24 February 2017
Eight weeks after the formation of Silverstone Technology Cluster – the company set up to lead promotion of the region surrounding Silverstone as a global hub for high-tech activity and capability – we caught up with its busy Chief Executive Officer Pim van Baarsen.
Already STC has held its first board meeting (inside Silverstone Park’s Innovation Centre) and Pim feels its members have truly hit the ground running.
To re-cap these comprise Silverstone Park developer MEPC, Barclays, Aylesbury Vale District Council, South Northants Council and Cherwell District Council, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence plus accountancy and law experts respectively Grant-Thornton and EMW.
Brackley companies TotalSim (computational fluid dynamics) and KW Special Projects (integration of new processes and technologies) complete the board.
“It was very good for everyone to meet – some for the first time – and discuss things moving forward; plus the input from KWSP and TotalSim is invaluable,” comments Pim.
“Chiefly we concentrated on the Cluster’s three main strands: promotion, growth agenda and thought leadership. Growth agenda and thought leadership provoked a lot of debate, naturally!
“We were also able to report that six members have now signed up to the Cluster and we have identified three specialist interest groups to form. Among the next steps will be to put together an events calendar with a focus on those interest groups and the growth agenda.”
To re-cap, STC was born out of an in-depth report that proved the existence of a region (within an hour of Silverstone) that is exceptional for being home to such a high concentration of cutting edge engineering companies.
We’re talking approximately 4000 companies – a staggering number – with many of those feeding sectors including aerospace, automotive, defence, energy, marine and medical with their specialist skills in such as design, manufacturing and electronics.
Consider that the report (which can be downloaded here) was authored by ace economic and social development research agency SQW whose findings first brought the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ to public attention… Then at its official launch in London’s Canary Wharf that the report was rapidly welcomed by both Government and the business and finance community…
Lo, STC the company (not-for-profit) was formed with Pim, a skilled marketer with 20 years’ experience in motorsport, automotive and high-tech engineering, appointed as its CEO. Our questions continue…
As CEO you must be faced with a huge amount of work?
“Ultimately there needs to be a lot of joined-up thinking but you must remember it is still very early days. At the moment there are a lot of meetings to be had; I see this phase as a scoping exercise to see what is out there. I’m talking to potential members to find out what they might need and how we can help them.
“There are a lot of organisations from a Government point of view who are there to support growth companies. Not all of that is necessarily known. I want to find out what’s available to see how we can shape STC in terms of what we can offer the companies. If nothing else then signpost them to those options…
“Yes, it’s a big job but you have to start somewhere and that is what we are doing.”
What sort of initial feedback are you getting?
“I’m hugely encouraged – although maybe not entirely surprised – by what I’m hearing. I have had quite a few meetings and lots of conversations. No one at any point has uttered even a slightly negative word about what is being done here. Everyone seems to understand and like the concept of STC and can see its potential. I think that shows there is a real appetite for it.”
Is one of the reasons for that because most of these companies’ focuses lie elsewhere?
“I’d say there is some truth in that. A lot of them are engineering firms who are heads down coming up with solutions to problems and they enjoy doing that. But so busy they either haven’t had the desire or inclination to go out there and explore the landscape in terms of investment and growth, skills transfer and so on.
“What people seem to be saying is that to have an organisation doing this for them is tremendously helpful. They have someone to turn to and say ‘this is something we are struggling with; how do we fix that?’ We want to be the organisation who helps point them in the right direction.”
“We’ve scaled the membership fees according to the size of companies – there are options to be an associate member but the main benefits are in full membership and I believe the prices are reasonable.
“The aim is to make sure the value you get out of it far exceeds spending on membership on an annual basis.”