During World War II, the UK's Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) was moved to Malvern College in Great Malvern so that it could continue its work to develop range and direction finding technology using radio frequency electromagnetic energy.  The result was the invention of radar by Robert Watson-Watt and his team as a defence system enabling the Royal Air Force and its allies to detect incoming German aircraft.  Since then, radar has become a common term in the English Language (rather than the acronym RADAR) and has been used more widely for military, air traffic control, surveillance, meteorology, and astronomy.

In 2012 there was a celebration to commemorate the 70th anniversary of TRE moving to Malvern. A number of events were held to celebrate this throughout Malvern.

Geoffrey Dummer, the engineer who is credited to have first conceptualised the integrated circuit also worked at Malvern. He stated at a scientific conference in the US in 1952, "With the advent of the transistor and the work on semi-conductors generally, it now seems possible to envisage electronic equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires. The block may consist of layers of insulating, conducting, rectifying and amplifying materials, the electronic functions being connected directly by cutting out areas of the various layers."

Great Malvern since became synonymous with advanced research and development in the fields of electronics, telecommunications and military systems. The TRE moved to a permanent site in Malvern after the war, and in 1953 it merged with the Army Radar Establishment to form the Radar Research Establishment (RRE), later the Royal Radar Establishment after a visit from the Queen in 1957.  In 1976 this was merged with the Signals Research and Development Establishment to form the Royal Signal and Radar Establishment (RSRE).

Employing a large number of highly qualified scientists working in a high security military environment, the Malvern site grew in importance giving the town one of the highest density of PhDs in the UK.  The Ministry of Defence's site went on to be known as DRA (Defence Research Establishment) Malvern, DERA (Defence and Evaluation Research Agency) Malvern, and then in 2000 it was renamed Qinetiq as it became privatized.

Its research programmes included flight simulation, display technology (including cathode ray tube work and the invention of the materials for the now ubiquitous Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)), materials science including crystal growth and the invention of porous silicon, semiconductor electronics, security systems and electromagnetic physics.  It is also generally accepted that the touch screen was invented in Malvern by E.A. Johnson around 1965 when he was working on a display for air traffic control systems. 

Some old films of the research are available here: Microwavesmini Radar, and the RRE site.


Books about radar