Advent Insights

Advent supports opening of Ultra cybersecurity centre of excellence

April 08, 2024

Advent has supported portfolio business Ultra Intelligence & Communications in opening a cybersecurity centre of excellence in Maidenhead, UK to assist in protecting the country and its allies from electronic warfare.

Ultra I&C, which joined the portfolio in 2022 when it was acquired by Advent-backed defence and engineering business Cobham, will create 250 high-technology jobs at the facility, which represents a £30 million investment.

“The work this company does is so important,” said ex-UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who cut the ribbon at the opening of the centre. “In defence and security, we must always look at new threats. We must combat those threats while also developing our own offensive as well as defensive capabilities. This investment is just the start. I want to see this as a catalyst for a real cyber excellence hub.”

May, who is the member of parliament for Maidenhead, was shown some of Ultra’s technologies by Ultra I&C’s Richard Dingley and Advent International’s Shonnel Malani. Technologies on show included secure communications devices, encryption software to thwart cyberattacks, and a simulator that gave players the experience of piloting a Typhoon fighter jet.

“Tensions in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere demonstrate the need for the advanced technology we are developing,” said Dingley, who is President of Ultra I&C’s cyber operations. “The establishment of strategic alliances such as AUKUS are evidence of how allied nations are coming together in new ways to tackle emerging threats. We hope our people in this facility will long be part of this country’s contribution to the alliances that keep our nations safe.”

Founded in 1920 as a manufacturer of headphones and loudspeakers, in the 1940s Ultra built engine and fuselage elements for the British war effort as well as electric radio receivers and other advanced devices.

The company went on to manufacture tactical radios that allowed soldiers, pilots and sailors to talk to one another without fear of their signals being intercepted or tampered with.

With the rise of the internet, Ultra has grown into an expert in cybersecurity. It uses its knowledge of encryption and signals technology to protect its users from cyberattacks.

“This centre comes at an important moment for Ultra and an important phase for innovation and engineering in the UK,” said Malani, who is Managing Partner at Advent International and also chairs the board at Cobham and Ultra I&C. “In areas such as cyber, space, autonomous weapons and electronic warfare, the UK and its allies need to catch up and then overmatch what we are seeing from peer adversaries.”

He added: “We desperately need to invest, not just in new buildings like this one, but in talent. When I talk to young bright people, they often tell me they want to become YouTubers when they are older. Sure, that is an enjoyable career, but we need to show them another alternative exists – that by studying STEM subjects, they could get an exciting job at a facility like this.”

Cobham and Ultra have already pledged £5 million to six universities in the UK to support the study of science, technology, engineering and maths. The Cobham-Ultra scholarships aim to assist more than 500 students from underrepresented groups. 

Ultra I&C employs over 750 staff – most of them engineers – and serves customers in more than 27 countries around the world. It has delivered more than 2,800 secure hardware and software devices and more than 50,000 tactical radios. It boasts revenues of more than £235 million.

Advent completed the £4 billion takeover of Cobham in 2020.

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