in Defence

Leonardo defence technology research site opens in Newcastle

Posted 20 October 2023

Leonardo has opened its eighth site in the UK, a high-technology science and engineering facility in the Newcastle Helix innovation cluster.

Image courtesy Leonardo

Leonardo has opened its eighth site in the UK, a high-technology science and engineering facility in the Newcastle Helix innovation cluster.

Located in the state-of-the-art ‘Spark’ development, Leonardo Newcastle will focus on the research, development and prototyping of Leonardo’s next generation sensing, security and vertical lift products, many of which will incorporate emerging digital and data technologies.

The site will connect to Leonardo’s other scientific research and manufacturing sites around the country via the secure cloud, linking into the company’s nationwide network of data-driven engineering projects.

At an event held yesterday to announce the opening of the new site, Leonardo was joined by community, government and industry leaders including Councillor Veronica Dunn, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, the Rt. Hon Justine Greening, Chair of The Purpose Coalition, Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive of Make UK and Professor Paul Watson, Director of the National Innovation Centre for Data and Professor of Computer Science at Newcastle University.

Clive Higgins, Chair and CEO, Leonardo UK welcomed the opening, saying: “What distinguishes Leonardo from many other global firms with a UK presence is the research, engineering and advanced manufacturing that Leonardo does on shore in Britain. By opening this new site in Newcastle, we will now be able to hire regional talent from the North East to work on some of the UK’s most exciting and forward-thinking technology projects. We’re here for the long term, and are looking to build strong community bonds in Newcastle, matching those established by Leonardo at our other sites around the UK.”

Best known for its onshore production of UK military helicopters and the cutting-edge electronics on-board Royal Air Force aircraft, Leonardo has 8,500 UK-based employees and is one of the biggest suppliers to the UK Ministry of Defence. The company is at the heart of the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), the initiative by the UK, Italy and Japan to produce a new 6th generation fighter jet to go into service in 2035, and its cyber security business has been trusted for decades to protect the nation’s most sensitive information.

In Newcastle, as well as delivering for its customers, Leonardo plans to get involved with regional SMEs, charities, social mobility programmes, schools and academia, replicating how it has operated in other UK towns and cities, from Yeovil in the South West to Edinburgh in Scotland.

Rt. Hon Justine Greening, Chair of The Purpose Coalition, spoke about the positive effect on social mobility that can be generated by companies like Leonardo. She said: “Engineering is an industry with one of the lowest levels of gender diversity and social mobility, but Leonardo is a fantastic example of how a business can drive change in their own organisations and in the communities they serve. By investing in Newcastle, Leonardo is bringing high value employment and skills to one of the least advantaged areas of the UK, delivering opportunity at every level. In return, it gets access to a pipeline of diverse talent that will let it continue to innovate, grow and build for the future.”

Leonardo is a founding member of the newly-established North East Regional Defence and Security Cluster (NERDSC), which aims to drive further investment in the region and support those already located locally to secure defence and security contracts.

Jennifer Hartley, Director of Invest Newcastle, part of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, said: “The opening of Leonardo’s research and technology site in Newcastle is a significant milestone in what is a major strategic investment for North East England. Following the launch of NERDSC, we look forward to working closely with Leonardo on growing the region’s defence and aerospace sector to provide valuable new opportunities for our residents.”

Leonardo continues to recruit from Newcastle and the wider North-East region. The site will be home to at least 200 staff and the company is keen to grow beyond this in future. As well as recruiting people who are already highly capable, Leonardo will be investing in up-skilling, training employees in the latest digital engineering practices so that they’re fully equipped for the fourth industrial revolution.

Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive of Make UK, said: “Leonardo is an example of a great British manufacturer that generates valuable intellectual property and exports its products and services worldwide. The company is investing substantially into the evolution of UK manufacturing through its pivot into digital and data-driven engineering, which will provide competitive advantage in international markets and ensure that we keep critical skills here in the UK.”

Leonardo also continues to expand the number of early careers opportunities across its UK sites, driven in large part by the company’s core position in the GCAP project. Leonardo will hire an additional 300 apprentices, industrial placements and graduate scheme starters in 2023, bringing the total number of young people on early careers schemes to 900.




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