Sixty years of science

Take a look back over six decades of R&D at British American Tobacco


  • 1950s


    Research & Development department established to study tobacco products, employing three engineers and five newly recruited scientists in a temporary laboratory.

  • 1960s


    Chemistry dominates. Scientists start to learn more about the chemistry of cigarettes. Many projects undertaken form the foundation for BAT's research today.

  • 1970s


    Greater focus on smoking behaviour and biology. Technology starts to make a bigger contribution. Mass spectrometers are used.

  • 1980s


    Biotechnology is embraced with full ownership of an earlier joint venture, Advanced Technologies Cambridge.

  • 1990s


    Analytical capability is expanded and increasingly more sophisticated techniques are used to improve our ability to measure smoke constituents.

  • 2000s


    British American Tobacco marks 50 years of R&D. is launched to showcase the company's science.

  • 2010s


    Global R&D community now employees over 1,200 people and global investment in R&D activity for a three-year period is over £460 million.

    A major focus of our R&D is in developing potentially less risky alternatives to conventional cigarettes.


In 2016, our company marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of our first Research and Development centre in Southampton.

Then the centre was staffed by a small team of scientists and engineers. Fast forward 60 years and the team in Southampton is more than 400 strong and comprises highly skilled specialists in areas such as biochemistry, genetics, toxicology, biotechnology and electronics.

The focus of their research includes innovative tobacco products and developing Next Generation Products which offer adult smokers a choice of less risky alternatives to conventional cigarettes.

Click through the timeline above to see how our research and development has evolved over six decades.