Aerospace engineer is pooling its resources at a £130m innovation centre on the edge of Coventry

A millennium ago north Warwickshire was in the family of Godgifu who, better known as Lady Godiva, became medieval England’s most acclaimed female streaker, riding naked through the streets of Coventry after a row with her husband the Earl of Mercia. During the Second World War it was where the Mosquito, the fighter-bomber, was built. And a decade later, at the height of the Cold War, it was where Britain developed its Black Knight ballistic missile.When in 2010 the Manufacturing Technology Centre, a concept of bringing the “makers” together in a figurative sandpit of new innovation, was opened in a field in Ansty, only a couple of hundred metres from the Rolls factory, it stood a little lonely.

Now, like the magnet it was meant to become, the MTC is surrounded.“Deconglomeration” is the (albeit ugly) word of the day and it is what Mr Wood has been doing since he arrived two years ago and became the boss at the turn of this year. The group is quitting automotive and general industrials to concentrate on aerospace.Mr Wood plans to scrap the conglomerate model of various products and different brands to create one integrated business. In Britain, that means putting all its capabilities under one roof: the design, engineering and manufacturing of high-tech aero engine cooling and heating systems, along with valve and sensor wizardry and braking systems for aircraft, that will mean the closure of plants around Coventry and Birmingham. Its legacy headquarters in Bournemouth is relocating to make Ansty Meggitt’s global HQ.For the sceptics who spy a danger in concentrating on an aerospace market that can have debilitating cycles, Mr Wood responds: “People talk about it as if it were one niche market. Aerospace is an enormous sector across commercial, defence, business and regional jets.For him, the choice of Ansty is emblematic: “The UK is 17 per cent of the world’s aerospace market and we can access those players here with the MTC. The geography is critical. It is complementary to the technology and technology ultimately comes out of the minds of brilliant people.

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“There was something really special about the opportunity to do this in the Midlands, [giving] the ability to get at a skilled workforce and to expand our modern apprenticeship programme that will replace the people that will retire over the next five years. We are a UK listed plc and it is right that we will have a significant presence in the UK.”

“The long-term macros based on population growth, on increasing numbers of people in the middle class who can buy an airline ticket, gives the industry its dynamics. We are a technology company, but we have been fragmented. If we spread ourselves too thin, we would allocate ourselves to too many markets.”

Its customers include the BAE Systems Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35 programmes for the British military; the Airbus A321neo; the business and regional jetmakers Gulfstream, Dassault, Bombardier, Embraer and the Cessna-maker Textron; and the engine makers GE, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Safran.

Meggitt, valued at nearly £4 billion and knocking on the door of the FTSE 100, employs 22,000 people worldwide. It traces its heritage back to Negretti and Zambra, founded by Italian migrants in London who made the world’s first altimeters for hot-air balloons. It became Meggitt Holdings after the acquisition of a Dorset-based firm of the same name.

Across a lake is the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre, pumping out industrial apprentices; along the way, the megashed of LEVC, the British subsidiary of Geely, the Chinese automotive giant, is rolling out a new generation of petrol-electric hybrid London black cabs; Rolls is still there and by the end of next year Meggitt will have arrived, too. According to Tony Wood, its chief executive, in more ways than one.

Today Ansty is becoming famous for something else: returning Coventry to the heart of British manufacturing. Next month, part of the old sprawling factories of Rolls-Royce will have been knocked down and the ground will be broken on a brownfield and greenfield plot, the size of seven football pitches, for a new £130 million supersite for Meggitt, the defence and aerospace technology supplier.

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Meggitt’s new centre at Ansty was where the Second World War Mosquito fighter-bomber was built. The company’s customers include Lockheed Martin which makes the F-35 stealth fighter.

 

Author Robert Lea, Industrial Editor

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