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UK in pole position to benefit from F1 engineering skills

9 Mar 14  | CBSbutler
 

A recent article by The Guardian newspaper reported that the UK is reaping the benefits of F1 Engineering competition;

RedBull Team Principal Christian Horner says F1 is "a shining example" of engineering excellence in Britain."

 

"A lot of the teams and suppliers permeated out of Silverstone, and the UK has had a great heritage of creative design engineers and manufacturing."

Now, the innovation that comes from competing to build a winning car is being applied elsewhere. As well as McLaren Automotive, which produces luxury road cars for the super-rich, spinoff McLaren Applied Technologies (MAT) is using some of the lessons learned from F1 in other industries.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis says that while "racing will always be at our heart", the demands of the sport put it at the forefront of broader innovation. "Formula One breaks new ground and other industries follow. And because of the concentration of Formula One in the UK, we have a significant advantage."

MAT works with companies in several industries, such as healthcare, but it is also transferring its expertise to other sports.

"The UK has punched above its weight in recent Olympic Games, and a small amount of that success is attributable to Formula One," says Dennis. He cites McLaren's work in sports including cycling, sailing, canoeing, rowing, bobsleigh and skeleton, where its engineers help with improving equipment and enhancing the way athletes approach training and racing. "Across those sports," he adds, "we have helped win 32 medals, 17 of which have been gold."

Other F1 teams are diversifying, too. Williams has taken motorsport expertise into sectors including mass transport, particularly the use of energy-efficient technologies.

Claire Williams, deputy team principal and commercial director at Williams, says the cluster of high-value, hi-tech engineering companies in motorsport valley dispels the notion that "Britain doesn't make things any more".

Ultimately though, while the glamour of F1 racing will undoubtedly attract aspiring engineers, the sport can have only a limited impact on the engineering skills shortage bemoaned by Britain's manufacturers.

"For many years," says Dennis, "if you were bright enough to become a top-class engineer, you were also bright enough to know that there were probably better career options available in the City. Formula One has always been a relatively small, but important, counter to that suction pump of talent.

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