Here at Thales in the UK, we’re innovators. In partnership with leaders in academia and industry we deliver ground-breaking research, cutting-edge design and transformative technology that drives growth in the UK and beyond.

We’re developing technology to disrupt and transform society as we know it. We have an unwavering focus on the critical strategic themes of our time; maintain a firm grip on trends and opportunities within our markets; and foster the right mix of skill, agility and appetite for risk and change within our teams. But vital to our success is the nurturing of our ideas through open innovation. By collaborating with academia, industry and innovation hubs, we’re able to anticipate and reduce technical and market risks, improve efficiency, and above all, solve our customers’ biggest strategic challenges.

Thales teams think differently. To maximise our innovative potential, our Research, Technology & Innovation team have developed Design Centres, a Thales platform dedicated to user-centred, design-driven innovation.

It’s initiatives like this that set Thales in the UK apart.
 

By collaborating with academia, industry and innovation hubs, we’re able to anticipate and reduce technical and market risks, improve efficiency, and above all, solve our customers’ biggest strategic challenges.

World-changing research and technology

Our dedication to building advanced technologies is embodied in Thales Research & Technology UK (TRT-UK), one of a global network of advanced research centres.

We’re leading a worldwide community of researchers to develop complete cutting-edge solutions for our wide ranging civil and defence customers, so that they can tackle the world’s toughest challenges – faster, and smarter.

TRT-UK innovates around four key topics: sensing, data fusion and analysis; advanced networking and communications; autonomous systems and complex systems.

 

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Sensing, data fusion and analysis

At Thales Research & Technology UK we process and analyse data from new or existing sensors in order to develop algorithms that can sense and understand the environment better. Sensing, data fusion and analysis enables us to constantly improve the functionality and performance of our products and services.
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Advanced networking and communications

The amount of data we generate each day is increasing rapidly. With such growth comes the need for better protection of our data networks and communications tools. We’re developing technologies for complex, professional communications and networking apps where security is paramount, and working to reduce the risks of emerging technological trends for our customers.
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Autonomous systems

Autonomous systems are some of our most revered modern technologies. We’re working hard to characterise and verify their challenging and emergent behaviours in the context of security, trust and vulnerability, whilst developing reliable systems with multiple units that cater to our customers’ complex challenges.
 
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Complex systems

We’re designing and delivering increasingly complex systems. Ensuring the security of systems involved in our research is a fundamental requirement of our work, but it is threatening to overwhelm the approaches we’re currently using. That’s why we’re researching and developing new technologies, methods, techniques, formalisms and skills that will improve our systems and operations and maximise our performance.
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Sparking Bright Futures

To us, partnering with academic institutions on research projects and programmes makes sense in so many ways. Not only are some of the UK’s brightest minds given the opportunity to shine; we’re able to make strategic investments and attract the best new talent to Thales in the UK.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) has invested more than £133 million into research and doctoral training centres, and we’re proud to be involved. We’re educating students on our industry, showing them how our organisation works and inviting them to collaborate on live research projects.

The link below details some of our academic partners and the key research areas we’ve been working together on, as well as a selection of research programmes we’ve been involved in setting up.
 

Small enterprises with big ideas

Some of the most agile and innovative companies in the country are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

We believe their contribution to the UK’s innovation ecosystem is great, so we partner with them to help maximise their potential and deliver outstanding solutions for our customers.
 

Touchpaper: bringing corporates and startups together

We’re proud to be a launch partner for Touchpaper, a new initiative making it easier for startups and corporates to collaborate. The organisation’s free online toolkit brings together best guidance from its founding members on strategy; communications and buy in; engagement and decision making; legal and procurement, for the benefit of both sides of a corporate-startup partnership.
 
 
Andy Nicholson, our Head of Open Innovation, explains what partnering with SMEs means to us at Thales UK.
 

Investing in a culture of innovation

We’ve learnt that magic happens when the lines blur between work and play. That’s why we invest in regular team hackathons, innovation sprints and design sprints.
 

24-hour Hackathons

A hackathon is a 24-hour product innovation challenge, and an opportunity for someone to come up with a brilliant new idea or develop an existing one. The spirit is competitive but the atmosphere is fun. The whole team comes away from a hackathon reconnected, with a renewed zest for innovation.
 

An insight into ‘Make it Days’ with Carl Whittaker, Transformation Engineer, Thales eSecurity

 
What is a ‘Make it Day’?
Make It Day is our own version of a Hackathon, hosted by Thales e-Security in Cambridge, where employees from across the business are given 24 hours to work on ideas that they wouldn’t usually have the time or opportunity to work on in their everyday business life. It encourages innovation within the organisation,  teamwork and cross-functional knowledge sharing and collaboration.
 
Why do we do them?
It’s fun! The event allows our people to express themselves by doing something that they are passionate about, creating new networks along the way. It’s great for morale and adds another reason why people want to stay with Thales, shaping our company culture moving forward.

What are they like?
The events are a fun, relaxed environment that allow employees to work on anything they want to over a 24 hour period. If a project fails, that’s OK, but It’s a great opportunity to push the boundaries of what is possible. We have regular contact with the other sites taking part around the world. It’s competitive but everyone is willing to help.
 
What have you learnt about innovation from running these events?
Good ideas can come from anyone, in any part of the company. When you give people something they are passionate about to work on, the results you can achieve are incredible. It’s also amazing to see how much can be achieved in such a small space of time, with some really creative and thought-provoking end results.
 
How do you see Thales Hackathons evolving in the future?
Hackathons appear to be catching on around Thales globally and hopefully we inspired some of these with our work in Cambridge. I would love to eventually see the whole of Thales Group spend a day taking part in a giant Hackathon.  We could have regional  and global winners! For now, I’m enjoying seeing an increasing number of people taking part in these great events.
 

Innovation sprints

An innovation sprint brings experts from across Thales in the UK together for a period of several days, to co-create a solution to a pressing issue quickly and effectively. A recent innovation sprint at our Research, Technology & Innovation offices in Reading tackled the growing problem of unregulated drone flying. Following in-depth discussions with key stakeholders including the Police, Heathrow Airport and aviation lawyers, our experts brainstormed, problem-solved and prototyped solutions. We’re now in a position to move the outcome of this sprint into development.
 


Design sprints

A design sprint brings a team together to address a big question around research and technology. At a two-day live design sprint at Farnborough International Air Show in 2016, we asked trade visitors: “what are the drivers for change that may disrupt the aviation industry?” The responses we received, which were largely focused around the softer social impacts of autonomy in aviation rather than the technology itself, led our team to two further questions: “how can we turn engineers into heroes?” and “how might we help the public trust autonomous systems?” We’re using the outputs from the Sprint to innovate around solutions for the aviation market’s needs.

Protecting our success

Our ideas are worth protecting. In order to achieve our ambitious business objectives we invest heavily in research, development and innovation, and in order to realise the value of this investment we systematically protect our Intellectual Property (IP). Protecting our IP drives our business strategy, which in turn drives our IP strategy. It’s a cycle that contributes to our long history of success.
 
Digby Thomas-Bennett, Head of Intellectual Property Exploitation, tells us more in the video below.