Annual review 2021 > A decade of manufacturing innovation

A decade of manufacturing innovation

Dick Elsy CBE
Chief Executive, HVM Catapult
(2013-2021)

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My final report as CEO, before my retirement, gives me the chance to reflecton my last eight and a half years, and the decade since the High Value Manufacturing(HVM) Catapult was founded.

I deferred my retirement last year to focus on the emergency challenge to build intensive care ventilators for the NHS, and also to support our industrial clients as they fought with the consequences of lockdowns and the stagnation of trade. The key mantra for the HVM Catapult during this difficult phase was to “keep the torch lit for innovation”. With many companies having to resort to furlough and plant closure, industry focus was very much on the short-term and damage limitation, meaning there was a risk that the many innovation programmes we were working on would fall by the wayside, and that the UK would fall behind. The HVM Catapult’s Centres rose to this challenge going to extraordinary lengths to keep our work moving and projects running.

This outcome is reflected by our performance in the year, with a 5% increase in revenues over the prior year as the HVM Catapult became the largest advanced manufacturing research capability in Europe.

The scale of our operations and revenues, however, are only indicators of activity and appetite for our innovation support. The thing that I am most proud over the last 10 years is the impact we have had, especially regionally. Much is said in government circles about “levelling up”; what we have seen in the HVM Catapult is genuine industrial transformation.

Talking stock of all of this reveals a profound transformation of the UK industrial landscape.

The University of Sheffield AMRC and the Nuclear AMRC have built on the ashes of former industry and transformed the site of the Orgreave colliery and coking works into an international hub of industrial collaboration, bringing the likes of Rolls-Royce, McLaren and Boeing to Rotherham and Sheffield. With AMRC Cymru now open, similar transformation is underway in North Wales.
The MTC has moved from a 10-person team in a portacabin to a site of crowded investment, attracting £600m to Ansty Park including Meggitt’s £130m innovation centre.
WMG has continued to grow its global reputation in battery technology, making Coventry a go-to destination for battery investment.
The AFRC has grown from a small Centre focused on forming and forging into a Scottish industrial powerhouse, leading the creation of Scotland’s first major advanced manufacturing park and a £100m investment in the new National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS).
The NCC has been our anchor in the South West, building the UK’s sovereign capability in aircraft structures and leading digital innovation.
CPI has had a major impact in North East England, advancing the national capability for advanced vaccine development and contributing significantly to healthcare resilience in the UK.

These are illustrations of exactly the sort of innovation-driven transformation that the UK needs to level itself up and face the big societal challenges that lie ahead of us. From climate change to global competitiveness, the answers lie in innovation which will drive an unprecedented demand for new technologies, products and services.

In parting, I know that the HVM Catapult is at the peak of its fitness to tackle these challenges. My eight and a half years have been extraordinary and I feel that they have been well-spent in the service of UK innovation.

The next decade will eclipse that, as the HVM Catapult steps up to play its central role in supporting the innovations which will transform our lives.

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