Why we all must meet the engineers

Blog post by Josh Denne, Head of SME programmes.

Every time you get a bunch of engineers chatting together in a room, I find myself coming out buzzing.

This week’s thought-provoking ‘Meet the Engineer’ event in Coventry, hosted by Productiv and sponsored by the APC, certainly proved this point.

The format is simple – twenty companies at various stages of development have the chance to present to a room full of peers, OEMs, investors, advisers, journalists, analysts and funders.  Combined with a ‘show and tell’ networking space, and ample opportunities to chat, the event embodies one of the APC’s key tenets – that of being a convenor, an organisation that brings technology leaders together with a view to stimulating collaboration and partnership, and ultimately securing investment.

We are closely involved with half of the companies who presented, largely through our rounds of Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) funding. We heard from a range of new and diverse companies, and what struck me again today is the huge synergy between their technology developments.  Whether in automotive, energy or AI, the massive potential that is achievable through not only commercialising the technology, but also in both improving supply chains and finding further novel applications, shone through.

Our role, coming near the start of a company’s journey, is particularly pertinent to those presenting. We have supported these companies through giving access to finance, helping them understand their route to market, developing and protecting their intellectual property and helping them be ‘investor ready’. We deliver a boost that gets them into great shape.

One such example is the incredibly driven group of individuals at Composite Braiding who are pioneering high volume, low cost thermoplastic composite materials in the automotive sector. Hearing from Alastair Barnett, one of the senior product developers, he observed how the sector has been a cottage industry until now, struggling to meet the demands of OEMs.

Their unique take on composites is to create highly desirable new materials through different use of fibres and unique plastic mixes. They must achieve demanding specifications and be capable of manufacture both at scale and at pace. Given the unmet demand, it’s perhaps no surprise that as a result of development of their production capabilities, they are now working to supply two OEMs with their materials.

The APC has played an active role for Composite Braiding, including support through TDAP around the development of ultra-strong torque shafts for electric vehicles. They need to be not only lightweight, but capable of handling huge torque-loading.  And it’s not the company’s only involvement with high performance applications; Composite Braiding has also delivered a roll cage for Ariel’s P40 vehicle which offers all of the strength and protection of steel but weighing-in some 60 per cent lighter.

The event was summed up by Richard Bruges, chief executive of Productiv, who reflected on his frustrations that not enough innovation gets to market. He feels that while grant funding is a strength in the UK, there remains a need for more private investors to enter the sector and for the industry to better engage Government. It’s a good point. For my part, at every opportunity, I’m doing whatever I can to ensure the right people meet the engineers.

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