North East defence cluster launched to create UK hub for digital defence tech

The North East Regional Defence and Security Cluster (NERDSC) has been launched in a strategic move to boost regional prosperity and position North East England as a national driving force of the UK’s digital defence technology revolution.

The initiative comes at a pivotal time when the Ministry of Defence is increasingly turning to digital and data networks and devices, fortified by robust cyber security, to safeguard the security of the UK.

NERDSC is uniquely poised to capitalise on this emerging trend by leveraging the region’s research capabilities emanating from five ‘world-class’ universities and recent investments by industry leaders such as Leonardo and Rafael.

Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities share between them the largest concentration of researchers in the UK outside of London and the region’s credentials were further bolstered by the launch of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) in Newcastle to carry out AI and data science related research.

The ultimate goal of NERDSC is to establish the North East as a national hub for ‘cutting-edge’ digital defence technologies by harnessing recognised strengths in the design and manufacture of hardware, electronics and advanced materials to create more and better jobs in the North East.

Backed by major defence and security companies including Leonardo, Rafael, Lockheed Martin, QinetiQ and its subsidiary Naimuri, as well as Airbus and virtual reality specialist VRAI, this mission holds the potential to generate valuable intellectual property and boost regional productivity.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) are also supporting the new regional defence cluster, alongside local stakeholders such as Invest Newcastle (part of NewcastleGateshead Initiative), RTC North, North East LEP, Business Durham, and Tees Valley Combined Authority.

NERDSC is strategically focused on attracting further investment to the region while helping local firms in securing defence and security contracts.

Ahead of a formal launch event in January 2024, the cluster will begin working on a knowledge hub aimed at sharing best practice and insights on secure work methodologies, effective business development, and bid writing for national and international defence contracts. This resource will be especially valuable for SMEs.

Dr Simon Harwood, UK capability & innovation director, Leonardo, commented: “By creating this new cluster, we can help drive investment, boost regional productivity and contribute to the security of the UK while generating fantastic new career opportunities for local people.”

By Matthew Neville – Senior Correspondent, Bdaily

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