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Geoff McGrath: Driven to win

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What is McLaren Applied Technologies? Isn’t McLaren primarily an automotive business?

McLaren Applied Technology is the newest company in the McLaren group. McLaren is best known for its success in Formula 1, but we also have an Automated Supercar business, a marketing business and an applied technology business. McLaren Applied Technologies exists to deliver breakthroughs in performance through technology and design. All McLaren businesses always have to fulfil the vision that we take our customer to a level of performance they didn’t think was possible. We’re as much driven to win as we are in racing, but the business has to be sustainable.

Can you give us a couple of examples of how F1-inspired technology has had an effect in wider business?

McLaren was a pioneer in the use of simulation. We built the simulator as a design tool. We have a high-performance programme where we offer teams across the spectrum of motorsport the opportunity to test, to design, to build vehicles in a simulated environment. We changed the way people design cars by making it far cheaper and less risky.

Another thing that’s had an effect on wider business are our performance data systems, or remote conditioned monitoring. What we do in racing is measure hundreds of parameters regarding the condition of a car during the race. This can be translated nicely to people. For example, measuring heart rate, breathing rate and so on to assess the position of an athlete during training can give the coach valuable insight to create an intelligent training programme. If we measure both the athlete and his bicycle, we can find out how they work best together. The intelligent use of data underpins every strategy.

We’ve developed this programme to help train our drivers to be like athletes and get the best performance. It’s all about physical strength, mental energy, nutrition, all things that are deeply relevant elements for high-performance teams in business.

Give us a glimpse of the future, and how McLaren-developed technology will change other industries and businesses.

The use of modelling and simulation will change the way we design goods and structures. Intelligence will be derived from systems embedded everywhere. The future challenge is not just to focus on capturing data, but to capture it intelligently and put it to good use. That’s easy to say but hard to do. Intelligent and immersive technology will will change the way we design products and interact with the infrastructure we use and live with. Technology will get smaller, more powerful and more available. In the context of business, embracing technology to change the way you compete is crucial.

Running a Formula 1 business is a high-intensity, fast-paced environment. Must all businesses, whatever they do, begin to learn lessons from such high-velocity environments?

Learning from high-performance environment to stay in the game is one of hot topics at the moment. We live in a far more dynamic world and we need real-time strategy in order to compete. With the fast pace of innovation, static models don’t work. To develop a culture of innovation, we have to be light, nimble and efficient.

The theme of this year’s Real Business Entrepreneurs’ Summit is “the growth challenge”. With the UK’s pedigree in automotive engineering, how confident are you that we can take the skills and knowledge base from this sector and put them to advantage across the UK economy?

We’re market leaders on a world scale in motorsport technology and have an advantage because the UK is a technology cluster in that space. The entrepreneurial spirit here provides a fairly unique opportunity to diversify into other fields.  

Geoff McGrath is the managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies, a company developed in 2004 by McLaren’s founder Ron Dennis. Speaking at the Entrpreneurs’ Summit 2012 in only a few weeks, McGrath, a compelling speaker, will be talking about this  vision and sharing lessons on how to deploy technology and data to drive a high-performance business. 

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