Bosses of a Warwickshire engineering facility set to create 2,000 jobs with a £250 million investment admitted they had to turn away prospective clients because they didn’t have the space to cope with demand.
Research and testing specialist MIRA has submitted plans for an engineering centre and improved technology park near Nuneaton to attract some of the top names in the engineering and communications sectors.
The move stands to create positions for workers who lost jobs through the demise of the likes of LDV and Rover.
Commercial director of MIRA Technology Park Terry Spall said the expansion was vital as the company was being forced to turn away firms offering to create jobs in manufacturing.
He explained: “The problem is we are at capacity. We can’t expand further without serious investment.
“We have actually lost companies that wanted to come here. There was a Chinese company that would have brought 200 jobs over three years but we didn’t have the facility to give them, so we lost it. That is why we are driving to create this technology park – to bring jobs.
“To meet all this in reality we have estimated £250 million of investment is needed, and the majority of that is going to come from private sector funding.”
MIRA hopes to create a total of 2,000 jobs with its plans for its 750-acre site near Nuneaton, which already houses bases for car giants Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Motors.
The plans include increasing MIRA’s own workforce at the site from 450 to about 1,000, and increasing turnover from £39 million last year to £100 million in a decade.
Mr Spall said demand was strong – including a 30 per cent increase in orders this year – but MIRA was being held back by its ageing headquarters.
“We have got a very secure strategy in place that will enable us to achieve our goals. But our current headquarters dates back to the 1950s and it is not what you would expect for a global automotive engineering company.
“Our strategy for the next 10 years is to build up to a £100 million business.
“We have plans to create a new flagship engineering centre which is in the region of a £50 million investment. It would be great to have that done by 2013, but there are lots of things for us to do to achieve that.
“The other side of the plan is a larger, much more modern, technology park. We hope that that will bring in some serious players in the automotive and telecommunications industries.”
He added: “I am hoping there may be displaced people from other companies who can find jobs. We are also focused on young people. Next year we are starting our Modern Apprenticeship scheme and graduate recruitment programme.”
MIRA was established in 1946, and was entirely Government-funded at the time. Its future was seen to be under threat in the 1970s when funding started to dry up but it has remained ever since and is now an entirely private business.
Mr Spall said the company had set itself a stable platform for growth by developing on its roots in the automotive industry and expanding its services into three areas.
“We have broadened the scope of the business,” he explained. “Traditionally people know MIRA for testing, but now that is a small part of the business.
“We are engineers. We start with a clean sheet of paper and we have the capability and the people to design a new vehicle right up to building and developing prototypes for performance targets.
“The breadth has increased dramatically.
“Secondly, there is sectoral diversification. You think of MIRA as automotive but we do a lot of work in the defence sector, working with the Ministry of Defence to make it safer for our troops.
“We also do a lot of work in the aerospace sector, as a lot of the technologies coming in transfer nicely. We have done lots of work on the Eurofighter project and the A380. MIRA is also very active in the railway sector.”
Mr Spall said the third factor is the internationalisation of the business. The company has established offices in areas of the world with growing engineering sectors – Shanghai in China, Seoul in South Korea, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Chennai in India and Bursa in Turkey. It is also establishing a base in Brazil and has plans to expand into North America.
As well as automotive firms, insurance ratings company Thatcham, and eight tyre companies, including Chinese firm Giti and Korean firm Kumho also have operations at MIRA.
Its technicians are specialists at low carbon engineering, as well as other cutting-edge transport technology including integrated transport systems (ITS).
Mr Spall explained: “ITS is a group of technologies which come together to give the vehicle the ability to communicate with other vehicles and the road infrastructure.
“The technology exists now for you to be driving in a big city, with lots of cars, and you could be coming up to a crossroads with low visibility and a high risk of an accident. The car can let the driver know this is happening and even stop the vehicle.”
Among the plans for the site near Nuneaton is a simulated city centre with 3G and mobile phone networks, to allow for ITS testing. The firm has lodged documents for planning permission and hopes work can begin next year.