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As second part to the article (the previous is at this link) there are three aspects to point out: 1) the global dynamics context opportunities related to SMEs rooted in Motorsport, 2) along this way of thinking several direct links that the Motorsport Industry has with principles and practices of current and future manufacturing (Industry 4.0) and 3) tools that SMEs can utilise in order to maximise at best the expression and profitable utilisation of know-how developed and in development.

“Motorsport Going Global” the book


Motorsport has historically been a sport and an industry driven at the national and only occasionally international level. Over the last few decades, along with many other sports and industries, motorsport , both as a sport and as an industry has felt the effects of globalisation.

Formula 1 has led the way, with races being held on an increasingly global playing field over the last few decades. The industry has followed suit, where once it was beholden to Italy’s Emilia Romagna, focus changed to UK’s Motorsport Valley, and in the new millennia, an increasing globalisation of the motorsport supply chain across Europe into Asia and the Americas.

Alongside globalisation has come industry diversification. Where once firms focused purely on the motorsport market, the realisation that the skills and competences inherent in motorsport have intrinsic value elsewhere, has led to motorsport firms entering new sectors as diverse as medical, aviation and defence.


As a more articulated example on how the Motorsport Industry can relate to other fields in a dynamic and profound way we look at one of the latest key developments in manufacturing.

This is represented by an overall productive system coined as ‘Industry 4.0 ”that can be defined as “the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector, driven by four disruptions: the astonishing rise in data volumes, computational power, and connectivity, especially new low-power wide-area networks; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems; and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world, such as advanced robotics and 3-D printing” (*).

Those aspects that characterise Industry 4.0 have been part and are active part of the Motorsport ways to work from a technological and human perspective; more in details:

Big data – high level motorsport one of the most intense environments for data capture. Military grade sensors capture every variable of a cars performance and feed it back across continents to team HQ’s where advanced analytics are undertaken in real time

Advanced analytics – undertaken in real time in a continuous feedback loop to improve the performance of the vehicle while in a real time race situation.

Human machine interfaces – the development of autonomous vehicles requiring a certain level of human oversight in specific circumstances is an area where motorsport firms TRL 4-7 (Technology Readiness Levels – see following paragraphs for additional information) capability can enable prototyping, and their long experience of one of the most extreme human/machine interacts offers opportunities for this technology to develop in an extreme environment – on the track.

Digital to physical transfer – F1 teams have been using 3D printers for a decade on site at races and off site at factories. High level motorsport is renowned for its rapid prototyping, this shortening production time, and the increased use of digital to physical plays into the existing skills set of high level motorsport.


Given this contextual, strategic and operational framework there are a series of technical managerial aspects a Motorsport Industry SME company needs to fine tue in order to utilise at best the opportunities that it can tackle:

  1. Define the identity of the company, in other words: a) define the vision (the why it exists), the long term scope, the purpose of the enterprise (and we have seen as almost by default many companies in this industry can broaden the scope even within a strong focus on specific outputs); b) define the mission (the what it does), relevant to the vision and last but not least c) define the values (the how), the behavioural principles feeding mission and vision.
  2. Gain awareness and relate the very own operations (from a strategic point of view) to the TRL (Technology Readiness Level); a measure developed by NASA suitable to identify the stages of development of an innovative product (for a practical case-studies illustration please look at the presentation that we made at a conference at London’s Regent’s University on the topic: MOTORSPORT INDUSTRY: DRIVING INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY DIVERSIFICATION
  3. Utilised some analysis tools (as for example SWOT, PESTLE, Porter’s 5 Forces analysis and Business Canvas) we specifically modified to the Motorsport Industry characteristics in order to shape up relevant Business Models concerning what is current and new scenarios relevant to the foreseen business development.

Overall this will empower the company to gain a new perspective on the own capabilities given on know-how already present and know-how that could be readily developed given the very own characteristics of these SMEs from a technological and cultural point of view (again see the presentation and case studies above mentioned).

article written with Tim Angus

Technical references and tools

(*) “Manufacturing Next Act” by Baur and Wee McKinsey and Company June 2015

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The field of high performance engineering, with a particular focus on the ones that relate to the Motorsport Industry, are going through global technological and business development changes. The right kind of mindset and strategic tools are essential to generate and utilise at best the opportunities that such changes generate.

Motorsport Engineering – Credits AME


The enduring troubles in the working relationship between McLaren and Honda have brought to the attention of pundits and general public alike that organisational culture’s ways to work do matter when trying to establish a strong cooperations among entities that belong to different cultural and mindset contexts.

Honda (appearing to have solved some of its performance and reliability troubles during the recent Malaysian Gran Prix) is betting again on its F1 future with a new partner, Toro Rosso. Lots of energy and positivity has been ritually declared within the announcement of the deal. James Key (Toro Rosso Director) has pointed out that “We look forward to a strong, stable and proactive partnership with our colleagues at Honda”, Takahiro Hachigo has stated “Everyone at Honda is looking forward to working with Toro Rosso, and we are excited to start this new chapter in our Formula 1 journey with them. (…) Honda and Toro Rosso will work as one team to strive for progress and a successful future together”. Two key words to watch for in these statements are ‘proactive’ and ‘one team’; if the two entities will manage to concretely put them into practice results will be reached.

On the organisational culture topic Honda’s Motorsport General Manager has pointed out that things did not work out with McLaren because clearly Honda failed to reach the set goals of performance (reasons for which we have written about in previous articles) yet quite interestingly he states “What we have learned from McLaren is that they have a long history, the company is pretty big, everything is systematic and everything is sorted out so may be we can apply those systems, the way of thinking, into our development”. At the same time he states “On the other hand McLaren is sometimes too systematic. Because of the system they have, it is sometimes difficult to make small tweaks for improvements – it takes a bit of time. May be with Toro Rosso, they are small enough to make changes quicker”.

Proactive, one team, a less systemic more flexible approach to change and development; they seem a possible recipe to reach targets that the ‘one-team’ will set. It is certainly evident that Liberty Media facilitated the deal in order to keep in F1 a relevant global automotive manufacturer. At the same time even this represents one of the many opportunities that is important to identify and catch.


In High Performance Engineering and Motorsport’s management terms all of this becomes meaningful because it points out that today working with companies internationally requires setting up cooperative dynamic synergies ready to face continuos changes (caused by factors as market dynamics, budgets, new series that are attracting investments) and this requires a strong sense of cultural awareness to be utilised as a leverage to success.

The question that any organisation should ask is: how do I need to create the specific value essential to a synergic success? To note that nowadays any lasting relationship with clients needs to be perceived from the perspective of a partnership where nothing is taken for granted.

In other words how know-how assets are integrated in such partnerships in order to generate overall value and growth for all (achieving results on track is in these terms a metaphor for achieving results on any given market).

Assumptions, at the roots of expectations, need to be spelled out from the beginning and rooted on facts and hard data as much as possible in order to integrate and synergies organisational cultures.


Recently Renault Sport Pierre d’Imbleval has illustrated a concrete example that illustrate these dynamics is the one relevant to the partnership between Renault Sport Formula One Team and Microsoft. Renault Sport has spelled out the key requirements: the need to use technology as an essential support to implement technical changes at an increasingly faster pace; the need to channel and elaborate at best data gathering; the need to share swiftly information among several departments in order to stimulate organisational cooperation. The pragmatism of Microsoft’s organisational culture has focused on these needs utilising technological solutions already available in its portfolio or customising new ones. All of this has strengthen Microsoft’s know-how by putting it to the test within one of the most challenging competitive environments while establishing in the process successful operational and branding synergies with Renault.


Change is constant and relevant in any market, high performance engineering and Motorsport Industry in particular because of its very own nature. The leveraging power of clear assumptions, expectations and organisational cultural awareness are key aspects to manage for any Small and Medium Enterprise wishing to grow through the development of solid long term synergies with global organisations of any size. Updating and upgrading the way that business strategies are developed is part of the entire process and it will be described in the upcoming second part of this article.

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Silicon Valley is the cradle of a unique way relevant to innovation, entrepreneurship and global business development. To note that this legendary geographical does not simply relate to the latest technological developments but also to the way they are stimulated and made grow through original business models and a business ecosystem that in terms of structure and mindset is arguably still unrivalled on a global scale. We have had the opportunity to talk to an Italian student that has recently had an in depth organised learning experience there.

Gianluca Biggi participated to a 2017 PhD+ programme and he was one of the winners. This gave him the opportunity to partecipate to an entrepreneurial training in Silicon Valley lasting 2 weeks in Menlo Park. This has been an enlightening experience from a professional and personal point of view. That kind of experience that are set to empower a new vision for the own professional path driven by: continuous learning, active knowledge sharing and never forgetting to stay ‘rooted to the ground’ while envisioning the future.

Tell us about your program at the Silicon Valley Business School during the TVLP (Technology Venture Launching Programme) course?

(Gianluca) “The course was held at Menlo College in Menlo Park and was characterised by frontal lectures by professors from the top universities in California, U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, and Santa Clara. Not only, we did lot of visits to the major firms and startups of the Valley and we participated to several networking events with managers and investors”.



(Gianluca) “To fully understand the scope of the experience in Silicon Valley, is important to focus to the evolution of this area and on what make it the largest technology ecosystem in the world. In the early twentieth century this area was known for the great quantity of orchards enough to make it the world’s capital of fruit. Progressively, with the onset of the Cold War, the war industry began to develop. The term Valley can be misleading, in fact, it is better to define this area as a large manufacturing district that includes many industries. The development of an area including 6 million of people with $ 600 billion of GDP has been possible thanks to the (fundamental) presence of important universities, venture capital funds, adequate infrastructures and a culture of attraction and integration from talented people from all over the world.

The trajectory of all this was the development of the semiconductor industry produced by legendary companies such as Fairchild semiconductor, INTEL and Signetics. All this was coupled with the growth of numerous venture capital facilities that founded tall those startups that could not get credit from the traditional banking system. Thanks to investments, continued research and development in the semiconductor industry between the 1970s and the 1980s led to the development of the mainframe computer industry and companies such as Apple, IBM and Sun Mycrosystem were created. Likewise, and thanks to the knowledge developed over the years, the next were characterised by the development of corporate software such as Oracle, VMware and Citrix until the 2000s characterised by the explosion of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn”.



There is a picture that was shown to us by the title “Silicon Valley Tech Innovation Ecosystem” during one of the lessons of the course and was in my opinion the most emblematic.

By meeting people working in Silicon, by visiting their offices and moving around this area, you can understand how this today represents an enormous technology ecosystem where the resources generated by people who succeed in business success, are constantly reinvested in new entrepreneurial initiatives.

About ecosystems, from an entrepreneurial point of view, would you be able to better describe the logic that drives investors and entrepreneurs in general?

Certainly, these are the aspects that most affected me. Let’s start from the notion that as far as the environment in which a startup is extremely competitive and the mortality rate of the latter is extremely high. Entrepreneurs and investors usually take into account a mortality rate of businesses around 98%, but despite all, they continue to invest looking for the new Google, Facebook or Uber. Another factor of great concern is the consideration of bankruptcy in the business environment. Many entrepreneurs yin Silicon Valley have launched the fifth, sixth or seventh startup and they “failed” in all. That is a factor that is not considered as a shame or is hidden, indeed, people tend to appear and parry before their “Defeated” than their “victories”. In this case, the lack of entrepreneurial success means only having acquired a wealth of knowledge to reduce the risk in subsequent economic initiatives, so investors (always paying due attention) privileged projects presented by people who in the past have been tempted more than a startup.

At first you talked about events where you got in touch with Valley entrepreneurs and investors, could you tell us something more?

Certainly, one of the typical activities that take place at the end of the working day are the networking meetings. Usually, they organise many “talks”, that is, events preceded by small refreshments where you are assisting in the intervention or a debate among the protagonists of Silicon Valley. The time before the talk is the most important part because people begin to meet and confront, exchange ideas, opinions and make important relationships in the workplace. The informality with which these meetings take place is truly extreme and none of the people I knew asked me anything about my qualifications, I was asked for information about my work experience.


Could you find a common element characterising the attractiveness of projects to Silicon Valley investors?

Obviously everything depends on the context, the type of background with which you are interacting, but, in general, the first thing that is observed is the so-called scalability (scalability means how easily you can expand your product and your business model). If a business project has no scalability in terms of unlimited users and pure replication of the launching country, it is difficult to take into account.

Could you talk about some meetings that impressed you?

Certainly, for sure meeting with Fred Cohen, one of the very first days of arrival. Fred is a 60-year-old man, one of the pioneers in the creation of computer viruses, specifically the one who invented the concept of computer virus and who created the first protection system from it, in short, invented the anti virus! Fred is a very famous person and is also known to be a great investor. Despite his great reputation, his tremendous financial standing had no problem with exchanging a few words with me without being pretentious or arrogant.

For now you have only listed positive aspects about your experience, can you tell us what did not convince you, and if you did notice some negative aspects?

Obviously, what has been said so far must keep in mind that the Silicon Valley’s economic miracle entails a number of important costs. First of all, the pressure on people (startup employees, executives, and the same founders) is difficult not to be overwhelmed by it. In any case it is a meter of a choice made of awareness. This is due to the fact that the context is extremely competitive, innovating continuously is an intrinsic part of the system not simply a last desperate resort of survival like in Italy.


After this experience, what about a Silicon Valley mindset in Italy? what can be done by younger generations like yours?

“Actually I have been thinking since my trip back to Italy and I have come to identify some key points that we, as younger generations, need to seriously consider in order to stimulate the Italian entrepreneurial system to grow in new effective ways related to the various social and economic complexity that are present today and will be more present in the future”.

During out conversation we have come to identify and elaborate these aspects summarising them in the following key points:

  1. Overcome a closed mind approach to change and other contexts;
  2. Overcome the ‘permanent job’ mindset;
  3. Overcome the fear of failure (no failure means no exploring and therefore not finding effective projects);
  4. Contribute to generate an informal vibrant access to investors’s network; in Silicon Valley investors have a very open and informal (yet totally pragmatic) mindset.

As Gianluca says: “Only if we manage to overcome these issues will we have the opportunity to create a better system for our businesses. But not only, I am convinced that a lot of successful guys which are our real wealth will not have to flee abroad in search of better conditions. If we try to open our minds by trying to think in a global perspective we will certainly get better results. We have also to take into account the progressive disappearance of the permanent job as a factor that can make us strive to think of different ways of finding employment. Lastly, but always connected to the issue of openness, it is important that organisations and networks of people who currently have large amounts of capital open to new initiatives by adopting a more informal and less elitist approach. Just by eliminating the fear of bankruptcy we might find a way to turn a project that has failed to take off in an experience that will help us in the next initiative!”

Gianluca’s generation has no doubt lots to offer in terms of skills and ideas needed to develop an economic system and their future; there are many barriers to do this, yet the overcoming of them starts from them mindset: awareness and focus that a mindset shift is needed for strong determined action. Experiences that like the one Gianluca had the opportunity to have can contribute concretely to that and we are sure that he seeks to actively discuss such topics in order to find some more people willing to develop such active views for the future.

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Fernando Alonso frustrations with the Honda power unit reached new peaks during last weekend Belgian GP. The situation has turned almost farcical; as Charles Bradley, Global Editor-in-Chief of reports: ‘Honda finds new way to frustrate Alonso.You could not make it up, as Honda found an all-new way to annoy Fernando Alonso in qualifying. Just after we marvelled at him taking Pouhon flatout, we got a familiar cry from the cockpit: “No power. No power. From Turn 11 to Turn 12. Half a second. How is this possible?” It was a rhetorical question, as we all knew who to blame. Honda’s systems got confused by Fernando not lifting at the double-left hander, and failed to deploy the 160bhp burst that it should have on the run to Fagnes. He missed out on a Q3 spot by 0.084s – even after the bold effort of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne to give him a tow.’

Regarding qualifying Alonso himself had bold statements to frame the current situation in the team as Pablo Elizalde, news editor reports: ‘The Spaniard looked set for a place in Q3 before he suffered a deployment issue with the power unit in his final run, meaning he lost over half a second and was therefore knocked out in Q2. Alonso, who was heard screaming “no power” on the radio, will start the race from 11th place. According to the two-time world champion’s calculations, he could have been quickest had McLaren’s not been hindered by the Honda engine’s lack of power around Spa. “We would have liked to be there but in general it was a very positive day,” said Alonso. “In Q2 until the final attempt we were 1.5 seconds off on a track where we know how much we are losing with the engine, so we would easily be in first and second positions.” He added: “The battery didn’t work and I lost six tenths from Turn 11 to 12. I was two tenths quicker than on the previous lap so I would have improved one or two more in the final sector, so we would have been in Q3 without any problems. “In the end, starting 11th with new tyres maybe gives us an extra opportunity so we’ll try to take advantage tomorrow.”

The next day, on Sunday, he has made a fantastic start reaching 7th position; it did not last long: he got passed by several cars in the straights of Spa with no need to use the DRS to pass him! Such the difference in power! While Alonso is arguably at the very top form of his career driving skills Honda keeps struggling, no matter what changes are made or announced…


Possibly Alonso frustrations could be somewhat mitigated if he would have had the opportunity to meet a top innovator and industrialist within the automotive industry; able to found from the ground-up a corporation that has been defined ‘the most automotive innovative company in the world’. This industrialist famously stated: “Success, can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents one percent of your work, which results only from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure.” The author of the quote is the late legendary founder of Honda: Soichiro Honda, a person that got along very well with Ayrton Senna during the glorious times of the McLaren-Honda partnership at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Mr.Honda was a very straightforward man, always looking for improvements and better performances of its creations. Possibly he could get along really well also with Alonso since he always sought feedback geared towards improvement. Honda has been repeatedly pointed out as one of the most advanced and innovative companies in the world as pointed out by the acclaimed book “Driving Honda. Inside the World’s Most Innovative Car Company” by Jeffrey Rothfeder. Is the Honda F1 power unit developing in the spirit of Soichiro (time is running out by now) or in actuality is the company unable to express its grip on innovation and continuous improvement that characterises the cultural legacy left by its colourful founder?


Honda has a unique corporate culture that has been set by principles inspired by Soichiro’s way of thinking and doing things in a pragmatic, data driven, challenge seeking and inner organisationally inclusive way. These are Eastern mindset derived principles that leverage upon several factors. Jeffrey Rothfeder has analysed and identified: ‘individual responsibility over corporate mandates; simplicity over complexity; decision making based on observed and verifiable facts, not theories or assumptions; minimalism over waste; a flat organization over an exploding flow chart; autonomous and ad hoc design, development, and manufacturing teams that are nonetheless continuously accountable to one another; perpetual change; unyielding cynicism about what is believed to be the truth; unambiguous goals for employees and suppliers, and the company’s active participation in helping them reach those metrics; freely borrowing from the past as a bridge to what Honda calls innovative discontinuity in the present’. Soichiro Honda set this way of thinking that has become part of his legacy for a company that has grown step by step into a successful corporation in which people still represent a key factor, in fact ‘Honda’s factories are the least automated among carmakers, yet Honda enjoys the highest profit margins’.

How can it be that an organisation characterised by such a distinctive culture, set to focus on decentralised problem solving and opportunity development, struggle so much on its F1 hybrid power unit project? When four years ago Ron Dennis promoted the new McLaren-Honda partnership it seemed that all was in place for a similar path (in the mid to long term) of the legendary repeated successes with Prost and Senna at the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s. This is not happening and besides possibly leading to the demise of Dennis from McLaren may actually lead Honda to eventually give-up on this currently draining F1 venture.


Some key organisational aspects recognized as representing barriers to an effective development are represented by practices directly derived from the legacy principles above mentioned: a) problems need to be solved in a decentralised way but leveraging upon their very own resources in a way that they can learn from these precious experiences (and failures); b) because of the intrinsic challenges that F1 technology has, traditionally the company has considered the racing context as a relevant training field for engineers set to develop their expertise and know-how within the automotive field. This means that the input of outsiders has traditionally been avoided.

In other words some aspects that represent assets in the development of Honda automotive projects are relevant barriers within the F1 ones; and what is happening right now has also happened in the past. Honda Racing F1 as a team raced from 2006 to 2008 and had Ross Brawn as Team Manager. As he points out in his recent book ‘Total Competition’: “they did bring me in and I guess that was a recognition that they had to change their approach. I think if you looked at the contrast between what would be the typical model of a successful Formula One team and what I perceive –and I am not that experienced –is a typical model of a successful Japanese company, they couldn’t be further apart. Therefore, when you have a Japanese company owning a Formula One team, it’s difficult –it’s almost two environments at their extremes. How do you bring them together to perhaps exploit the disciplines and philosophies and strengths of a Japanese company in the somewhat chaotic environment of a Formula One team and racing?”

Eric Bouiller, McLaren team racing director, in recent weeks has pointed out similar considerations relevant to the fact that Honda still needs to fully understand, and act accordingly, upon the organisational culture present in F1. “They only need one thing, which is to understand and integrate the F1 racing culture,” Boullier told Autosport. “What I mean by that is: the way we behave in racing and Formula 1 is all driven by a calendar, by some fixed targets, fixed dates, lap time gains; we always try to go to the best solution as fast as possible. “Where a car manufacturer is running a project, you can have a few weeks delay and it’s not going to change the product, it’s not going to change the business model. “In racing, if you don’t bring your upgrade for race one, in race one you will be nowhere. “That is this racing mentality. It’s as far as going to suppliers and making sure that if they do something in one month, the next time they do it in three weeks, and from three weeks to two weeks. “We value more the time gained than the money spent. This is a different approach from the rest of the world.”

Notwithstanding Honda’s approach to continuous improvement, the corporate approach, is quite far away in its implementation from the F1 one that it is needed.


First of all it is to be noted that from a technical point of view from the beginning of the F1 project Honda has taken an unique original perspective on the power unit design and development. This does match the spirit of the company legacy but at the same time has hindered the effectiveness of the project mostly within a context in which testing restrictions and the token system have no doubt represented a barrier to the power units effective development. After several organisational restructures within the F1 operation and after opening up to external cooperation and help (at one point it was rumoured that even Mercedes came to the technical rescue of their project!) it seems a fact that the UK based engine specialist Illmor has been cooperating with Honda to solve issues more rapidly.

It appears that at the Belgian GP it has not been possible to utilise the latest project upgrade that has been rumoured as output from this cooperation. It has also been pointed out that Honda’s commitment to F1 is ever increasing with an expanded and more independent (from the corporate system) site in Brackley. These decisions have been taken also in order to become suppliers to other F1 teams (in itself a way to accelerate project development) yet initial talks with Sauber and Toro Rosso have gone nowhere and there are still question marks about the partnership with Honda. The next races are going to be no doubt crucial to the overall project, as time is running out fast; ‘too little, too late’ could be the right kind of expression in this context.


Organizational culture is the way to think through and do things on a daily basis, it is an action mode. It is always present whether or not it is openly affirmed. The key issue is that the more we are aware and we articulate it openly the more we can fine tune it to leverage on it effectively towards the set goals. In many ways Honda’s declared organisational culture seem to be matching in some aspects factors that are required in the fast paced, pragmatic, data driven F1 environment; in many others there is a clearly a mismatch of focus and overall objectives. Arguably a key issue here for the company is to push its legacy into the ever more complex context of business development towards ever more challenging targets; this is true both within the F1 environment as well as the automotive one that is set for a radical new technological and business model dawn.

Legacies relate to values and values to be maintained and respected within new environments need new operational ways that still pivot on them. Honda with this current F1 project has the opportunity to utilise these experiences to upgrade the overall organisational culture; this would be in the spirit of the values and legacy set by Soichiro Honda. Yet as Bouiller has pointed out, time is the crucial factor in F1 and time (the implementation of innovation to market) is increasingly the crucial factor also in automotive.

As Ross Brawn states: “In terms of innovation and technology being applicable to modern road cars, I think a good crossover is methodology. I think culture is the thing that definitely crosses over.” “the culture and ‘can do’ philosophy in Formula One is really strong. When I have worked with manufacturers, with Ford, Honda or Bridgestone, certain companies took advantage of Formula One by placing their engineers into this environment. It was part of the training of their engineers.”

Time will tell if Honda catches this learning opportunity from the F1 culture; recently it has been reported that the corporation is in need of new approaches different from the ways it has been operating until now. A very recent article published in Bloomberg with the title ‘Honda’s Solo Act Turns Risky in the Alliance-Happy Auto Industry’ should sound as an alarm bell to top management.

Given all of this dynamics it is going to be interesting to follow Honda’s organisational culture moves both in F1 and in automotive (and in both cases the time frame relates much more to the short rather than the mid term).

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How motorsport firms easily leverage expertise and knowledge from and to other sectors

Motorsport engineering firms are well known for their technical expertise and project management skills, particularly in the latter case around their speed of working. Their technical expertise comes from dealing at the cutting edge of science and technology in areas as diverse as light-weighting, electronics and thermal management for example. Motorsport firms also exemplify leading edge project management capabilities given the rapid turnaround of the motorsport timetable. In this case the latest technical developments are needed not next year or next month, but usually the next week or even the next day,

Facts from history

Over the history of motorsport in the post war era, there are many examples where motorsport firms have taken a leading edge technology from another industry, for example aerospace, and developed it rapidly and effectively for use in motorsport. Think, for example, of Dunlop disc brakes on Jaguar sports cars in the 1950s or McLaren’s use of composites in monocoque chassis construction in the early 1980s (link to aerospace through Hercules Industries).

F1 McLaren’s MP4/1 in 1981 – picture credits to Red Lobster

There has always been a debate within the motorsport industry whether new technology is invented within motorsport or whether motorsport engineering is less about the pure science of invention and more about the adaption of existing technologies for specific use within motorsport.

Project management and technical expertise leverage

We would like to suggest instead that over the last decade or so, it is the key competence that motorsport firms have in their project management skills , as much as it is it is about their blue sky technical expertise.

As we mentioned above, the extremely demanding timescales of motorsport, particularly at the upper echelons of professional motorsport, require firms to work to very short timescales that larger firms cannot reach or even aspire to. The demands of new developments for the next race, which is not next year, but next weekend, have developed a culture of working, together with advanced project management skills that have become a key selling point for the capabilities of motorsport firms.

The link with OEM and Universities

Increasingly, in a business environment where project delivery requirements become ever faster, it is these skills which motorsport firms are selling into other key industry sectors. Think of the rapidly changing environment in the automotive industry, for example, where light-weighting, hybrid engine technologies and electric power and storage are being forced along at an ever increasing rate by regulators and customers.

The ability of large OEMs to produce basic R&D in these areas, often in cooperation with leading Universities may satisfy one area of the product cycle. But before going to market OEMs are in need of firms to conduct low production run prototypes, to test the new technology, before moving to large scale production runs and going to market.

Ready to leverage on your key business asset?

Low production run prototypes, produced on short timescales with high technological content, doesn’t that sound like the average day in the life of a motorsport firm to you?We are ready to stimulate and participate to the debate with motorsport industry organisations by actively and methodically supporting this flow of knowledge as a key business asset.

by Tim Angus and Riccardo Paterni

Posted in: Innovation

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