AN offshore and defence specialist has expanded after launching a research and development division.

Reece Group, which operates in the global defence, subsea and oil and gas sectors, has set up Reece Innovation.

Bosses say the move will allow it to continue developing new products to reinforce its design engineering and manufacturing work.

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Dr James Martin will lead the company.

It will initially be based at Reece's base in Newcastle, but will move to the former Vickers' site in the city, which Reece acquired from BAE Systems last year.

Reece Group is the holding company for a number of North-East engineering businesses, including Pearson Engineering Services, which designs and makes counter mine and combat engineering equipment for armoured fighting vehicles, and road repairer Velocity UK.

John Reece, chairman of Reece Group, said: “As part of our ambitious growth plans, we are continually evolving to meet market demands and create new markets through the innovation of new products.

“Setting up Reece Innovation means we now have a dedicated facility to support our group companies, and it will strengthen the group’s offering in the oil and gas sector and open up new opportunities in different markets."