The Future's Bright for Derby
"There aren’t many cities in the world that can make Formula One parts, a car every 60 seconds, an aero-engine every day and a train every week, and we should embrace that."
An impressive statement by EPM Technology Group’s Managing Director, Graham Mulholland, whose passion for Derby is undeniable and who understands the importance of embracing and championing what it stands for and is best at – engineering and manufacturing.
His beliefs are backed up by ongoing industry success. Bombardier is currently building a new £12.5m Crossrail factory and working on Aventra – the next generation of trains, while Rolls-Royce recently secured its largest engine order with a £6.1bn Emirates deal. And EPM Technology, which specialises in high performance engineering supporting Formula One, aerospace and defence, has experienced an "explosion of growth" since moving into its new £6m factory in Derby.
So what's it taken to get this far and what should be done now to build on and secure Derby's future? I met with some of industry's big hitters to find out.
"We are the home of some of the greatest engineering and manufacturing brands in the world"
"Our biggest asset is that we are the home of some of the greatest engineering and manufacturing brands in the world and as a city I don't believe we make the most of that," says David Bell, Chief Corporate Development Officer at JCB.
"The brands in Derby stand for quality, perfection, skill and innovation, and those qualities need to be associated with the city," David continues, "we need to keep pushing forward and be at the cutting edge."
Tony Walker, Deputy Managing Director for Toyota Manufacturing in the UK, mirrors this: "Too much looking back at heritage is not healthy – we need to drive forward. Derby is all about engineering and manufacturing excellence and we should be known for this."
Derby's strength also lies in its thought leaders; ambassadors of the city who help to drive it into the future. "We're a city that can make things happen, and I don't think many people realise that until they start travelling around the country and experience how others operate," Graham explains. "We have an idea, we see if it's viable and if it is we put it into action and deliver it – we don't just talk about it." Interestingly, the only other time he’s experienced this was working with the Americans.
Colin Smith, Director of Engineering and Technology at Rolls-Royce, believes that working and living in Derby is an attractive proposition: "We have the highest number of qualifications in any UK city outside London, per capita, and average salaries are better than most cities, driven by industry like ours."
For Graham, we’re already selling the Derby offering hard: "We've got one of the most successful shopping centres outside of London and I can't think of anywhere else like Derby for its transport links. We have a great momentum and we’re becoming confident, it’s a magic formula."
"We need to blow the trumpet a lot louder and show those going through school that engineering and technology is a good career and has a great future."
So how do we make sure that Derby stays firmly on the map? "We need to blow the trumpet a lot louder and show those going through school that engineering and technology is a good career and has a great future," says Bombardier’s Chairman and Managing Director, Noel Travers. It's this talent pool that we need to maintain and the biggest challenge that has been highlighted by all is that such skilled work is imperative to driving Derby forward.
As Graham points out, "clever factories need clever people to make them cleverer," and it’s now all about "retaining the talent we have in Derby, especially if it has come from outside of the City." While new initiatives have come on stream over the last five years, including work by the University of Derby, more needs to be done to attract the next generation, including more females, into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
"Raising the standards of all STEM subjects in Derby is hugely important and will give us a great advantage," says Colin. "We need to get more children taking on the 'difficult' subjects, and the University should work closely with schools to up its game even more in technical subjects, which has been a deliberate policy of John's (Coyne, Vice-Chancellor)."
Tony believes it's all about making careers in engineering more aspirational: "We need to convey that engineering and manufacturing offers exciting, interesting and challenging long-term careers. Education needs to prepare young people for employment and not just further or higher education."
The University of Derby has been making steps towards this and these industry giants are recognising the effect that is having. "I think the University is pulling up trees at the moment; it's batting well above its weight and is engaging with businesses and schools very well," says Graham.
David supports this, adding: "Personally, I'm really pleased that the University is getting back into the engineering arena and we're all keen to support that. All it needs to do now is find its own niche and not compete with the other big engineering universities. That will create the success and bring in the talent."
This idea of competition is a lasting thought, not just for the University, but for Derby too. Colin believes that, "England is a small country and you need to make sure you don't have regions competing against each other," and David agrees: "You've got cities in the East Midlands who see themselves as competitors and that makes it hard for us to define who we are. We need to grow the rest of the UK, so rather than just looking at Derby, or Nottingham, we should be looking at the Midlands as a whole."
If there's one thing for certain, Derby is definitely on the map. "From a government perspective, we’ve absolutely got a voice and Derby is now seen as a city that makes things happen," concludes Graham.
And the role we have to play? Let’s all shout about Derby a bit more.
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