Gloucestershire headquartered Renishaw saw the official opening of its new 153,000 ft2 Innovation Centre in July, presided over by HRH The Princess Royal. It was a return visit by the royal visitor to the metrology, healthcare and additive manufacturing specialist, in fact; she was first at the Wotton-under-Edge location in October 1980. On that occasion, she opened an extension to the company’s first ever commercial premises in the town, when Renishaw employed 100 and turned over £2 million – today those numbers are more than 4,000 and £495 million.And, in addition to the formal opening of the new building on 7 July, on this second visit, HRH The Princess Royal was able to present the company with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in, appropriately enough, the Innovation category. It is the 18th such accolade the company has received since it was established in 1973, with this success being in recognition of the company’s Resolute encoder, the world’s first absolute optical encoder capable of 32-bit resolution at 36,000 rpm (http://is.gd/AX2UI9).

Representing an investment of £20 million, the Innovation Centre, which sees the transfer of a number of activities from the company’s other Gloucestershirelocations, features 40 meeting rooms, all named after British innovators. Primarily these are in the fields of science and engineering, but also innovators local to Renishaw’s headquarters site, such as William Tyndale (translated the Bible into English), Edward Jenner (pioneer of smallpox vaccine) and Sir Isaac Pitman (invented Pitman shorthand system).

ENGINEERING ICONS

The main conferencing facility in the new building is named after UK engineering icon Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was responsible for many iconic structures in the West of England, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the passenger steamship SS Great Britain. Other rooms are dedicated to significant innovators including Frank Whittle (jet engine), Michael Faraday (electricity pioneer), Ada Lovelace (computer programmer), Caroline Haslett (electricity pioneer), Charles Babbage (father of the computer), Alan Turing (mathemation and code breaker), William Caxton (early book printer) and George Stephenson (father of railways).

Said Renishaw co-founder Sir David McMurtry at the opening ceremony: “This excellent new building is a place which we hope inspires people and, whilst it is very much focused on the future and in helping Renishaw and our customers to achieve ever greater technology breakthroughs, we are also very keen to honour those British innovators who have helped us as a society get to where we are today.”

And he added: “The Renishaw Innovation Centre is one of a series of significant investments that we are making to secure our future growth here in the UK, and in our many overseas markets. This building on its own represents a £20 million investment and I would like to thank all of the Renishaw employees and our contractors who have worked incredibly hard to deliver such a high quality facility.”

In response, The Princess Royal offered: “It is a pleasure to open this new building and I’m sure that it will fulfil all the ambitions that you might have for it, but it certainly goes with my best wishes.”

Adding to this, and reflecting on her visit of 1980, she said: “It’s extraordinary how you have evolved that technology, which was so ahead of its time, into being such an integral part of pretty well what anybody wants to do, in terms of precision manufacturing; an astonishing achievement.

“The only thing that is missing from Renishaw, in a way, is that public perception of just how integral you are and just how important you are in so many things that people do and enjoy doing.”

The Renishaw Innovation Centre will house research and development and corporate services staff, as well as demonstration, training and conference facilities. The extra room is also enabling Renishaw’s spectroscopy and laser calibration product lines to relocate to the company’s headquarters site. The space vacated at the Old Town site in Wotton-under-Edge and the Woodchester site, near Stroud, will provide further expansion space. And there’s an additional 77,000 ft2 with planning permission available to the Innovation Centre, too.

The new facility is pivotal to the development of products that will drive global growth – the company invests between 14 and 18% of sales into R&D. But there are other expansions in the UK that will also support product development and manufacturing. Renishaw’s manufacturing operations are firmly rooted in the UK and, to a lesser extent, Ireland, it should be remembered, the company exporting more than 90% of its products by sales value.

During its latest financial year (1 July-30 June), Renishaw’s additive manufacturing business acquired and relocated into 90,000 ft2 facilities in Stone, Staffordshire, allowing for R&D expansion, the establishment of a customer solution centre and service facility, as well as providing space for a material development centre. Additive manufacturing machines are assembled at the company’s Miskin, Wales manufacturing plant. The company purchased a 461,000 ft2 facility there in September 2011 and has so far refurbished 135,000 ft2 of space (see www.machinery.co.uk/55815). There are plans to expand the Miskin site more generally. Renishaw has submitted a planning application for 1.74 million ft2 of development on the 77 hectare site. And in Ireland, the firm purchased additional properties adjacent to its Dublin manufacturing and assembly facility.

UK-developed and manufactured product requires global support, of course, and in the USA, Mexico and the Czech Republic during the last financial year, land has been purchased for offices to support sales and marketing operations. In Spain, the company acquired additional offices adjacent to its existing premises.

During its 2013/2014 financial year, the company expanded Renishaw GmbH, Germany, giving an additional 116,000 ft2 there for its subcontract additive manufacturing and other business activities, while in Asia, the company purchased property in Shanghai to accommodate growth in the Chinese market and provide headquarters for the Chinese region. But it all rests on innovation, support for which has clearly been given a major boost.

This article was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Machinery magazine.