Thales unveils Ebbw Vale cyber security research base

  • January 14, 2019

A major technology company is setting up a £20m research and development centre in south Wales.

French-owned Thales works in the defence, aerospace and transport industries and already operates from 12 locations elsewhere in the UK.

The planned centre at The Works in Ebbw Vale would be a test bed for digital security innovations.

It said it would offer a "catalyst for regeneration" in the region.

The first 11 people will start next month before the full centre is operational by 2021.

The group is involved in developing highly complicated electrical systems which are used in everything from anti-aircraft systems to cyber security.

The National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC) will also involve a tie-up with the University of South Wales.

What is significant about this project is that unlike many other investments, innovative products and systems would be designed here and then companies would have to bid to build them.

This compares with say Airbus, with the wings made in Flintshire but designed in Toulouse.

Bowman, whose tactical system is used by the army is designed in Canada but made in Oakdale, Caerphilly.

This would mean that the most profitable part of new technologies - the owning of the idea - would remain here.

The hope will be that with the intellectual property and expertise based in Wales, it will work as a catalyst to attract manufacturers.

Gareth Williams, UK vice president for secure communications and information systems, who is himself from the area, said: "This will act as a cornerstone of our cyber security capabilities in the UK, providing a test bed for our technology, whilst also providing a catalyst for regeneration in the region."

Who are Thales?

  • Paris-based group Thales - the French government has a stake - has 64,000 employees across 56 countries
  • It works across five areas - aerospace, space, transport, defence and security - and had revenues of €15.8bn in 2017
  • It has operations at 12 UK locations, including 500 jobs in Northern Ireland at the former Shorts missiles factory
  • It builds satellites and technology in the International Space Station; it is a major provider of air traffic control systems, as well as in-flight entertainment and flight simulators. Airport and cyber security is another key area
  • Its defence technologies range from communication, radar and surveillance to aircraft carriers. It is also involved in urban transport systems - as well as a deal to update London's Tube trains

The Welsh Government has matched the £10m investment from Thales with support. Construction work on the new centre is due to start in the spring.

The new Ebbw Vale centre will focus on systems to protect the security of power stations and rail, water, telecoms and air traffic control.

Last May, Thales and the Welsh Government said they would be developing a cyber security centre in Ebbw Vale which is now becoming a reality.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said it would be "right at the heart" of the Welsh Government's Tech Valleys project and he was confident it would create employment in high-value businesses.

"The centre will help ensure that Wales exploits the global opportunities of digital transformation, provide a base for ground-breaking research and will equip businesses of all shapes and sizes with the skills and knowledge they need to win a greater share of large regional and national projects," he said.