Watchtower looks to the future

By Ged Henderson

24 Nov 2022

bae-systems-samlesbury.jpg

Andrew Schofield of the North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) explains the £1m Watchtower initiative in one sentence: “We are trying to keep Lancashire ahead of the game”.

Launched earlier this year, the pioneering programme is looking to support development and growth in the vitally important aerospace and advanced engineering and manufacturing industries across the county.

Born out of the Covid-19 pandemic and the huge damage it inflicted, Watchtower is a collaboration between Lancashire County Council and NWAA and includes big hitters such as BAE Systems, Safran Nacelles and Rolls-Royce.

There are several strands to the project. It will use local industry knowledge to support aerospace suppliers as they stabilise, recover, and grow following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Additionally, it aims to identify organisations that will benefit the most from “tailored, coordinated business support” and help them access the right type for them.

The two-year programme also includes an intelligence function to identify and protect Lancashire’s key aerospace assets and businesses.

There will be a talent retention service to help people who have lost skilled jobs in aerospace to find new work. Diversification is also part of the brief.

Support will be there for businesses to find new contracts which fit their manufacturing capabilities both nationally and internationally. They will also get help to innovate and develop new products or ways of working.

On top of that, a campaign will reinforce the message that Lancashire is a “perfect location” for aerospace and advanced manufacturing businesses looking for somewhere where they can grow.

The funding is part of the county council’s £12.8m Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund – specifically targeting some of the economic impacts of Covid-19.

At its launch earlier this year, Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth, explained: “We want to support AEM businesses to be competitive, innovative and financially sound to ensure they can successfully recover from the pandemic and thrive.

“The county council’s financial contribution will support 40 aerospace supply chain SMEs, help safeguard and create 200 jobs, and bring in £30m of revenue into the county.”

Addison Precision in Thornton-Cleveleys hosted the launch. Mark Verdon, managing director of the engineering company, said: “The past two years have been extremely challenging to the aerospace sector, and we have had to adapt and diversify our operations further to accommodate these challenges.

“This has led us in some interesting directions and processes as we look to the future, and this is something we have to continue to  explore. The Watchtower project looks like it will provide some much welcome support for us in this endeavour.”

Professor Schofield, who became chair of NWAA earlier this year, believes the two-year project will act as a catalyst to inspire growth and investment and is just the beginning.

He says: “We are hoping Watchtower starts a journey that will really strengthen Lancashire’s ability to respond to changes in technology. The agenda is going to continue way into the future, the issues are not going to go away.

“We are looking at what we can build on in Lancashire to make sure that investment and employment takes place here.

“We have to make sure that key decision makers in the UK and in industry really understand what’s happening in Lancashire, the components we have and why they should both be investing here.”

A big part of Watchtower’s brief is to look at advancements in technology and the processes needed to support and grow businesses.

Andrew says that one of the challenges is to show that major Lancashire assets such as the AMRC North West and its highly rated universities are not there just for the big companies but can help its SMEs improve their productivity and grow.

Paula Gill, who became chief executive of NWAA in April, also believes engaging with the supply chain will be vital for the success of the programme. She adds: “The development of technologies also runs alongside the development of skills in the sector and that is really important.”

David Bailey, a former chief executive of NWAA, is heavily involved in Watchtower though his support company Aerospace Consulting. His organisation was brought in  as part of an aerospace task force created in the wake of Covid, which triggered a massive downturn in the civil sector. Watchtower has grown out of that.

He says: “It became obvious early on that something needed to be done. While initially we looked at aerospace it was felt something was needed across all advanced manufacturing and engineering.

“What is important about Watchtower is that it is helping us to prepare for what new technologies and what new programmes come next.”

He says: “Getting Lancashire companies to work with Lancashire centres of excellence to get an economic benefit has to be the right thing to do.

“The Watchtower programme is about helping companies identify the right organisations, programmes, project and services that can support them and are really going to help them move forward with their businesses.

“All this is important because Lancashire is at the heart of the largest manufacturing region in the UK.”

Enjoyed this? Read more from Ged Henderson

Latest news

1

PR agency wins third consecutive award for public sector work Viva Wins Third Public Sector Award

PR agency wins third consecutive award for public sector work

20 Jun 2024

2

Burnley aerospace firm eyes global growth with new CFO Rob Smith Of Velocity Composites

Burnley aerospace firm eyes global growth with new CFO

20 Jun 2024

3

Brabners events to discuss growth and acquisition strategies Lytham Hall - Brabners.jpg.jpg

Brabners events to discuss growth and acquisition strategies

20 Jun 2024

4

Women's health in the workplace: the impact of the symptoms impact.png.png

Women's health in the workplace: the impact of the symptoms

20 Jun 2024

5

Are you aware of the consequences of dying without a will? Sara Jane Chorkley DRN

Are you aware of the consequences of dying without a will?

20 Jun 2024

Lbv116 Ltb Strip980
Background image for hub sign up block

LBV Hub

Leverage Lancashire Business View platforms

Post your news
Post your events
Post your offers
Build your network
Improve your SEO
Gain coverage in the magazine
Sign-up
Events
RISE - The Academy for Female Leaders and Managers
WENDY BOWERS RISE Illustrstion copy.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Seminars
11 Jun 2024 - 04 Dec 2024

RISE - The Academy for Female Leaders and Managers

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Clayton le Moors, BB5 5JR

09:00 - 16:30

Free 4 Week Growth Ignition Coaching Programme
UCLan Primary logo RKE.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
19 Jun 2024 - 03 Jul 2024

Free 4 Week Growth Ignition Coaching Programme

Online, Preston, PR1 2HE

12:00 - 13:30

Business Networking in Lancaster - BNI Castle
EVENT LISTING BNI Castle.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
20 Jun 2024

Business Networking in Lancaster - BNI Castle

Vale of Lune RUFC, Powder House Lane, Lancaster, LA1 2TT

06:45 - 08:30

THE ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS COMEDY DINNER SHOW
AbFab Social Post.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Social
20 Jun 2024 - 20 Jun 2024

THE ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS COMEDY DINNER SHOW

Crow Wood Hotel & Spa Resort, Burnley, BB12 0RT

18:30 - 23:00

Business Networking in Burnley - BNI Kudos
EVENT LISTING BNI Kudos.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
20 Jun 2024

Business Networking in Burnley - BNI Kudos

Prairie Sports Village, Windemere Avenue, Burnley, BB10 2FU

06:45 - 08:30

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Brunch
EVENT LISTING SIZING Brunch .png.png
LBV Hub Networking
21 Jun 2024

Business Networking in Preston - BNI Brunch

Samlesbury Preston Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston, PR5 0UL

09:30 - 11:00

June Preston Freelancer Meet-Up and Coworking
Screenshot 2024-06-13 at 14.03.18.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
21 Jun 2024 - 21 Jun 2024

June Preston Freelancer Meet-Up and Coworking

Society1 Coworking Space, Preston, PR1 3LT

10:00 - 12:00

Moonlight & Memories Walk 2024, St Catherine's Hospice
Moonlight2024.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Fundraisers
22 Jun 2024 - 22 Jun 2024

Moonlight & Memories Walk 2024, St Catherine's Hospice

St Catherine's Hospice, Preston, PR5 5XU

18:00 - 23:00

Yellow Day 2024 St Catherine's Park
YRD 2024_TV screen_V02.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Fundraisers
23 Jun 2024

Yellow Day 2024 St Catherine's Park

St Catherine's Hospice, Preston, Lancashire

10:45 - 16:00

Chamber Breakfast Networking
Chamber Logo1.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
23 Jun 2024

Chamber Breakfast Networking

Whitewells Catering Supplies, Heysham, LA3 2XE

08:00 - 10:00

Adult Mental Health First Aid - Online Course
Youth MHFA.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
25 Jun 2024

Adult Mental Health First Aid - Online Course

MS Teams, N/A, N/A

10:00 - 12:30

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour
EVENT LISTING SIZING Endeavour.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
25 Jun 2024

Business Networking in Chorley - BNI Endeavour

Oak Royal, Bury Lane, Chorley, PR6 8SW

06:30 - 08:30

Advertise with us

Reaching 50,000 members, our print, digital and event platforms offer a fantastic way to raise your business profile and help you grow.

Find out more LBV116 Online Graphic
Subscribe now

Weekly news bulletin