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Leonardo NICD partnership

Data science partnership with Leonardo announced

Published on: 8 August 2023

Leonardo has launched a data science partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Data.

Defence and security company Leonardo, which announced in February that it will be bringing 200 jobs to Newcastle city centre with the opening of its eighth UK site, has launched a new research partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Data, hosted by Newcastle University.

Best known for its onshore production of UK military helicopters and the cutting-edge electronics on-board Royal Air Force aircraft, Leonardo is one of the biggest suppliers to the UK Ministry of Defence. The National Innovation Centre for Data is the product of a £30M investment by the UK Government and Newcastle University to create a unique engagement model and innovative new facility to deliver data analytics skills into industry and the public sector.

These skills will be critical to the evolution of the UK’s Defence sector and the company is investing in a digital transformation across its UK business, covering both operations (how Leonardo researches, designs, develops and manufactures products and services), as well as the development of advanced digital and information capabilities that it can provide to the UK and its allies.  

The partnership between Leonardo and the National Innovation Centre for Data will launch with two data analytics projects, one focused on federated machine learning and another advancing technologies for smart data streaming.

Federated machine learning is a machine learning technique that enables organisations to train AI models using decentralised data, avoiding the need to centralise or share that data. This is important in the defence domain because the underlying data is often security sensitive or subject to intellectual property restrictions. By using federated learning, it will be possible to overcome these existing limits to data sharing, unlocking a range of new applications for Leonardo’s existing and future technologies.

The second project deals with smart data streaming. Here Leonardo and the National Innovation Centre for Data will be investigating how to automatically prioritise the most valuable information and insights collected by sensors so they can be shared across wider networks and integrated systems. Smart data streaming uses machine learning to prioritise information so that when the opportunity arises, the most critical information is shared first.

With federated learning and smart data streaming, Leonardo will open up a range of new enhancements for its products and services and new ‘information age’ options for Armed Forces on operations.

Groundwork for the partnership was laid in May with a workshop attended by Leonardo, the National Innovation Centre for Data, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)’s Defence Artificial Intelligence Centre (DAIC). DAIC, which Dstl has established to enhance the ability of the UK Ministry of Defence to accelerate the use of AI to achieve strategic outcomes, was invited to feed back and ensure that the Leonardo-National Innovation Centre for Data partnership has operationally relevant goals. 

An update on the partnership with Leonardo - February 2024

The research projects mentioned above are now finished and you can see an update from Executive Board here.

The Catalyst building on Newcastle Helix
The National Innovation Centre for Data is located at The Catalyst Building on Newcastle Helix

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