The UK government is urged to channel defense innovation across UK manufacturing, maximizing technological benefits and future opportunities for the rest of the economy, according to a major report.

The Defense: Opportunity, Resilience and Prosperity report produced by Make UK Defense in partnership with Raytheon UK highlights the sector’s dynamic contribution to the economy, accounting for £ 12bn of GVA and employing, directly or indirectly through supply chains , more than 200,000 highly qualified employees. . The sector is also heavily concentrated in areas that will be critical to the upgrading program, as well as the broader government agenda of increasing exports, creating good jobs and going to net zero.

In addition, in addition to the technological innovations in the sector and the opportunities that will arise from the adoption of digital technologies, the report highlights the socially responsible approach taken by companies to invest in people and clean digital advanced technologies.

However, significant barriers to expansion remain, especially for SMEs looking to win government contracts and enter foreign markets. In response, Make UK urges the government to work with the industry to remove them and made a number of recommendations to help give businesses the confidence to invest in the development of new technologies, products and services, such as the creation of new technologies, products and services. ‘an agency of advanced research and invention. (ARIA) “spin off” for the defense sector. Make UK believes this will allow the defense sector to play a central role in developing innovations that will help address the many societal challenges we face.

Commenting, Andrew Kinniburgh, Director of Make UK Defense, said:

“Britain’s defense sector is one of the most dynamic in the world and is unmatched 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 across the industry.

“By working closely with the sector and unleashing the agility and dynamism of SMEs, we can foster the success of the defense sector to maximize economic gains, seize export opportunities and strengthen the resilience of the chain. supply. This will put an innovative defense sector at the forefront to help address the many challenges facing society. “

Jeff Lewis, Managing Director of Raytheon UK and Chairman of the Defense Supplier Forum (Mid tier group), said:

“SMEs offer niche technologies and agility essential to UK innovation and the future of defense and aerospace. About 96% of manufacturers are SMEs which contribute to prosperity across the country. By working together, we can ensure that with the right investments and the right technology, the defense manufacturing sector offers a wealth of opportunities for highly skilled jobs and access to new markets for long-term work. “

According to the report, the sector’s prospects for young people are highlighted by an average salary above £ 45,000, more than a quarter more than the average salary in the manufacturing sector, itself above the salary of the economy as a whole. In the East Midlands, for example, the average defense salary is 45% above the regional average.

The sector also invests heavily in people and is aware of its social responsibility, with three quarters of companies taking action to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce, two thirds investing in learning and nine in ten in jobs. broader training programs.

As one of the most innovative sectors of the economy spending nearly £ 2 billion a year on R&D, the report shows the sector is looking to the future with almost three-quarters of companies (71% ) having invested in digital technologies in the last two years and almost half (46%) in green technologies.

In addition, the defense sector is strongly committed to the evolution of technologies with more than a third (35%) exploring opportunities in robotics and autonomous vehicles, more than a quarter (26%) in technologies clean and propulsion and nearly a fifth in artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Make UK believes that, just as the defense industry invented GPS which was later translated into civilian use, the same can happen with these technologies.

However, the report highlights some striking obstacles that SMEs face. In particular, 85% of companies report that it is quite or very difficult to obtain supply contracts while a similar number (86%) have difficulty in accessing new markets, a situation which has not been achieved. not helped by the abolition of the trade access program. There is also frustration with the UK’s export control process resulting in delays, with a third of companies citing the imposition of non-UK standards and regulations on the supply chain of British defense by foreign contractors.

Make UK has made the following policy recommendations to the government to support the defense sector and help unleash the agility and dynamism of SMEs in particular:

Increase collaboration between government and industry to export

  • Minimize delivery risks and define the key roles of defense contractors in international weapons collaboration programs
  • Maximize value for money (for UK taxpayers) through improved training and lifelong government-to-government contracts.
  • Restore the Access to Trade program to support SMEs
  • Support the development of UK manufacturing hubs
  • Drive further integration of domestic technology and industrial base integration

Ensuring Defense Manufacturers Have Access to Talent Now and in the Future

  • Setting up a digital skills account that allows employers to access the digital skills offer at any point in their career
  • Create an apprenticeship system adapted to the objective and meeting the needs of defense employers
  • Industry can help itself by using existing programs that allow employees to easily transition to defense from other manufacturing sectors through gradual retraining

Building greater resilience in the supply chain

  • Undertake a supply chain mapping exercise to ensure the UK has a better understanding of supply chain vulnerabilities
  • Introduce a process to identify critical products and ensure the UK has the national capacity to deliver them

Create an ARIA “spin off” for the defense sector

The government should create a “spin off” of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) for the defense sector to support innovations in autonomous vehicles, robotics, AI and additive manufacturing.


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