The creative impulse and its nurturing are of vital value to Tata Technologies. The global leadership position the company has attained while catering to the needs of the manufacturing industry is built on inspiration and ingenuity. These qualities found further impetus with the setting up, in April 2017, of the company's European Innovation & Development Centre (EIDC) in Leamington Spa, a town in Warwickshire in the UK.
Nick Sale, Tata Technologies' chief operating officer for Europe, views the £20-million investment in EIDC as a reinforcement of the company's intent to be a hub for engineering excellence, its commitment to operations in the UK and the rest of Europe, and a big step towards reaching $1 billion a year in revenues by the end of FY 2020.
A Tata Technologies veteran of 15 years, Mr Sale spoke to Christabelle Noronha about what the centre will deliver, what will make it tick and other issues. Excerpts:
EIDC reflects our robust outlook and the pipeline of opportunities in the UK and across the globe. We will focus on applying leading-edge technology to help our clients make the best products.
We are not necessarily the people that invent the wheel; we are the people who understand the best way in which the wheel can be made of use for our clients. The way in which we deliver innovations to our customers and the best practices that evolve in Europe will certainly find their way around the world in our diverse client engagements. The innovations that our engineers and technicians come up with at EIDC will help our clients take better products to their customers and make a real difference to the people and communities that use these products.
Tata Technologies is at heart an application engineering company. Our job is to identify world-class technologies and inventions that can be applied to some of the global challenges we face. For example, automotive clients are focusing on the electrification of passenger vehicles and on lightweight technology. At Tata Technologies, we focus on analysing these new propulsion systems, against conventional vehicle propulsion technologies, for different client situations.
For lightweight technology, the structures cannot be an all carbon-fibre structure because this is extremely expensive and difficult to work with; nor can it be all aluminium, which is prevalent in the premium sector at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). The game is about using mixed materials in different applications. Our engineers and technologists are collaborating with premium automotive companies, including electrical vehicle startups from China and a select group from America.
Our ties with academic institutions in the UK are important to us, especially since it gives us access to new talent through internships and graduate recruitment. We also collaborate with them for research in fields such as lightweight materials technology and automotive propulsion. Tata Technologies has historically had close ties with Coventry University - where we give our backing to the Ada Lovelace scheme, which supports women studying courses in its faculty of engineering and computing. We have also developed a relationship with Warwick University and are now exploring collaborations with Birmingham, Aston and Loughborough universities as well. These universities will be key partners in our graduate schemes, helping our employees receive their Institution of Mechanical Engineers accreditation.
Our relationship with JLR is primarily that of an engineering partner. We partner with them on different aspects of their operations, most notably in the development of heavy vehicles in both the Jaguar and Land Rover product range. With Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC), we usually associate on a project-by-project basis, and we are working together on select research programmes as part of a consortium.
There is a wide skills gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. In our field of work, however, we are able to bridge this gap through our global network of engineers who are spread across delivery centres in India, the US, the UK, Sweden, Romania and China. Our local engineers, who have insights on customer processes and requirements, interact with their counterparts in the delivery centres to deliver value to our clients.
On an academic level, we do school outreach and other activities in the UK to encourage capable students to take up science and technology as career options. As part of this programme, we support the Arkwright Scholarship Trust, which provides scholarships to students who pursue science or engineering as a degree course.
Our new European headquarters in Warwick will engage all our employees in building business, from research and idea creation through to delivery. We will offer a signature experience to our workforce at this purpose-built centre.
At Tata Technologies, we have never been unduly constrained when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry. We have a multifaceted approach to recruitment. In 2016, we took on 50 interns and graduates in our graduate programme, which is what we intend to continue doing.
In the aerospace industry, manufacturing execution and simulation remain our areas of focus. The manufacturing execution systems of the automotive industry can be simulated the aerospace industry as well. Another area of particular interest to us is industrial heavy machinery, where our aim is to help construction, mining and agriculture manufacturers lower the cost of engineering equipment and improve efficiencies.
Academic institutions and the government are sponsoring several research initiatives in the automotive industry. A huge amount of work is being carried out on mobility as a concept rather than the car as an item.
We do not have to necessarily send teams from the UK to service our clients in Europe. In that sense, our business model is not really compromised, but our customers are concerned about what exactly Brexit, for instance, could mean for them in terms of turnover. This could have an indirect impact on us as well. Besides this, we have British nationals overseas and Europeans in the UK who are concerned about what Brexit will actually mean for them.
In the American market we are not really exporting jobs, rather we are providing skills to companies to create efficient new products.
Despite the uncertainties in the global environment, Tata Technologies is committed in its business focus and expansion to deliver the best results for its clients in Europe and across the globe.