A MAJOR research project has been launched to help the region's manufacturing businesses benefit from defence procurement contracts.

Funded by regional development agency One North East, the research has been commissioned by Northern Defence Industries (NDI), the umbrella organisation for the region's defence businesses.

Tyneside-based research consultancy woodholmes.ksa has been chosen to carry out the research.

David Bowels, chief executive of NDI, said: "This is an important project. We need to understand the significance of the defence, aerospace and components cluster in the region.

"I am sure that we will discover that it is diverse, technically advanced and makes an important contribution to wealth and job creation."

He added: "The outcome of this research will resolve issues and enable the infrastructure required to achieve global competitiveness."

Alan Holmes, joint managing director of woodholmes.ksa, said: "We will be conducting in-depth interviews with several companies but we really want the research to be as comprehensive as possible so we can establish an accurate picture of the specialist manufacturing sector in the North-East in terms of employment, turnover, added value and involvement in the defence sector.

"We would particularly like to hear from component manufacturing companies regarding any involvement in the defence industry and any manufacturing or service company currently supplying the sector."

Companies can contribute to the research by contacting David Lees on (0191) 213 0788 or by emailing him on davel@woodholmes.co.uk for a copy of the questionnaire. It is also available on the websites, www.woodholmesksa.com, or www.NDI.org.uk.