Meet The Manufacturer Top 100 2019 Exemplars – 17: Murray Thomson

The Manufacturer Top 100 is a project that showcases the most dynamic leaders, young pioneers and unsung heroes working in UK manufacturing, all of which have been nominated by their peers.

Among the Top 100, however, our judging panel chose 20 individuals for special recognition. We call them ‘Exemplars’ – those who have exemplified remarkable leadership, daring or innovation within their respective field, and who set the direction of travel as we head into the new decade.

Murray Thomson, System Design Authority, BAE Systems

Murray Thomson, System Design Authority, BAE SystemsMurray Thomson always knew he wanted to be an engineer. “I’d been around engineering while growing up – my father ran his own NDT (non-destructive testing) consultancy. I enjoyed making things and understanding how things worked.”

Even so, he was unsure which direction his love of engineering would take him, so he studied for a Master’s degree in Sports Engineering at Bath, which gave him a grounding in materials and applied science, and that did at least draw him into a year of industrial placement with QinetiQ’s applied materials division, but he knew he wanted more.

“When I left university, I lacked the clarity of direction that might have come with more a discipline-specific degree such as aerospace, rail or automotive engineering, but gravitated towards a large business in a historical centre of naval engineering – Portsmouth – with a reputable graduate scheme.

“The job has continuously offered me new challenges, so 11 years later I’m still here!”

That large business is BAE Systems, whose graduate scheme Murray joined in 2008, becoming a fully-fledged member of the Underwater Weapons team in 2011, working on the Spearfish heavyweight torpedo for the Royal Navy, then rising through the ranks to become warhead and firing chain coordinating design authority and then qualification control account manager in 2016.

For all his obvious success, the fact that he didn’t learn pure engineering at school or university meant that he had much to learn on the job.

Celebrating seven years of inspirational industry leaders

The Manufacturer Top 100 Logo 2019 - For Use in Slider BarLaunched in 2014, The Manufacturer Top 100 publicly recognises the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing.

Published by The Manufacturer, in partnership with Cranfield University, one of the country’s top centres of business education, the project is helping to dispel widely-held myths that vibrant manufacturing in the UK is a thing of the past.

Click here to make your nomination for The Manufacturer Top 100 2020, and to download a copy of the 2019 publication.

“I’ve had to learn how to apply a generalist engineering approach to the challenges of my work without always appreciating the true intricacies. This then developed my ability to rely on other people (which doesn’t come easily as an engineer) and manage the resources available to me.”

Perhaps he is too modest. In 2015, he became a Chartered Engineer at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), a privilege he ranks as one of the greatest achievements of his career to date. It has been on a steady trajectory upwards since then.

“I am also acutely aware of the industry-wide age/demographic void and am a keen supporter of developing a young and diverse workforce. The engineering industry relies on these guys for our future!”

Murray believes young people not only need to receive core STEM educations, but must also develop the leadership skills our volatile, technologically disruptive future will demand.

“Resting on our laurels and doing things ‘the way we’ve always done them’ is a dangerously static approach to any industry. Innovation, dynamism and flexibility truly are the differentiators that allow us to drive engineering forward.”


In their own words

What is your favourite engineered/manufactured product?

The reusable Space X Falcon 9 rocket system. The ability to design, develop and prove such a complex disruptive technology in such a short space of time is truly inspiring.

Please give one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know

I’ve been a sponsored skateboarder, a house renovator and the resident office doughnut disposal unit.

If you weren’t in manufacturing what would be your dream job?

I find my job the perfect balance of interesting, engaging, challenging and varied. It allows me the opportunity to do all the non-work things that I enjoy and provides that elusive work-life balance.


The Manufacturer Top 100 is produced in partnership with Cranfield University – one of the country’s top centres of business education, and low-cost talent partner, Trust Hunter Ltd (Hunter).