Pushed by the wheels of industry

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The government has recognised the UK motor sport industry’s plans to boost the number of young engineers

From June 30 to July 8 this year the Motor Sports Association (MSA) and the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) will team up for another National Motorsport Week.

It’s an initiative that will help six promising young racing drivers and six young engineers – chosen by the MSA – to get a leg up in the sport with visits to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the British Grand Prix, various Formula 1 factories and World rally Championship teams.

“National motorsport Week is about raising awareness of the UK’s leading in world motor sport,” said MSA Chief Executive Colin Hilton. “We may have produced more F1 World Champions than any other country, but we face increasingly strong competition from other nations, so we cannot afford to be complacent.”

Chris Aylett, the Ceo of the MIA, was of a similar opinion: “the UK motor sport industry is booming, during uncertain times. But we do need more young, well-trained engineers and technicians so we stay ahead in this race for business.”

So what is the motor sport industry worth to the uK? At a recent exhibition – created by the MIA and its members – at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills I caught up with Mark Prisk, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise.

His figures make for impressive reading. The British motor sport industry invests over £1 billion in research and development every year and employs 40,000 full and part-time staff. Formula 1 teams and suppliers create over £2 billion worth of business in the UK, while total motor sport sales, from the UK’s motor sport valley, exceed £7 billion every year.

Impressive figures, I’m sure you will agree. “The automotive industry as a whole is a real success story,” Prisk told me. “Motor sport is crucial to that process and as you can see here [where the likes of Williams Hybrid Power and Lola were exhibiting] we’ve got real innovators.

“One or two of the companies here were saying that they’ve got good growth opportunities, but they have a squeeze for engineers and that’s where the government can help.”

“The government understands that engineering is an incredibly important skill,” added Culture Minister Ed Vaizey.

“People should be learning it at school, they should be going to study it at university, and to have motor sport at the front end to say ‘this is what you could be doing’ is fantastic.”

So what is the government doing? Well, there’s already the Research and Development tax credit for small to medium-sized businesses. The automotive sector is one of the main beneficiaries of the Regional Growth Fund – a £2.4 billion pot which supports projects that encourage private sector investment and economic growth. There is also the Technology Strategy Board, another government funding scheme.

Whatever you think about the current government it can only be good news that it has recognised the motor sport industry as one in which Britain excels. As one industry insider said to Vaizey: “Motor sport is the most innovative sector outside wartime.”

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