The UK’s defence sector landscape

Industry Insights

The UK’s defence sector landscape

26th October 2023

Defence procurement, supply chain issues, payment terms, Ministry of Defence priorities and more were on the agenda at The Defence Opportunity event at Horizon Works.

Taking place on 24th October in our Event Space, The Defence Opportunity saw Andrew Kinniburgh, Director-General of Make UK Defence, deliver a comprehensive overview of the UK’s defence sector landscape – and provide an insight into both the opportunities and challenges for SMEs, from the importance of demonstrating social values to strengthening cyber security.

Andrew also spoke to delegates on Make UK Defence’s support for engineering and manufacturing SMEs, including the Fit for Defence initiative and the Advance in Defence programme, of which Horizon Works is an active partner.

We also welcomed Graeme Parkins, Commercial Director of Dyer Engineering, a County Durham-based group of fabrication and machining businesses, to Horizon Works for the event. Graeme took delegates through Dyer Engineering’s journey in the defence sector and provided valuable advice on areas including JOSCAR accreditation, ESG, social values, business development and upskilling.

And Andrew and Graeme were joined by Victoria Hodge, General Manager of Petards Defence – a Gateshead-based provider of Communications Information Systems (CIS) and Fighting Vehicle (FV) products and services – for a panel discussion and Q and A.

Embracing innovation, tackling tender responses and AI were just some of the topics discussed during the session.

Delegates from across the engineering and manufacturing community attended the event, which also included a networking lunch.

Some key points to consider from Andrew Kinniburgh, Director-General of Make UK Defence

  • The UK defence budget is £238 billion for 2021-2030.
  • There is a drive more SMEs to supply into the sector, with opportunities across research, equipment, support and services.
  • Be proactive – good sources of information are The Defence Equipment Plan, The MOD Acquisition Pipeline and The Defence Sourcing Portal.
  • It takes time to gain ground in the defence sector – build relationships, demonstrate capability and be patient!
  • Trade shows, ‘meet the buyer’ events, supplier days and forums at prime contractors and networking are all effective ways of generating interest and making connections.
  • Any MOD tenders above £5 million will have a minimum of 10% of the assessment marks directly linked to Social Values. The MOD’s themes are: tackling economic inequality; fighting climate change; and equal opportunity.

Samantha Vassallo, Managing Director of Horizon Works, said: “The defence industry is complex and diversification into the sector can be a challenge for engineering and manufacturing SMEs.

“We hosted The Defence Opportunity event – which is part of our Opportunities Series – to help businesses improve their understanding of the sector and ‘open it up’ for SMEs in North East England.

“Make UK Defence plays an invaluable role in helping companies to make initial inroads into the sector, and supporting businesses to grow within it, so we were delighted that Andrew Kinniburgh could join us to provide guidance to SMEs insight at this event.

“We’re also very grateful to Graeme Parkins and Victoria Hodge for their insights into working with the defence industry, and for sharing experiences that clearly resonated with many members of the audience.

“We’d like to thank Andrew, Graeme and Victoria for their contributions and to all of the delegates who attended The Defence Opportunity.”

Horizon Works and Make UK Defence

Make UK Defence is a national not-for-profit, member owned defence trade association, and is part of Make UK – the manufacturers’ organisation. It champions and supports the UK’s defence manufacturers and the wider defence supply chain.

As a partner in the Advance in Defence programme, Horizon Works can offer free marketing consultancy to Make UK Defence members.

The Advance in Defence programme has been designed to help manufacturers navigate through an often complex sector and provides support to companies at all stages of their development.

Partners in the programme include experts in strategy, equality and diversity, productivity, social values, operations, cyber security, procurement, HR, law, marketing, bid writing, health and safety, market research and corporate governance.

For more information on Make UK Defence and the Advance in Defence programme, click here.