Our History

Defence Science & Technology has been operating for over 70 years.

Established in 1950, our organisation was called the Underwater Research Laboratory and was part of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). The Laboratory’s research was done mainly for the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and focused on underwater acoustics.
Read about New Zealand’s Naval History.

In 1955, our research focus broadened to include maritime research and was transferred to the Naval Research Laboratory within the RNZN.

In 1970, following the integration of defence agencies, the organisation was renamed the Defence Scientific Establishment. While underwater acoustics continued to be the main area of study, the range of projects widened, and staff took part in co-operative research programmes with overseas defence scientists.

The organisation became the Defence Operational Technology Support Establishment in 1997. This signalled a new focus - using science and technology research to support defence operations.

During the 1990s, work on underwater acoustics reduced, and the research and development focus broadened to cover a wider range of areas including electronic warfare, propulsion engineering, mine counter measures and aircraft structures.

In 2001, we became the Defence Technology Agency.

Then in 2023 we changed our structure and operating model to focus on areas where DST brings unique value, like research into Space Operations and Cyber Defence. By partnering more with the wider science ecosystem, DST will scale its efforts and cover gaps in capability. This will enable the team to comprehensively respond to the full spectrum of NZDF’s Science & Technology requirements now and into the future. As part of this change, and in consultaiton with staff and colleagues, we changed our name to Defence Science & Technology (DST).  This has been chosen to strongly align with a recently revamped operating model. The new title embraces the strong scientific approach and expertise that is the unique value-add the team bring to the NZDF, while highlighting that not all of the work involves technology.