The next generation: UK engineering start-ups

14th March 2019
Posted By : Anna Flockett
The next generation: UK engineering start-ups

As the future remains unclear for the manufacturing and engineering industry in the UK, we try to keep positive and think about the future generation and what they have in store for engineering, so Engineering Specifier caught up with Jon Excell, editor, The Engineer and engineering Launchpad chair to see where he stands on engineering startups, and what is yet to come for the industry.

What do you think Engineering contributes to the UK economy?
Engineering remains a huge part of the UK economy: contributing about 23% of the UK turnover and employing just under one in five people in the UK workforce.

There are many challenges to maintaining, and hopefully improving, on this formula (not least finding a workable solution to the Brexit conundrum) but one vital piece of the puzzle is ensuring that the engineering wealth-generators of tomorrow are able to grow and prosper.

Are there a lot of engineering based startups in the UK? And do you think it is harder for engineering startups to break through compared to more tech based startups (hardware/software based)?
The UK doesn’t have a great track record in this regard. But there are positive signs that things are changing.  In early 2018, research by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub suggested strongly that the UK no longer lags behind the USA when it comes to engineering start-ups.  

Building on this – however - is vital, and there are a number of ways that industry, academia, government and the media can help.  

How do we encourage more engineering startups to ensure we shorten the skills gap?
Firstly, it’s time to end the increasingly outdated distinction between engineering and ‘technology’. If the sector is to cast its net wide, tap into the opportunities presented by the blurring boundaries between once distinct area and attract fresh talent, it must address perceptions that it stands apart from other industries.

Secondly, the broader UK engineering community also needs to be encouraged to become less risk averse. Addressing this is perhaps doubly-difficult in the uncertain climate created by Brexit, but it’s vital that fledgling firms are given the confidence to take those first bold steps, and that larger companies are emboldened to help them on their way.

And finally, despite UK industry’s strong track record of collaborating with the academic research base, there is still more that can be done to tap into this source of innovation. Indeed, according to latest research carried out by The Engineer’s sister event Subcon just 3 per cent of engineering businesses collaborate with academia to drive innovation.

What can we expect at this year’s Subcon show, as it is the first year startups are competing?
In our own small effort to help address this, The Engineer is pleased to support Subcon’s Launchpad initiative, which will give eight British engineering start-ups a free platform to share their innovations with thousands of senior industry decision makers.

Each of the eight start-ups will also be entered into the inaugural Launchpad Awards, the winner of which will receive a £10,000 package including a free stand on the main floor at Subcon 2020 as well PR and marketing support.

Qualifying businesses must be under three years old with a product or service that relates to engineering and/or manufacturing.

To enter and to find out more visit here.

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