Meeting a veteran of the JSAE spring congress

On 23-25 May, 17 UK-based automotive start-ups, SMEs and suppliers will be in Yokohama, Japan, showing their latest innovations to visitors to the JSAE Spring Congress. As part of the UK Pavilion, organised by the APC, the companies will be hoping to form and build upon relationships with Japan’s OEMs and suppliers.

But what can they expect? We caught up with Neil Cheeseman, Head of Business Development for Vehicle Electrification and Motorsport at Continental Engineering Services – a veteran of the JSAE Spring Congress – to find out more about his company, and why it is such an important show for UK innovators.

APC: What is Continental Engineering Services?

Neil Cheeseman: Continental Engineering Services is an engineering service provider, which is able to use the proprietary components and technology from our parent company, Continental, and apply it to niche, low volume applications. We can also customise and design products using sub-assemblies, or design from a clean sheet of paper where the application requires it (e.g. motorsport). This breadth of business capability makes us well placed to serve the needs of a wide variety of customers.

APC: What are Contintental Engineering Services’ goals for the future?

Neil Cheeseman: We want to develop a greater global reach through more local engineering and application centres. The move towards electrification, autonomy and the use of infinite data will revolutionise transportation as we know it, and we believe Continental Engineering Services will be an integral part of the paradigm shift.

APC: When did you first attend the JSAE Spring Congress

Neil Cheeseman: We first came to JSAE in 2011, as part of the UK Pavilion. We thought that it represented great value and we took a lot from it. Since then, it’s been something of a no-brainer for us to continue going – we’ve been every year since.

APC: What makes you keep wanting to come back?

Neil Cheeseman: Japan is a key market for us, and the JSAE Spring Congress is the country’s premier automotive trade show.

Being part of the UK Pavilion removes a lot of the complexity, as logistics are managed by the APC and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), so we can focus on our primary role at the show. The Pavilion is always in a prime location, with ample floor space to exhibit our products. These things combined make it the ideal platform to form and cement relationships with new and existing customers.

APC: What does success in Japan look like for you?

Neil Cheeseman: It really is about engagement. Whether trying to build new relationships with potential customers, or reinforce our partnerships with existing ones, it always comes down to engagement.

APC: And finally, what is the most important business lesson you have learnt?

Neil Cheeseman: Be in the market, for the market. Anticipate trends and be proactive in promoting your vision, both internally and externally. Build and maintain relationships with those who can share your vision.