A cluster of high-tech engineering businesses, the Silverstone Technology Cluster, has been identified in the area surrounding Silverstone Park by a new research report launched on 27 May. The Cluster, which is being backed by the Government, highlights a market of untapped potential.
With science and innovation at the heart of the Government’s long term economic plans, growth of the Cluster will strengthen the UK’s position as a world-leading knowledge economy. High-tech engineering within the Cluster gives the UK the potential to be the leading export economy in new and emerging fields – a direct answer to the country’s decreasing reliance on traditional manufacturing.
Although world-famous for its motorsport capabilities, the area around Silverstone has evolved significantly. MEPC has identified over 4,000 small and mid-sized businesses within two hours of Silverstone specialising in aeronautics, automotive, medical industries, green energy, marine, defence, electronics and sensors, as well as motorsports.
The report, which focuses primarily on the evolution and characteristics of the Cluster, has been commissioned by MEPC, asset manager and developer of Silverstone Park on behalf of Hermes Investment Management, with partners PwC and Barclays. It has been authored by SQW, the highly respected economic and social development research firm whose findings first brought the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ to public attention.
Roz Bird, Commercial Director at Silverstone Park for MEPC, said: “The potential of the Silverstone Technology Cluster is limitless. Having taken over management of Silverstone Park in 2013, we noticed this untapped market almost immediately and have been working with our partners to develop it.
“As an evolving engine room for UK innovation, the cluster is able to adapt and provide a continuing flow of entrepreneurial new firms. However, in order for the cluster to achieve its full potential further investment is needed.”
The report is a first step in creating a Cluster Organisation, which will match investors with untapped high-tech engineering firms.
Chris Taylor, Head of Private Markets at Hermes Investment Management, commented: “Global capital increasingly gravitates to best talent and we believe the Silverstone Technology Cluster plays to this theme, along with longer term trends associated with technology and globalisation. As a long term, responsible investor the opportunity exists to create a globally leading high performance technology centre at the heart of a rapidly expanding cluster.”
The Cluster is being backed by government. Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “Britain has a proud history as a hotbed of innovation and technological changes have the real potential to revolutionise our lives. For example, data analytics used in motorsport is now driving innovation in hospitals and health care.
“The Silverstone Technology Cluster is at the forefront of global technological innovation, skilled at solving engineering problems and delivering solutions. It is an exemplary haven and one where young engineers can get the training they need to become the best in the world.”
The cluster is also recognised as a global draw for engineering talent. However, meeting demand for skills will be a challenge with a severe national shortage of engineers.
Cranfield University and Oxford Brookes play a crucial role in addressing this need within the Silverstone Technology Cluster by educating thousands of engineering students annually – many of which are from outside the UK. These educational facilities, along with numerous others in the cluster, are significant to the industry’s ongoing learning capabilities.
Jon Corbett, Head of Beds, Bucks and Northants, Corporate and Business Banking at Barclays: “The findings have revealed the technological innovation we have in the area not just for the automotive sector but also for the high performance technology and engineering cluster. The report enables us to have dialogue with investors and government by demonstrating the opportunities for investment in high-tech firms and the potential for growth of the local economy.
“Establishing that there is a cluster is just the beginning; it is now critical for us to concentrate on how we address the skills shortage, attract investment finance, support innovation and, finally, how we create a network to support business acumen and commercialisation.”
Ruby Parmar, Partner and head of private business at PwC in Milton Keynes and the South Midlands added: “It is clear from these findings that the Silverstone Technology Cluster is already making an immense contribution to innovation and growth in the UK. The report also reveals that there is significant potential for further expansion.
“At PwC we have spoken to many companies within the Cluster area, and their desire to continue to innovate, deliver solutions and become leaders in the global marketplace is more than apparent. It’s important that this massive opportunity is brought to the attention of the wider business community, to attract investment and support these companies in their rapid growth. Our team at PwC also has a role to play in supporting these companies as they become investor-ready.”
In addition to MEPC, Barclays and PwC the study has been sponsored by: the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA); Buckinghamshire County Council; Northamptonshire County Council; Aylesbury Vale District Council; South Northants Council; Cherwell District Council; Buckinghamshire & Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (BTVLEP); Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP); South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP).
Picture show: Robot arm at Ilmor Engineering (Brixworth)