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Motorsport industry leader calls for UK plc to adopt race-proven

22 September 2016


The UK government should encourage all engineering and technology sectors to fully exploit the energy-efficient capabilities of British motorsport and high performance engineering companies to help increase post-Brexit prosperity.

Chris Aylett, CEO of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA), will make his call for increased cross-sector ‘horizontal innovation’ at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) annual Sir Henry Royce Memorial Lecture.

Mr Aylett explained: “Great Britain’s gold-medal performance at the Rio Olympics relied on many cross-sector engineering skills, including some from motorsport. This unique story should be proactively used to demonstrate what can be achieved by alternative sectors and attract trade and investment to the UK.

“However, too many –  from government and the wider engineering and technology community of the UK – remain ignorant of the exceptional value and potential of innovative technologies and rapid response processes, derived from motorsport, which can benefit other industries,” he continued. “Yet these world-class capabilities have never been more important to the UK’s economy. As we will rely less on the EU post-Brexit, UK engineers will need to utilise and exploit all our world-class assets. Motorsport engineering is certainly one of these and is, enthusiastically, open for cross-sector business.”

Alongside powerful case studies to be presented by motorsport-based engineering companies Prodrive and Wirth Research, a notable example of ‘horizontal innovation’ being showcased at the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Lecture is from Lentus Composites. British Cycling’s official partner for Rio 2016, Cervélo, needed to maximise the rider’s use of energy to deliver winning performances. As part of this, it engaged Lentus to design and develop the gold-medal winning composite racing bikes for the British Olympic cycling team. Using technology and capabilities developed in Formula One, these are the most energy-efficient bikes ever produced.

Also on display at the IET will be a selection of unique ‘horizontal innovations’ from Williams Advanced Engineering, Formaplex, GDM Heat Transfer, GKN Hybrid Power, Hewland Engineering, KW Special Projects, Precision Technologies, Productiv, Scott Racing and Swindon Powertrain. “Entirely new cross-sector opportunities ranging from the America’s Cup to low-emission automotive, as well as defence, marine, space, healthcare and even architecture have opened up,” Mr Aylett revealed. “These are welcome additional business streams for UK motorsport companies.”

The MIA’s 350-strong worldwide corporate membership includes Formula One, World Rally, Formula E and USA-based teams as well as manufacturers, circuit operators and specialist service providers which, collectively, transact over $6 billion of international motorsport-related business. Over the past decade, the original cross-sector initiative of ‘Energy-Efficient Motorsport’ has spawned growing interest in ‘horizontal innovation’ where R&D-based motorsport suppliers quickly resolve disparate, and most unexpected, engineering problems.

For Chris Aylett this unusual journey began soon after his appointment to the MIA in 1998, when he posed the strategic question: ‘what future is there for motorsport in an energy-efficient world?’ “The initial industry response to my question was ‘who cares?’” he said. “But I was certain that, when the energy-efficiency agenda eventually took off, our petrol-powered industry would be in a precarious position. In 2000, very few people understood the ‘value’
of energy, but today people talk about the price of energy as they do the price of beer.”

An MIA report, ‘Energy Efficient Motorsport (EEMS)’, supported by the UK Government, uncovered exceptional business opportunities created by a low-carbon future. “Through this work we discovered that the key to winning every race in the previous 100 years was using whatever energy was available more efficiently than the other guy,” Mr Aylett said. “This outcome destroyed the myth that motorsport was wasteful in its use of fuel and energy – in fact the opposite was true. And it gave motorsport engineering a raison d’etre far more valuable than a reputation for champagne and glamour. We later demonstrated that we knew how to harvest energy during a race and use this store to deliver more power, with no extra fuel needed. A race-proven ‘hybrid’ solution was urgently needed by the automotive and
other sectors to meet emissions targets.”

So what’s the future for ‘horizontal innovation’? “I am frustrated that, in spite of some success, the UK and motorsport are only on the first stage of this potentially valuable journey,” Mr Aylett said. “I call on government to encourage more industry leaders to urgently explore, invest in and utilise the unique capability of UK motorsport engineering. Major companies in defence and automotive talk about, but shy away from, embracing solutions from supply chains of alternative sectors – maybe seeing a challenge to their established order. This important opportunity has now been recognised by the IET, a powerful industry body, whose influential membership can change this mindset, and will inspire more young engineers to do so.”

The 2016 IET Sir Henry Royce Memorial Lecture, “The Business of Winning – a story of success”, takes place on 28 September 2016 at IET London: Savoy Place. This will be preceded by the MIA’s Motorsport Industry Open Forum

Notes to editors:

The IET and MIA have joined forces to address the current lack of widespread exploitation of horizontal innovation in the business technology community. Their long-term partnership aims to raise awareness and drive wider take-up of the successful transfer of technology from one sector to another (‘horizontal innovation’) across the UK innovation landscape. For more information about this initiative please visit www.theiet.org/horizontal-innovation.