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In total, the frequency of sentences related to digitalisation between July 2020 and June 2021 was 225% higher than in 2016 when GlobalData, from whom our data for this article is taken, first began to track the key issues referred to in company filings.

When companies in the aerospace and defence sector publish annual and quarterly reports, ESG reports and other filings, GlobalData analyses the text and identifies individual sentences that relate to disruptive forces facing companies in the coming years. Digitalisation is one of these topics - companies that excel and invest in these areas are thought to be better prepared for the future business landscape and better equipped to survive unforeseen challenges.

To assess whether digitalisation is featuring more in the summaries and strategies of companies in the aerospace and defence sector, two measures were calculated. Firstly, we looked at the percentage of companies that have mentioned digitalisation at least once in filings during the past twelve months - this was 86% compared to 51% in 2016. Secondly, we calculated the percentage of total analysed sentences that referred to digitalisation.

Of the 20 biggest employers in the aerospace and defence sector, Thales SA was the company that referred to digitalisation the most between July 2020 and June 2021. GlobalData identified 335 digitalisation-related sentences in the France-based company's filings - 2.4% of all sentences. Leonardo SpA mentioned digitalisation the second-most - the issue was referred to in 1% of sentences in the company's filings. Other top employers with high digitalisation mentions included Safran SA, Howmet Aerospace Inc and Airbus SE.

Across all companies in the aerospace and defence sector, the filing published in the second quarter of 2021 which exhibited the greatest focus on digitalisation came from Thales SA. Of the document's 4,825 sentences, 128 (2.7%) referred to digitalisation.

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By GlobalData

This analysis provides an approximate indication of which companies are focusing on digitalisation and how important the issue is considered within the aerospace and defence sector, but it also has limitations and should be interpreted carefully. For example, a company mentioning digitalisation more regularly is not necessarily proof that they are utilising new techniques or prioritising the issue, nor does it indicate whether the company's ventures into digitalisation have been successes or failures.

In the last quarter, companies in the aerospace and defence sector based in Western Europe were most likely to mention digitalisation with 0.91% of sentences in company filings referring to the issue. In contrast, companies with their headquarters in the United States mentioned digitalisation in just 0.11% of sentences.