The founding vision, mission and values of RPM network consistently stimulate us to embrace learning from effective practices and proactively stimulate and apply new ways to leverage at best from our knowledge assets. It is within this mindset that we asked Pim van Baarsen, CEO of the Silverstone Technology Cluster (STC), to tell us about the cluster roots, present and future developments within the dynamics of the current COVID-19 pandemic. I have moderated the debate.
We thank Pim for accepting our invitation and for shaping up with us on April 29th a flowing informal video conference conversation. The dialogue with Pim during the conference pointed out some key factors that are essential in developing business within the industry, and business in general, more than ever within the present time of disruptive, uncertain and abrupt changes.
STC roots: the value of ecosystem research to stimulate public and private funding backing
In May 2016 was published an economic and technology research report by the title “The evolution of the high performance technology and Motorsport cluster”; the SQW organisation was commissioned by MEPC (a leading British property and business development organisation) to develop the research and Dr.Tim Angus (RPM UK Representative) had an active part in developing it. The study pointed out the historical roots of high performance engineering development that have been carried through in a region defined as “within an hour radius of Silverstone” basically in the middle of England. During World War II Silverstone was utilised as an airfield and the geographical area around it saw the development of many small and larger companies related to aviation engineering and craftsmanship. After the war several of those companies developed into Motorsport and shaped the Motorsport Industry that characterises the UK today. The detailed report was instrumental in stimulating UK regional government and private funding to support the economic growth of the area characterised by this historical engineering ecosystem, feeding the beginnings of STC. These engineering roots also have another marked characteristic that is still very active today in the area, diversification: technological expertise applied to several fields, not only to Motorsport, and STC identity springs exactly from these roots. (The executive summary of the report is available at this link)
STC special interest groups: widespread teamwork on specific topics
STC is therefore a UK regional cluster contributing to the economic development of companies (currently 120 members) that belong to that geographical area and that specifically intend to grow their businesses by enhancing their engineering expertises and capabilities; this in order to maintain and lead the pace of applied research and development within traditional and increasingly emerging engineering topics. For this reason STC has structured several Specific Interest Groups (focusing on varied topics such as Digital and Advanced manufacturing to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) each lead by a specific committee formed by cluster members. Interaction among members and participating non-members is stimulated by several events that areas hold yearly (21 events were planned for 2020 before the breakout of the pandemia).
STC managerial philosophy: synergising rather than competing in diversifying and growing
Pim pointed out that the majority of the companies that are part the cluster originate from Motorsport and then even progressively differentiated technologically into other fields and that at present only 20 % of the cluster business is linked purely to Motorsport. The growth of STC and the related businesses was possible thanks to a progressive switch of mindset within the companies involved: sharing ideas and practices to find solutions and grow has taken an increasingly stronger role. This has enabled the cluster to be perceived as a concrete potential source of problem solving solutions and projects involving clients such as Heathrow Airport or contributing to manage the current COVID-19 emergency which has showed the effectiveness of this approach.
Together with Pim we agreed that we can establish and intensify activities and exchanges between STC and RPM since we are driven by very similar values and purposes; we could also look at organising virtual events together in the near future in order to further strengthen exchanges and generate business opportunities between the two organisations