BAE: Mainstay for maritime

Posted on 29 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

Global defence player and the largest employer of engineers in the UK backs intelligent research for a stronger UK manufacturing future.

BAE Systems announced today (June 29) its intention to establish four new university partnerships in the field of maritime engineering. At least £5 million will be invested in the partnerships over the next five years.

Marking the official launch of the scheme, BAE signed a memorandum of understanding with Edinburgh based Heriot-Watt University and will sign similar agreements with a further three universities to be named over the next 12 months. Heriot-Watt has an established reputation for the quality of its teaching and applied research in science, engineering and technology.

75% of investment in research and development in the UK takes place in the manufacturing sector which will rely heavily on innovation in high-end technologies in order to compete with global competitors after the recession. BAE Systems’ have a strong track record in supporting research and skills development investing £50 million a year in supporting life-long learning through work with schools, colleges, apprenticeship schemes, funded degrees and more. This prioritisation shows that BAE are aware of how vital emerging technologies and a skilled workforce are to its business but also that they feel a desire to support the long term strength of a rebalanced UK economy.

BAEs financial support to the chosen universities will support blue skies research projects as well as more focused, industry ready research into new technological solutions for the design, build and support of naval ships and their engineering systems.

The first research project to be established with Heriot-Watt will focus on developing an advanced computer software package that will control and reduce gases required during the welding process, helping to reduce both costs and environmental impact.

So far the partnership agreement will commit BAE Systems to providing industrial placements for students and guest lecturers. Both partners will also offer reciprocal continuous professional development opportunities for employees and secondments to strengthen the relationships between academia and industry – a weak link which is often blamed for developing inappropriate skills for the future of UK industry and knowledge without scope for application.

Alan Johnston, Managing Director of BAE Systems Surface Ships, commented: “These partnerships will focus on platform systems technologies, systems engineering and readiness and sustainment, which are vital to deliver new and better capabilities to our customers.

“By working closely with universities, we will not only drive continuous innovation in our business, but also further boost the quality of research within universities by ensuring it has practical applications in industry. We hope that this will play a role in tackling future skills shortages, encouraging more people to pursue careers within engineering.”

Professor Steve Chapman, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, said: ”Developing collaborations between world-class organisations such as BAE Systems and Heriot-Watt is what our University is all about. Such formal relationships ensure that Heriot-Watt continues to be aware of business priorities, so we can tailor our offerings and research to ensure we meet our ambition of producing the next generation of global leaders in business and technology.”