Portsmouth's prospects bright as BAE Systems brings £10bn boom to UK economy

PORTSMOUTH is set to reap the rewards of a multi-billion pound economic boom in Britain’s defence industry, a top business leader has insisted.

By Tom Cotterill
Friday, 14th January 2022, 4:07 pm

Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems, has earmarked the city as a critical area of expansion and aspiration for the defence firm’s future plans.

The top industry chief’s comments came as fresh research by Oxford Economics revealed how BAE Systems was helping to pump £10bn into the UK economy.

In a vote of confidence for the city’s prospects, Mr Woodburn told The News that BAE’s gaze was firmly fixed on how the company could boost jobs and trade in the wider Portsmouth area.

BAE Systems employee with the Archerfish torpedo, designed at the company's munitions factory in Hilsea.

Speaking of the city’s future prospects, Mr Woodburn said: ‘There is a lot of work being done already in Portsmouth. It’s not just the work we do in the naval base, it's the Maritime Integration and Support Centre – where we do the combat systems development, with a number of products and programmes around there.

‘I think this is an area for us that is of increasing importance and I think as our naval exports continue to increase, I think the broader Portsmouth area will continue to benefit from that.’

The economic research revealed the company supports 12,300 jobs across Hampshire, Dorset and Surrey, with 5,160 people employed directly at its sites, with the vast majority based in Portsmouth.

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Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems UK. Picture: Matthew Burch

Around 2,400 highly-skilled workers are directly employed at Portsmouth Naval Base, supporting the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, with more than 1,000 others developing hi-tech radars, torpedoes, boats and combat systems at sites across Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

The company also has a growing team of cyber security and intelligence specialists in Guildford, Surrey, and engineers in Weymouth, Dorset, who support the Astute and Dreadnought submarine programmes.

Regionally, BAE Systems spent almost £590m with nearly 750 suppliers across the three counties in 2020.

Meanwhile, research showed the company’s overall UK footprint – spread across more than 50 sites – had supported 143,000 jobs across the supply chain nationally, bringing more than £10bn to UK GDP, equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the total domestic economy.

Mr Woodburn added: ‘Our sector not only supports our national defence and security, but also provides unparalleled economic value which drives the UK’s prosperity.

‘The investment we make in highly skilled jobs, research and development and our extensive supply chain supports thousands of companies and tens of thousands of people and the communities in which they live.’

The news was welcomed by the government’s defence procurement minister, Jeremy Quin, who said the firm was helping to push forward the nation’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.

‘In every region of the UK, BAE Systems is a leading light in that progress, helping us level up the country by supporting tens of thousands of jobs as we build back better from Covid-19,’ he added.

‘Through the defence and security industrial strategy, we are deepening the relationship between government, industry and academia to bolster British innovation.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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