A nascent group of high tech engineering businesses based in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor, Silverstone Technology Cluster (STC) is sending out a message that advanced engineering companies need to collaborate in the areas of funding, exporting and recruiting skilled engineers.
Identified by the government as one of the key growth sectors in its Industrial Strategy, clusters such as the STC will play a central role in delivering skilled jobs, economic growth and prosperity to the central/southern region of the UK, which is the home to over 4,000 advanced engineering companies. Based on Cambridge’s Silicon Valley model, parochially known as Silicon Fen, the STC was launched earlier in 2017 following the report by respected consulting group SQW into the concentration of high performance engineering business located near to Silverstone Park.
Hosted by KWSP, one of the board members of the cluster organisation, the STC meeting comprised leaders in the fields of composites, advanced fasteners, motorsport, electronics, laser technology and other advanced engineering technologies. The group discussed the potential power of networking, knowledge sharing and links with other organisation such as the Imeche, the IET and MIA as central to its success as an industry cluster.
It also highlighted access to capital, skills and export knowledge as three key challenges that could affect the growth of the cluster. Pim van Baarsen, CEO of the Silverstone Technology Cluster, said: “Cluster groups such as ours are all about providing value for members and a focus for their customers, wherever they may be across the globe. Given the fact that most of our cluster members export the majority of their products, the complex export/import rules of various countries was identified as a big issue for SMEs and larger companies alike. It’s not just the complexities of logistics that are challenging. The administration and taxation associated with overseas trade also needs constant review to ensure effective trade is maintained.
“Our cluster members also highlighted the constant pressure on them to recruit the very best engineers in the world. Despite the uncertainties of Brexit, we remain convinced that even closer ties to universities and colleges in both the UK and overseas, will be important relationships for us moving forward.
“Finally, we identified access to the right sort of funding as vital to the long-term growth of high performance engineering businesses. There are so many different types of investment available from banks, venture capital companies and angel funders, it’s easy to see how busy entrepreneurs can end up with inappropriate funding. We want to make funding far more transparent by ensuring quality control and peer review into potential investing scenarios.”
Kieron Salter, Manging Director of KWSP said: “Welcoming so many senior figures from organisations such as Laserlines, Williams Advanced Engineering, Composite Braiding, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, EDM Technology and Oxford Instruments, is a huge boost to the STC and shows how much interest there is in our cluster.”
The event also enabled KWSP, a high performance engineering consultancy, to showcase some of the work it is currently undertaking in sectors such as performance sport, machine building, inkjet printing and motorsport.