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04/11/2020 - 05/11/2020

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Britain's defence exports: a vital component

As the UK Trade & Investment's Regional Director for the East of England my role is all about maximising Britain's exports and helping British companies from my region succeed in markets across the world. UKTI is still something of a best kept secret and we need to change that, quite simply because by helping more companies export we help to create essential economic growth. Targets are important too, and Government is looking to us to find 100,000 more exporters nationally by 2020.

Our exporting companies are many and varied. Among the key players are many who work in both civil security and defence fields and the East of England region hosts some key players in defence manufacturing:
  • Marshalls Aerospace, Cambridge - European centre for deep level servicing of C-130 Hercules aircraft
  • Lockheed Martin UK Missiles & Fire Control, Ampthill - selected by MoD to lead a £642 million contract as part of the major £1 billion upgrade of the British Army's Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle
  • Raytheon Systems, Harlow, Essex - support to RAF systems in service and for export customers. The Harlow site employs some 600 people, most of whom are high grade engineers and skilled electronics technicians.

UKTI recognises that defence and security are among the most global and the most specialised of all industries and UKTI can really help international sales via the UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation. UKTI DSO provides specialist export advice and offers practical assistance, working closely with industry and the Ministry of Defence, as well as other Government Departments and Agencies. It works with UK defence and security companies to ensure that products and services are promoted in an effective manner and build and maintain relationships with overseas customers. It provides essential government-to-government interaction and makes sure that the customer's requirements are appropriately met and supported by industry throughout the lifetime of exported equipment.   

There are well over 8,000 security companies in the UK and the sector employs around 140,000 people. Defence and security companies also form a hugely important part of the UK's high-value manufacturing sector and our R&D base. The UK is the second most successful defence exporter after the US - the recent announcement on sales of Typhoon and Hawk aircraft to Oman is the latest evidence of this continuing success - and has sustained a long-term share of 20% of the global market. The UK's share of the security market in 2011 was about 4% leaving the UK ranked 6th in terms of global security exports. In 2011, the UK defence and security industry achieved £8 billion of new business.

Those are huge numbers, so here's a local example that illustrates how one East of England defence and security company is having a real impact on how British forces carry out their enormously important work in the field. It goes without saying that the brainpower and innovation for which the Cambridge area is renowned make a significant contribution to exports in many sectors, from chip design to the development of new medical devices. Defence and security are no exception.  

PA Consulting Group was formed in 1943 and when it opened its Technology Centre based in Melbourn, near Cambridge, in 1975 it was originally described locally as 'The Brains Factory'. After bringing its thinking power to bear when the British Army needed a way to counter increasingly lethal roadside bombs in Afghanistan, PA came up with a novel bomb detection system called Panama using older Snatch Land Rovers, which the Army had withdrawn from service, as a remote controlled platform.

Although system details remain classified, PA's solution has undoubtedly saved lives on the ground.  The PA's Head of Technology Dave Smith has described it as being "enormously satisfying to be able to apply radical thinking and project management to innovative technical skills in order to help save the lives of civilians and our troops in theatre. In an uncertain world we need to be able to protect people, whether by developing novel diagnostics for healthcare or by preventing aggressors from succeeding."

In addition to its Security and Business Development Directorates UKTI DSO operates three regional directorates across the world. These coordinate government support to defence and security exports and advise defence companies on specific markets and projects. To find out what UKTI DSO can do to help you win new overseas business in this highly competitive sector, contact UKTI by going to:  www.ukti.gov.uk/defencesecurity.html.
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