Building on success of world-leading technology

13:30, June 21, 2011      

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UK companies are well represented among those that stand behind the world-leading technologies that now spread through our homes, offices, factories and hospitals.

The global engineering technologies company Renishaw - based in Gloucestershire, western England - is just one example: winner of the Best Technology award at this year’s PLC Awards in London, opening offices in China to serve its growing customer base there and hiring more skilled engineers and apprentices as the UK recovery grows.

The award is given to a firm whose business growth and success is dependent on, or attributable to, the development of its technology.

Among the other strong contenders in this category were Oxford Instruments, a high-tech tools and systems company with strong sales and expertise in plasma technology; Victrex, the Lancashire-based polymers, coatings and thermoplastics business; and Wolfson Microelectronics, the Edinburgh-based supplier of high performance, mixed-signal semiconductors for the consumer electronics market.

The PLC Awards - given annually for companies outside the top 100 listed on the London Stock Exchange - are described as the "event of the year" for London’s financial community and are attended by 1,500 people, from listed companies, investment banks, fund managers, investment analysts and corporate advisers.

Dr Tim Prestidge, director of Renishaw’s Machine Tool Products Division, said: "We annually invest some 17 per cent of sales into R&D [research and development], and engineering and innovative technology is at the heart of our customer solutions for the manufacturing and healthcare sectors. To win this award against very tough competition, we had to demonstrate to the judges that there was significant innovation in our technologies and their applications."

The Financial Times noted that what the shortlisted companies had in common was "a commitment to maintain high levels of expenditure in research and development", ensuring "whatever the state of the world economy, that they would remain as technological leaders in their global markets".

Renishaw is a world leader in the fields of metrology and spectroscopy, and is opening offices in the cities of Suzhou and Xi'an to give support to its rapidly expanding customer base in China where it has operations in eight cities.

Paul Gallagher, managing director of Renishaw Shanghai, said: "The global downturn last year has not affected our business in China where sales for our last financial year rose 75 per cent and which continue to grow strongly for all our product lines.

"We have shown a long-term commitment to the Chinese market, where we opened our first office in 1994, and this has clearly been appreciated by our many customers in sectors as diverse as machine tools, motion control and materials research," he added.

Renishaw has a strong history of developing its own talent, with a sponsored undergraduate student programme that dates from the mid-1980s, and an apprenticeship scheme that has been running for more than 30 years.

Many of the company’s divisional directors and general managers are graduates of these schemes. Gareth Hankins, director of Renishaw’s Manufacturing Services Division, joined the company as an apprentice aged 16.

The company - which has recovered strongly since the worldwide recession - has been recruiting skilled engineers and technicians and has announced a significant programme of student recruitment for 2011, offering a mix of graduate jobs, apprenticeships, one-year industrial placements and summer placements. Renishaw is also inviting applications from students at nearby schools for work-experience opportunities.

Peter Bowler, Renishaw’s group human resources manager, said: "With a shortage of engineering talent, we have to take control of our own future and develop high quality individuals to meet our future growth targets.

"We offer excellent careers for graduates and students with the right capabilities and attitude, and the fact that we make most products in the UK and offer opportunities for overseas experience is an added attraction for people looking to become a well-rounded engineer."

Newcomers will have plenty to aim for. Roxanne Pollard, a first-year technical apprentice with Renishaw, won an award to represent the UK at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles in May 2011.

The award was made to Ms Pollard at the Young Engineer for Britain National Final held earlier in London, for her innovative bicycle safety helmet that allows cyclists to indicate presence and driving directions while keeping full control of the cycle.

One of just six young people representing the UK at the finals, Roxanne joined the apprenticeship scheme in September 2010 and is studying mechanical and electrical engineering. She turned down university places to apply for an apprenticeship. "The more I learned about it, the better option it seemed," she said.

Source: British Embassy in China
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