Leonardo Defense Technology Research Center Inaugurates New Facility in Newcastle

International defense and security firm Leonardo has established its eighth site in the United Kingdom. This high-tech science and engineering facility, located within the Newcastle Helix innovation cluster’s ‘Spark’ development, will serve as a hub for research, development, and prototyping of Leonardo’s next-generation sensing, security, and vertical lift products. Many of these products will incorporate emerging digital and data technologies.

This facility will be connected to Leonardo’s other scientific research and manufacturing sites across the country via a secure cloud network. This integration allows the facility to collaborate with the company’s nationwide network of data-driven engineering projects.

The opening event saw participation from community, government, and industry leaders, including the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, the Chair of The Purpose Coalition, the Chief Executive of Make UK, and the Director of the National Innovation Centre for Data at Newcastle University.

Clive Higgins, Chair and CEO of Leonardo UK, expressed his enthusiasm for the new site, emphasizing Leonardo’s commitment to conducting research, engineering, and advanced manufacturing within the UK. The Newcastle facility will enable the recruitment of regional talent from the North East to work on innovative technology projects.

Leonardo, known for producing UK military helicopters and advanced electronics for Royal Air Force aircraft, employs over 8,500 individuals in the UK and is a major supplier to the UK Ministry of Defence. The company is actively involved in the Global Combat Air Programme, a collaborative effort with the UK, Italy, and Japan to develop a 6th generation fighter jet for service by 2035.

In addition to serving its customers, Leonardo plans to engage with regional small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), charities, social mobility programs, schools, and academia. This approach aligns with how the company operates in other UK cities, fostering strong community bonds.

Rt. Hon Justine Greening, Chair of The Purpose Coalition, praised Leonardo’s role in promoting social mobility within the engineering industry. She emphasized the positive impact that Leonardo’s investment in Newcastle will have on employment and skills development in disadvantaged areas.

Leonardo is a founding member of the North East Regional Defence and Security Cluster (NERDSC), a collaborative initiative aimed at attracting further investment to the region and supporting local entities in securing defense and security contracts.

Jennifer Hartley, Director of Invest Newcastle, welcomed the opening of Leonardo’s research and technology site, highlighting it as a strategic investment for North East England. She expressed the desire to work closely with Leonardo to expand the region’s defense and aerospace sector, creating new opportunities for residents.

Leonardo continues to recruit from Newcastle and the broader North-East region. The facility is expected to house at least 200 staff initially, with plans for future growth. In addition to hiring individuals with existing expertise, Leonardo will invest in upskilling and training employees in the latest digital engineering practices.

Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive of Make UK, commended Leonardo’s contributions to UK manufacturing, emphasizing the company’s pivot toward digital and data-driven engineering as a means to maintain critical skills within the UK.

Leonardo is committed to expanding early career opportunities across its UK sites, driven by its involvement in the Global Combat Air Programme. In 2023, the company plans to hire an additional 300 apprentices, industrial placements, and graduate scheme starters, bringing the total number of young individuals on early careers schemes to 900.

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