A new report has urged the government to channel the innovation in the defence sector across the UK manufacturing industry.
This will help, according to the report, to maximise the potential for industry contributions as well as economic benefits for the whole country.
The report, called Defence: Opportunity, resilience and prosperity, produced by Make UK Defence in partnership with Raytheon UK, highlights the dynamic contribution the sector makes to the economy, accounting for £12 billion GVA and employing, directly or indirectly through supply chains, over 200,000 highly skilled employees.
The sector is also heavily concentrated in areas which will be critical to the levelling-up agenda, as well as the wider government agenda of increasing exports, creating good jobs and transitioning to net zero.
Furthermore, as well as the technological innovations in the sector and the opportunities which will come through adoption of digital technologies, the report highlights the socially responsible approach companies are taking to invest in people and clean, digital cutting-edge technologies.
However, significant barriers to expansion remain, especially for SMEs looking to win procurement contracts and enter overseas markets.
In response, Make UK is urging government to work with the sector to remove these and has made a number of recommendations to help provide firms with the confidence to invest in developing new technology, products and services, such as creating an Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) “spin off” for the defence sector.
Make UK believes this will enable the defence sector to play a central role in developing innovations which will help address the many societal challenges we face.
Commenting, Andrew Kinniburgh, Director of Make UK Defence, said: “The UK defence sector is one of the most dynamic in the world and is unrivalled in its ability to adopt and, invest in, cutting-edge technologies. As the adoption of digital technologies in particular accelerates, we now have a unique opportunity to harness the talents of companies right across the sector.
“By working closely with the sector and, freeing up the agility and dynamism of SMES we can cross-pollinate the success of the defence sector to maximise economic gains, seize export opportunities and build greater supply chain resilience. This will place an innovative defence sector at the forefront of helping address the many challenges society faces.”
Jeff Lewis, chief executive at Raytheon UK and chair of the Defence Supplier Forum (Mid tier group), added: “SMEs offer niche technologies and an agility that is essential to British innovation and the future of defence and aerospace. Around 96% of manufacturers are SMEs who help to drive prosperity across the nation. By working together we can ensure that with the right investments and technology the defence manufacturing sector brings a wealth of opportunities for highly skilled jobs and, access to new markets for long term work.”