Rt Hon Michael Fallon Speech at MIA Business Excellence Awards
20 Jan 2014
"My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be with you this evening and my thanks to Chris Aylett and the MIA for the invitation to join you. I am grateful for the chance to present two of this evening’s major business awards, at this celebration of the best in UK motorsport.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Autosport International today. As I walked through the busy aisles, I was impressed by the diversity and world-class quality of the British products I saw, and to note many international visitors buying them. Excellent news for us all. I know that UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has long supported this excellent show and today I have been able to see first hand why.
This afternoon I joined the MIA to launch the results of their National Survey of Motorsport. I am delighted that government was able to support this important initiative as part of the stronger relationship that we have developed with the MIA and the sector over the past year. As part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy partnership approach, our relationship has ultimately resulted in the publication of the Automotive Strategy, and a £1bn joint industry/Government 10 year R&D fund – the Advanced Propulsion Centre. In motorsport it is axiomatic that true excellence is not about individuals, it’s all about the team. This joint industry/Government 10 year commitment exemplifies this teamwork on a grand scale, and we hope that the UK's global dominance in motorsport will sustain our world leading edge in the commercialisation of British engineering creativity, vision and excellence.
Of course we should remember Motorsport has already helped deliver key new innovations and technological advancements that are very much an everyday part of all of our cars; from those early developments such as the rear view mirror and disc brakes through to push button starters and multi-link suspension, light weighting and aerodynamics. More recently the focus has been very much on energy efficient engine development and advanced electronics.
However, the past decade has not been an easy one for many in the automotive industry. But, through the most challenging times and as the latest MIA survey shows, motorsport has continued to grow. Indeed to thrive. Sales have more than doubled since the previous survey to over £9bn, with exports playing an increasingly significant part.
More than 4,000 companies, throughout Motorsport Valley (and elsewhere), employ over 40,000, highly skilled, and well motivated people who deliver these results. It is clear that the undoubted quality of these employees is at the heart of this unique British success story.
But the power of Motorsport to excite and inspire reaches further. It offers a showcase for engineering excellence and for engineering as a career – in the automotive sector and beyond. I passionately believe we must exploit this to the full. So I’m delighted that many here today, and across the motorsport community, have supported our See Inside Manufacturing initiative. Through this, 1000s of children, and their teachers, have already been given the chance to see advanced engineering and manufacturing in action – at a time when young people are exploring their career options. If we can get them thinking “I’d like to be a part of that”, a new generation of engineers, designers, mechanics and drivers will bring further success to this country.
Last year, as a result of their endeavours, many UK motorsport companies were victorious in championships ranging from NASCAR and IndyCar in the USA to World Rally; from the 24 Hours of Le Mans to World Touring Cars and Formula One. All of these, and many more, owed their victories to British based suppliers and teams.
During the course of last year, there were times when I had to smile whenever I heard the Austrian National Anthem celebrating another Formula One victory for their Milton Keynes team. Or, on a few occasions, the German Anthem signalling a victory for the good people of Brackley and Northampton! Long may our highly valued, international partnerships in world motorsport benefit all involved.
Naturally it was somewhat disappointing that our own National Anthem did not feature quite as much in 2013 as it has in recent years – I do of course hope we hear it more often in the coming season!
True excellence is the source of great champions. These awards tonight, from the Motorsport Industry Association, have rightly recognised that excellence for the past twenty years."