Adrian Moore talks ‘Clusters'
Development Manager and Chair of the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster
As the Business Development Manager for manufacturing and Chair of the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster I’m often asked about the concept of clustering, what it really means and in particular what the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster is all about. To the man in the street the word cluster conjures images of breakfast cereal or weapons of mass destruction!
In the manufacturing world and especially in the aerospace industry the importance and function of clusters is well known. They are fully appreciated as a powerful way of putting into practice a principle first conceptualised by Aristotle – ‘The whole is more than the sum of its parts.’
Leading business strategist Michael Porter proposed that in business, the cluster can be described as a geographic concentration of interconnected businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions in a particular field. Clusters are considered to increase the productivity with which companies can compete, nationally and globally.
The manufacturing industry in the UK has taken a hit over the last 100 years. However due to the unfortunate economic events centred around financial services over the last few years, manufacturing in the British Isles is ‘trending’ again.
In truth it always has been important to those of us who have trained in engineering, manufacturing and science and technology but now it is politically ‘hot’ again. The overriding culture of the last 2 decades, that money makes money, has reverted once again to the primeval notion of taking a raw material and adding value to it using skill and ingenuity to create a desirable product to sell. This is the concept that made Britain great, our islands wealthy and our products and inventions the envy of the world for such a long time.
When companies decide to enter the world of manufacturing they are understandably protective of their idea, designs, methods and contacts. They can go to great lengths and expense to protect their ideas via patents and copyrights and may even choose to conduct their business in an area which is considered safe from those who might seek to steal this collateral and replicate it.
They are therefore naturally reserved and choose their business partners carefully to try and protect their intellectual property. This issue can also affect their attitude to staff, recruitment and further deter them from mixing with other businesses in their region due to the competition for skills in that area. In engineering in particular this is becoming more and more of an issue all across the world due to a shortage of newly qualified craftsmen, technicians and technically biased management talent.
In 2006 the aerospace sector in the Isle of Man, built on the strong foundations already in place with the local Chamber of Commerce and the Isle Of Man Government, formed the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster.
This sector already had a strong 60 year heritage of design and manufacture for the civil and military markets but over this time had never really capitalised on the power of working together as a sector. We already knew each other of course but the culture of sharing ideas, contacts, expertise and even resources had not really been exploited.
It became clear very quickly that we all had something to offer such a partnership. A culture of openness and working together soon began to flourish based on the premise that if everyone brings their knowledge and experience to the table then the ultimate outcome would be benefits for all.
After all, if businesses join an organisation motivated purely by “what’s in it for me?” the pot will very soon run dry and the opportunity will die on the vine.
Over the last few years the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster has made a big difference to the way the sector works. It has created benefits which every member can capitalise on and supported impressive growth.
An innovative collaboration between the sector and the Isle of Man College has enabled the sector to influence the way we train the engineers of the future. This approach has grown into a government supported project to build a new engineering training academy, with a significantly increased student capacity, all borne from an early initiative which puts an engineer in the Island’s schools to increase awareness of careers in engineering (the ACE Programme).
We have created a business improvement programme based on a Rolls-Royce model of excellence, joint purchasing and shared services initiatives which save money, cluster networking events and exhibited at some of the world’s biggest events, raised money for charities, won awards and even put components on Mars! Most significant is the fact that little of this costs additional money.
We don’t have a huge budget, use outside consultants or spend money on extensive advertising. We use our collective knowledge, contacts and passion for our industry to help each other and as a result the sector is projecting huge growth, we have already increased employment by 32% since formation and we are attracting many international businesses to expand or relocate join us. Clustering can be explosive!
Please visit www.whereyoucan.im/aerospace for further details on the Isle of Man’s thriving aerospace sector.