A new defence and security cluster is to be created to support the surveillance and reconnaissance capability at RAF Waddington.

The Defence and Security Board of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership is to form a Greater Lincolnshire Regional Defence & Security Cluster to support the ISTAR Force at RAF Waddington.

ISTAR stands for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.

The new development was announced at a dinner at the Belton Woods Hotel near Grantham on Wednesday (30th March).

The dinner was hosted by the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and attended by representatives from the Government’s Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), which oversees the Regional Defence & Security Cluster programme.

Others attended from the LEP, local RAF stations, government and local authorities, business, industry, the University of Lincoln and the Lincoln Science & Innovation Park. 

The guest speaker was the former Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, who outlined the region’s historical links to the defence sector, its long tradition of innovation, and its suitability to host a cluster focused on supporting innovation in the field of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. 

Julian Free CBE, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln and Chair of the LEP’s Defence and Security Board, said: “This event was all about putting our defence and security sector on the map and discussing our ambitions for this very important area.

“Defence and security is one of Greater Lincolnshire’s game-changing sectors and the dinner was an excellent opportunity to bring some of the key players together to discuss the way forward.

“Our ambition is to establish Greater Lincolnshire as a national defence and security innovation, production and service hub and to promote our ability to develop and support defence and security programmes to increase regional wealth through greater public and private inward investment and the creation of high-value, better paid jobs.

“Our history, our present-day links with the RAF and our growing capabilities in defence and security technology make Greater Lincolnshire an eminently suitable location for this cluster.”

The focus of the Greater Lincolnshire Regional Defence & Security Cluster will be on the sensors, tools and processes required to collect information and data to enable better and quicker decisions.

This field encompasses all facets of data science (collection, management, storage, fusion, wrangling, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and visualisation), secure communications and cyber-security.

Harry Leyland, Campaign Manager at defence and security firm Leonardo UK, said: “As a Defence and Security Board member representing Leonardo it was an outstanding event and reinforced the reliance and respect that we as prime contractors have for our very broad regional SME sub-contractor support.

“The efforts of the Defence and Security Board to develop the Regional Defence and Security Cluster were strengthened by the superb speech given by Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach. 

“The board will continue to direct all efforts towards the successful establishment of the RDSC, promoting to the MOD the great defence and security benefits it will provide and the advantages Lincolnshire and the surrounding region offer to the establishment and growth of such an enterprise.”

Dale Atkins, International Trade Adviser at the Department for International Trade, said: “I very much enjoyed the event; it was well organised and had excellent attendance. 

“It provided a superb networking opportunity for companies who work in the defence and security sector to meet with each other, along with other key regional players from the industry and support providers.

“This initiative will certainly help to raise the profile of Greater Lincolnshire as a region and help showcase the unique depth of capability on offer here.

“I am sure that the Defence & Security Board will continue to provide an effective platform for this type of networking, enabling local businesses to develop opportunities and a collaborative environment supporting growth not only in the UK but internationally.”