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Aerospace Defence

Leonardo to open advanced military tech research site in Newcastle

Leonardo has announced that it is investing in a new high-technology science and engineering facility on Newcastle Helix, a ground-breaking 24-acre city centre development that brings together industry leaders, businesses and top researchers into an internationally renowned innovation cluster.

Above: Clive Higgins, Chair and CEO Leonardo UK, at the Spark facility in Newcastle.
Courtesy Leonardo

Leonardo expects to employ over 200 people at the new site, generating over £185 million of economic benefit in the region over the next 10 years. The development will allow Leonardo to access talent from across the North-East of England and build closer links with small and medium sized businesses across the region, many of which are already part of Leonardo’s nationwide supply chain.

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Best known for its onshore production of UK military helicopters and the cutting-edge electronics on-board Royal Air Force aircraft, Leonardo 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 UK Government's most sensitive information.

The new site in Newcastle will focus on research, development and prototyping of Leonardo’s next generation sensing, security and vertical lift products. This builds on the data-driven approach to design and manufacturing that went live at the company’s electronics sites across the UK in June 2022, using secure public cloud environments to put big data at the fingertips of engineers in order to accelerate product development.

Minister for Investment Dominic Johnson said: “The North East has proven time and again how inward investment benefits local communities by boosting productivity, driving R&D, creating economic growth and supporting high value jobs in priority sectors like science and engineering. Leonardo’s decision to increase its stake in UK plc is another vital step to level up the region and country, further improving our attractiveness to overseas investors as we continue becoming a science and technology superpower.”

Clive Higgins, Chair and CEO of Leonardo UK said: “The UK’s defence and aerospace industry is an engine for economic growth, prosperity and security, representing world-class research and technology and many thousands of well-paid jobs and amazing career opportunities for young people entering the workforce. Leonardo already employs over 8,000 people in the UK and our new site in Newcastle will allow us to expand even further, drawing on science and engineering skills from the North East region in order to develop the next generation of digitally-led technologies. With a track record in providing hundreds of quality early careers scheme places around the country each year, Leonardo’s new site in Newcastle will generate a wealth of opportunities for young people in the area. The skilled, well paid, high technology jobs that will be created by Leonardo in the North East are the kind of employment that will help address regional inequality, ensuring that the whole of Britain can enjoy a prosperous future.”

Jennifer Hartley, Director of Invest Newcastle, part of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, said: “This significant investment from Leonardo represents a major boost for the city’s burgeoning defence and aerospace sector that will add millions of pounds to the local economy.  This investment is testament to the strength of our eco-system, research strengths and ability to attract and retain the best talent. Between the 200 jobs being created by Leonardo, and the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) becoming operational on Newcastle Helix, we now have a nationally significant defence cluster that will drive further investment, innovation, and good jobs at all levels for our region’s residents. We look forward to continuing our work and support with Leonardo over the coming months to maximise the impact of this investment for local communities.”

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Cllr Alex Hay, Cabinet member for a Resilient City, Newcastle City Council, said: “I am delighted that Leonardo UK is opening in Newcastle creating 200 jobs. This is a highly respected cutting-edge company that will add to the city’s growing reputation for defence industries. Not only will these jobs give opportunities to a wide of range of employees from starters to highly paid technical and scientific staff but boost the North East’s economy with £185m of economic benefits over the next decade. We want to build a city where everyone has the chance to succeed, improve and access quality employment and training regardless of where they live in Newcastle. The company has recognised the strengths of Newcastle Helix as a site for pioneering research and development and will find a highly skilled and able workforce that will help the company thrive in the UK defence sector.”

Leonardo UK teams are empowered to decide how they work and, for many, where they work through the company’s Custom Working model, so not all North-East-based employees will always work on-site. However, there are benefits to creating hubs of complementary research and Leonardo’s new site will benefit from its location alongside Newcastle University, the UK National Innovation Centre for Data (NIC-D) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratories (Dstl) Defence Artificial Intelligence Centre – Experimentation (DAIC-X). This means the site is ideally located to engage with and develop emergent digital and data technologies that will be essential to delivering the Ministry of Defence’s future vision. This includes the concept of 'multi-domain integration', the drive to ensure that every part of defence can work seamlessly together.

At the same time, Leonardo 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.

The opening of the new site in Newcastle follows the publication of a report in 2022 by the Purpose Coalition, a group which aims to improve social mobility in the UK. The report reveals how Leonardo is meeting the coalition’s priority goals, one of which is ‘positive destinations post 16+’. The report also highlights the company’s efforts in inclusion and diversity and its ongoing transformation into a sustainable business, with Leonardo UK committed to achieving Net Zero by 2030 for its Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
 

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