London 20 April 2023 11:12
New ‘digital backbone’ will drive productivity and innovation, enable closer working relationships with customers and partner companies and drive data exploitation across UK Defence
In collaboration with Microsoft and Accenture, Leonardo has deployed the cloud-based Azure platform across its UK business, making it the first major defence contractor in the UK to migrate key applications onto the secure cloud. Leonardo’s UK-based scientists and engineers will now have secure access to a remotely-accessible ‘digital backbone’ that will speed up product research, cut development costs and enable closer collaboration with customers and other partners. In the future, Leonardo will also be able to use the digital backbone to exploit the huge amount of data it collects in the form of new products and services.
Leonardo, best known in the UK as the Home of British Helicopters and for its onshore production of advanced electronics for the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fleet, is investing around £100M this year in the UK in its ongoing enablers strategy, including the Future Factory transformation project. Last year the company rolled out digital electronics factories across the country, with a ‘common data environment’ putting big data at the fingertips of engineers.
Gareth Hetheridge, Director Digital and IT, Leonardo UK, said: “With the introduction of the Leonardo digital backbone, employees, partners and customers can now securely access relevant data and applications anytime, anywhere. This will be vital as industry moves to a model of defence contracting where companies and customers work more closely together than ever before, despite being physically located around the country and internationally. Our close partnership with Microsoft UK and Accenture has allowed us to adopt this disruptive technology at pace and we’re very proud to be flying the flag for bringing the benefits of the cloud to the UK defence industry.”
Aaron Neil, Director Defence & Secure Markets, Microsoft UK, said: “Over the last year we have worked with Leonardo UK to better understand its digital transformation aspirations and priorities. We are delighted to support Leonardo's migration to Azure, enabling highly secure access to the cloud; this announcement is testament to our close partnership and an exciting milestone in delivering advanced technology to accelerate capability delivery for UK Defence.”
Louisa Hainsworth, Managing Director, Accenture’s Microsoft Business Group Lead in UKI, said: “We are helping Leonardo break barriers in the defence industry with the benefits of a cloud-first environment. Their commitment to continuous reinvention, learning new skills and embracing new technologies will enable Leonardo to deliver modern defence capabilities at speed.”
Cloud technology will support the delivery of collaborative modern defence projects such as the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), under which Leonardo is at the heart of an international effort to develop a 6th generation combat system. With the aim to produce the platform in half the time compared to a previous generation system, the project requires transformational working practices that will see partners working closely together in a more agile fashion. Secure cloud technology will assure adequate support for all of these objectives.
While the cloud has become increasingly prevalent over the last few years, security concerns have previously prevented the UK’s defence industry from fully benefitting from cloud technology. Now, with the Azure platform, Leonardo is ready to benefit from the cloud while enabling enhanced security.
Leonardo’s digital transformation project and its adoption of a digital backbone is being driven by the recognition that its high-tech business relies on the innovative thinking of its 8,000 highly skilled UK-based employees. The digital backbone will help the company simplify or remove processes where possible and automate time-consuming but non-value added tasks. By doing so, it will free up headspace and time for its people to do what’s really important: think, invent and solve problems.
The deployment of the Leonardo digital backbone will boost productivity while also supporting the company’s ambition to ‘unleash the power of defence data’, the goal of the MOD’s Digital Strategy for Defence.
This goal will also be supported by Leonardo’s recently announced new site in Newcastle. Here, 200 new jobs will be mainly high-value science and engineering roles, including those focusing on emergent digital and data technologies.