity programmes:

  • Access to finance including Funding accelerator, Investor readiness, bid writing and work including SW Investment Fund and Tech SouthWest Regional Business Angel development. 
  • Business Growth Groups, Digital, Productivity and Innovation programmes
  • Business signposting services and Dorset Ambassadors.

Delivery of Skills development and investment:

  • Convening the Dorset Skills Board, supporting the delivery of the Local Skills Improvement Programmes
  • Delivering the Careers & Enterprise Company programme for Dorset Schools
  • Digital Skills Hub – An inclusive centre for residents and business owners in the Boscombe-Bournemouth, offering a range of free digital skills, employment, and business support sessions.