Our approach to innovation
Innovation is central to everything Leonardo does and stands for. In the UK, we invested more than £970 million (around 10% of turnover) in UK research and development during the six years to 2019. This helps focus our people on developing creative, fit for the future and bespoke capability for our customers' success.

Leonardo UK undertook nearly £180 million of R&D activity in 2018, with £125 million of it carried out in support of, and funded by, customer contracts, and £52 million funded by Leonardo. This latter figure represents 7% of the company’s direct GDP contribution and supports the UK government’s aim of raising total R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Working with Academia

We collaborate with several UK universities to carry out R&D projects, including through the Vertical Lift Network – an association set up by Leonardo in conjunction with a group of universities in 2013, which aims to deliver a coherent vision for future vertical lift challenges and facilitate collaborative research on helicopter technologies.

Our research and development activity generates innovative new products and components. This includes more effective helicopters that can travel further and carry heavier loads, as well as cutting-edge electronic devices such as lightweight airborne radar systems, high-powered military lasers and ultra-sensitive infra-red detectors. The ability to develop and manufacture this equipment on-shore is of strategic importance to the UK, allowing the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to operate without the intervention of other nation states and maintain an operational advantage over potential adversaries.

Investing in our people

As well as working with experts outside the company, Leonardo significantly invests in upskilling its UK workforce through various training programmes. From entry-level apprentices through to graduates and those working towards Chartered Engineer status, Leonardo's ongoing commitment to innovation means employees are encouraged and supported to enhance their individual expertise as part of contributing to the wider business's capability.

Furthermore, Leonardo sponsored 22 PhD students at universities around the UK in 2018, contributing to both the education of young engineers and to the UK’s R&D output.

Inspiring the next generation of innovators

Leonardo also participates in outreach initiatives to support science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), including open days and work experiences for school age children, sponsoring the Big Bang Fair, and supporting Cool Aeronautics, a primary school outreach programme that introduces children to the world of aerospace engineering. We also sponsor the Institute of Mechanical Engineers’ Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Challenge, where university teams undertake a full design and build project for a UAS with a specific mission objective, culminating in a three-day competition.