Meet The Manufacturer Top 100 2019 Exemplars – 4: Joern Behrenroth

Posted on 31 Jan 2020 by The Manufacturer

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.

Joern Behrenroth, Managing Director of FEV UK

Joern Behrenroth
Joern Behrenroth, Managing Director of FEV UK

FEV is a global engineering company focused on the development of automotive powertrains, with hybrid and electric vehicles very much a part of their future.

Joern Behrenroth didn’t have much clue about his own future when he left university in East Germany with an engineering degree in 1995, but he did know he wanted to visit the UK.

The EU Erasmus programme set him up with six months studying at King’s College, London, and the die was cast.

He went back to Germany to finish his studies and then went to work for Bosch (whose founder Robert Bosch, the inventor of the spark plug, is one of Joern’s engineering heroes). His English language skills earned him a ticket back to the UK to manage Bosch customer relations here. There followed stints at Rover (when it was owned by BMW) and Ricardo before opening the UK arm of the German FEV in 2014.

He has grown FEV UK from a small team to working with many of the UK’s top car companies. “I look at this building which four years ago was just a patch of grass and I say, ‘Yeah, we were nothing. Now we are an accepted business partner for these companies. The research is working, we are resolving our production problems and that’s brilliant.”

The Manufacturer Top 100 Logo 2019 - For Use in Slider BarCelebrating seven years of inspirational industry leaders

Launched 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.

Joern’s greatest achievement to date is the opening this year of the C-ALPS (Centre for Advanced Low Carbon Propulsion) in partnership with Coventry University, a ground-breaking move that puts FEV at the centre of the development of the UK’s automotive future. He managed the project from concept to fruition, including overseeing the creation of a state-ofthe-art new test centre.

“We looked at how FEV in Germany works closely with universities and decided to do that here. In Aachen (FEV’s global HQ in Germany) they work really closely with the university there. PhDs work with them on preproduction projects. They then finish their PhDs and join FEV. That’s really what we’re trying to achieve with Coventry University.”

It is an imaginative way to create a reliable talent pipeline, if expensive – C-ALPS cost £50m in joint funding with Coventry University and Innovate UK. But Joern sees no alternative. He is quite frank about the weakness of the UK apprenticeship system compared with Germany’s.

“Every company there above a certain size has to train apprentices, supported by the local education infrastructure. In the UK, we have a battery testing project that will need 20-30 technicians, and there’s nobody out there with the training or qualification. It’s a challenge, definitely a challenge!”

In their own words

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be open-minded about what is possible. In East Germany, I had no idea I would end up working in the UK with a fantastic team in a company like FEV.

What is your favourite engineered/manufactured product?

Electric guitars and amplifiers. They are a great combination of traditional design with modern technologies, purely for entertainment.

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

Despite living in the Midlands, I love surfing, so clearly my dream job would be working as a sound engineer in a recording studio by the sea.

To learn more about FEV UK, why not catch up on the company’s recent £50m collaboration with Coventry University to help decarbonise future transport systems – Centre for Advanced Low Carbon Propulsion Systems: Powering the future

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).