Leonardo deepens relationship with High Value Manufacturing Catapult

New MoU to drive innovation and growth at UK-based Helicopters business

18 September 2023

Leonardo UK has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, a network of seven world-class research and innovation centres that turn great ideas into commercial realities. The new agreement, which focuses on Leonardo’s UK-based helicopters and electronics businesses, represents a significant step forward in the partners’ long-standing collaboration. Under the new MoU, the two organisations will explore and pursue innovative opportunities in advanced manufacturing, rotorcraft technology, supply chain optimisation and skills development.

Under the MoU, HVM Catapult will explore collaborative opportunities within the state-of-the-art iAero Innovation Centre in Yeovil, Somerset. This will support a range of advanced manufacturing research projects at Leonardo’s UK onshore Helicopter business, ensuring that the company continues to provide the best value for money for its UK customer and compete effectively in export markets. This week at DSEI, the company announced £1.6Bn in helicopter exports from the UK over the last 18 months and is looking to grow this in coming years.

HVM Catapult is the first major research organisation to investigate opportunities in Yeovil since the official recognition last month of the town as the “Home of British Helicopters”, highlighting Leonardo’s role as Britain’s only onshore helicopter manufacturer. Helicopter design, innovation and manufacture contributes a huge amount of value to the UK economy: locally in Yeovil, regionally in the South West and nationally via Leonardo’s UK supply chain. Expanding links with HVM Catapult will unlock even more value for the UK by innovating in sustainable manufacturing.

Katherine Bennett, CEO of HVM Catapult, said: “Leonardo is already engaged across our seven centres nationwide and we have delivered some really exciting projects with the company, particularly at the National Composites Centre. Through this MoU, we will reinforce collaboration between Leonardo and our centres, exploring opportunities that exist in defence innovation, technology, supply chain resilience and talent development.”

Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters UK said: “We are excited about the opportunities that this collaboration will bring to further grow the UK’s helicopter industry, as represented by Leonardo in Yeovil and our UK-wide supply chain. Together with the HVM Catapult, we look forward to pioneering innovation in next generation rotorcraft manufacturing, driving sustainable manufacturing, and drawing on the latest digital and data technologies to push the boundaries of what's possible in rotorcraft design, development and manufacture."

Leonardo has been a long-term supporter of HVM Catapult, most notably as a founder member of the National Composites Centre (NCC) since its inception in 2012. The company's work with the NCC has supported its research and innovation projects across its electronics business, as well as strengthening the UK's position as a global leader in composite materials research and manufacturing.

Upcoming projects that will see Leonardo further develop its UK-based defence electronics capabilities include the company working with HVM Catapult’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to develop novel lead-free materials and enhance engineering skill sets in the field of ‘additive manufacturing’, often known as 3D printing.

The MoU will also allow Leonardo to explore wider HVM Catapult capability at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), CPI, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), Nuclear AMRC and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG).

As well as innovating in advanced manufacturing, the expanded partnership is looking to accelerate disruptive research and development capabilities to support net zero goals in defence aviation. This will build on Leonardo’s ongoing work as a partner, alongside the AMRC, in ‘Project Butterfly’, a consortium of businesses and universities working to develop sustainable smart factories, as well as working to improve resource efficiency and energy efficiency. Under this project, Leonardo’s electronics business is using AI and Machine Learning techniques to drive sustainability in ongoing production and manufacturing processes.

The organisations will also look to invest in supply chain development, aimed at nurturing the growth of the UK supply chain and fostering the expansion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

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