Back in 2008 an initiative was started with the remit of snaring a new generation of manufacturing talent and enthusiasm. Today that project has matured into an engineering venture which is changing the way engineers think about land travel, embracing a network of manufacturers which might never otherwise have crossed paths and enthralling schoolchildren around the globe. Jane Gray talks to participants in the record breaking Bloodhound project.
The Bloodhound project to build a supersonic car that will reach speeds of 1,000 miles per hour has been running since 2008. It sprang off the first successful attempt at breaking the sound barrier in a land vehicle back in 1997, but Bloodhound is more than just an engineering project or record breaking mission.
The central remit and raison d’etre for Bloodhound is to inspire a new generation of leading engineers with top level skills and thirst for competitive innovation.
Richard Noble is head of the project and is well known for his passionate views on the profile of industrial careers in the UK. But he is not alone.
The collaborative community In addition to the core Bloodhound team of 44 engineers, communications professionals, educators and managers the project now embraces a community of around 240 companies who are interested in contributing to the project with some form of engineering or manufacturing expertise. Around 90 of these are now contracted.
These organisations, on making contact with Bloodhound, have been inspired by its commitment to engineering innovation, scientific advance and, most of all, to its potential to put a shine on the public image of manufacturing.
The Falcon Project was the first collaborative partner to Bloodhound (see box) and Daniel Jubb says that he knows the project can do for engineering what the iconic projects of the 70s did for enhancing the reputation of engineering professionals. “At Falcon we constantly hear the companies we supply complain of the difficulty in sourcing engineers of the quality that they need in the numbers that they need,” says Jubb. “When we had projects like Concord, TSR2, Bluestreak, Apollo in the US, the way in which engineering projects were pushing the boundaries of the possible had a very high profile and consequently there were many young people wanting to enter into STEM careers.”
Becoming more optimistic about the present, Jubb continues: “Even though we have only just started building the Bloodhound car, we appear to be having a notable effect on young people.” Having a genuine commitment to the educational objectives of Bloodhound is very important for any company hoping to become involved. Conor La Grue is engineering lead for commercial and product sponsorship at Bloodhound. It is his responsibility to identify engineering requirements for the project and to source the right partner to fill that need. “As we identify components and parts of the car that gives a very clear indication of the kind of technology or manufacturing ability needed,” explains Mr La Grue. “I then go out and identify a number of potentials and visit them to asses first if they have the necessary capability and secondly to test whether they have the appetite and the passion to get involved.” Despite the pressures companies are under thanks to the recession, increasing regulation and diminishing margins, La Grue says Britain is relatively blessed with appropriate enthusiasm. “The flow of support for the project has gone against the flow of the recession,” he says.
He explains further, “This is because companies recognise the benefits to their own growth and sustainability that involvement offers. Bloodhound is an extraordinary, once in a generation engineering event. It is the fastest moving laboratory on Earth. It is a task which can stimulate staff and stimulate a market place. If your products have an application here there will be no better opportunity to showcase them.”