Steel signing marks a milestone

Somerset’s commitment to the vital aerospace industry is set in steel after a milestone was reached in construction of the cutting-edge aerospace innovation centre in Yeovil.

Partners in the iAero Centre initiative visited the construction site and signed a steel column at a special ceremony on Thursday (5 March) as work on the construction of the Centre progresses on target.

Somerset County Council is working with the aerospace industry, including Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil, and wider local partners on the flagship iAero Centre to cement Somerset’s place at the heart of this important business sector.

The Centre will encourage innovation, collaboration and growth in the aerospace sector and supply chain, ensuring it remains competitive in a fast-changing world.

Construction contractors Willmott Dixon started work on the site, owned by Leonardo Helicopters, in late summer 2019 and the Centre construction is due to be completed later this year. Fitting out will follow and the Centre is due to fully open in 2021.

Councillor David Hall, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “Signing the steel column  marks a significant milestone in this major and exciting project. Aerospace is one of our county’s most important areas of manufacturing.

“Aerospace is a global industry and we intend to make sure Somerset continues to be recognised as the destination of choice for aerospace businesses to locate, interact, grow and innovate.

“The iAero Centre will help us secure the future of a strategically important industry in our county and indeed in the country. In developing this facility, we are investing in Somerset jobs prospects, future economic prosperity and the UK’s aerospace industry. Prosperity, and a thriving sustainable economy helps pay for all the essential services the County Council provides, and I am delighted to be associated with this project.”

Sarah Cook, Leonardo Vice President for UK Government Business & Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership  Board Member, said: “This is a truly exciting time, seeing this facility coming to fruition. It is a fantastic piece of architecture and a visible signal that puts Yeovil on the map as a key centre of innovation in the aerospace sector in the UK.

“As the world faces an increasing climate emergency – innovation, technology and skill will be needed to rise to the challenges of our modern world. iAero will bring together partnerships, people and projects under one roof. Cutting-edge ideas and dynamic technologies will form the research, development and innovation that takes place; exploring and experimenting, utilising and developing skills. The future will be created here and that creates a prosperous future for our wider community.”

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said: “I’m very pleased to see yet another of our Growth Deal funded projects get under way. This new centre will be a flagship facility for maximising our area’s strengths in the aerospace sector and in innovation and knowledge-based industries. We’ve put £3.4m into this new facility, and we look forward to an ongoing collaboration with partners when iAero opens.”

Rob Woolcock, Director Willmott Dixon, said: ‘’It is great to celebrate this important milestone today, as it represents the hard work and dedication of the whole team involved in delivering the project.

“When completed, the new Centre will have a significant impact on the region, however its impact can already be felt through the training and engagement opportunities provided to date. So far, we have engaged with over 850 local young people, with 35 of them visiting site here to learn about the project and what we are doing. We have also welcomed 3 work experience placements from Yeovil College and provided employment to several long-term unemployed individuals.

“This work is important to us as a business, as we want to make sure that our projects deliver the greatest impact for the local community, and they help inspire the next generation.”

The project is being funded by Somerset County Council, the European Regional Development Fund and, through the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Deal, Government’s Local Growth Fund.

European Regional Development Fund

The project is receiving up to £3,049,240 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit

Local Growth Fund

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Some additional key facts:

·         There are 38 LEPs covering the whole of England

·         The government has awarded £9.1bn in three rounds of Growth Deals to local areas to drive economic growth.

·         LEPs are investing in a wide range of projects including transport, skills, business support, broadband, innovation and flood defences.

The Local Growth Fund in Heart of the South West

The Heart of the South West LEP’s total Growth Deal is worth £598m; including £239m from Government and £351m match funding. Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal: 2015 – 2021; HotSW LEP estimates the investment will create up to 26,300 new jobs and 16,400 new homes.