14 multinational companies with technology research centres in the South West

From state of the art supercomputers to a website created before the internet, meet the big players choosing to locate their R&D centres in the West of England
29th June 2017

Inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath has brought a plethora of world-renowned tech and engineering organisations to the West of England. From working with international primes in aerospace to attracting companies working in emerging technologies including robotics, AI and VR, Invest Bristol & Bath has been a key part in making our city region what it is today. And, without such a thriving tech cluster, TechSPARK couldn’t do what we love to do!

We’re thrilled Invest Bristol & Bath are coming on board as a Gold Sponsor at our upcoming SPARKies award ceremony and to celebrate some of the great work it has done, we’ve taken a look at the multinational companies who have established strong research & development (R&D) centres in the region.

Airbus

Airbus has a production site located in Filton in Bristol whose main role involves “wing assembly and equipping the A400M multi-role airlifter”. The engineers at Filton do everything from design to construction of the models for the wings, fuel systems and landing gear integration. And all the research the team are doing is paying off; Airbus has just announced plans for the A380plus to improve the efficiency and aerodynamics of the world’s largest airline to save on cost as well as fuel.

The company also sponsored Venturefest Bristol & Bath back in 2015, proving that it’s also dedicated to supporting the region.

The Bristol Eco-flyer: A two-seater electric aircraft with zero emissions developed by the Airbus graduate programme

 

Airbus now employs over 4,500 people on its Filton sites and has successfully delivered more than 8,900 aircraft to 370 customers worldwide – so you can safely say it’s putting Bristol on the map.

Altran

Engineering and innovation company Altran UK now has two offices in Bristol and one in Bath. The company is passionate about supporting the aerospace and defence organisations the South West is currently home to – its most recent office is intentionally located at the BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre in Filton, an area rapidly becoming a hub for aerospace development; even more so now as the Aerospace Bristol Museum opens.

Mike Simms, CEO of Altran UK, explains: “We have been building our presence here over the course of many years and established ourselves as a trusted delivery partner of some of the biggest names in UK aerospace and defence, providing them with engineering and technical support on an array of award-winning projects.

“The opening of this new Bristol office is our latest step in developing a South West regional centre of excellence for engineering and innovation. It will enable us to deliver an even greater breadth and depth of support to our clients, and sends out a clear message that we are an employer of note in this important region.”

Altran is eager to be a part of Bristol’s vibrant community – they even had a stand at our recent SPARK Skills Festival.

BT

BT has had its operation centre for the entire UK in Bristol for decades. In that time, BT has done a lot for the city and now it’s teaming up with 5G engineers from the Universities of Bristol and Lund and National Instruments (NI) to start work on the next generation of mobile phone technology.

Mark Beach (pictured right), Professor of Radio Systems Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Manager of Bristol’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Communications explains why this is such important research: “Massive MIMO is a key technology for 5G and the research team’s achievements last year with massive MIMO arrays, which are cellular base stations with more than 100 antennas, demonstrates that this technology could deliver ultra-fast data rates to high densities of smartphones and tablets.”

If results are as fruitful as hoped, then this new network will be 10 times faster than today’s 4G systems!

Civica (and IPL)

Civica aims to support its clients through providing a wide range of, “business-critical software, digital solutions and technology-based outsourcing services”. Based in Bristol and Bath, its partnership with national, regional and local governments to yield excellence in education, health care and public safety creates a better environment for us all to live in.

IPL is now a part of Civica but brought a lot to Bath in its own right previously. The digital innovator IPL designed and built the ironically named CRASH system, short for ‘Collision Recording And SHaring’.

This is a platform that collects data about road collisions from police forces across England and Wales to identify accident ‘black-spots’. As a result, the Department for Transport, Highways England and local authorities can work collaboratively to improve safety regulations to the road network.

Cookpad

Cookpad has been succeeding in Japan since 1997 as the largest recipe sharing platform in the world, facilitating connections between 100 million people every month. It has now been translated into 18 languages and is now making its mark on the rest of the globe.

Miles Woodroffe, CTO at Cookpad, tells us, “We chose Bristol, UK for our new Global HQ because of the great connection to farming and agriculture, outstanding food culture, along with its world-class technology, arts and creative communities.

“We’re actively building our product and technology team in Bristol now and looking for world-class, mission-driven web, app and machine learning engineers, designers and product managers to join us!”

And they mean that; you can check out the vacancies Cookpad is looking to fill here.

Cray

High-tech patrons, Cray, are propelling Bristol rapidly forward when it comes to our computer expertise.

Last year, Cray made Bristol the home to a new supercomputer with over 80,000 processor cores. Named the Cray CS400, this supercomputer was installed at the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) on the Bristol & Bath Science Park.

Sam Paice, Chief Operating Officer at CFMS tells us more, “With modelling and simulation at the core of product development, providing a technology platform that enables rapid innovation and supports the acceleration of engineering design capability is central to our vision.

“It was paramount to select a technology partner at the forefront of high-performance computing, and with whom we can develop a collaborative partnership beyond the technology, and support our strategic vision.”

Cray also decided to launch its European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) R&D lab in Bristol. The company wants to take advantage of the talent in the region to expand its leading research in designing, manufacturing, selling and supporting the most advanced supercomputers.

Dyson

Excitingly, Dyson has recently announced plans to launch a multi-million-pound innovation hub in the South West. As well as expanding Dyson’s R&D footprint tenfold in the UK, it’s set to create thousands of new jobs for the region and provide a global platform to show off how the South West is home to such a wealth of engineering talent.

Dyson does a lot more than just make vacuums – it’s also trying to clean up the mess of the skills shortage through the James Dyson Award and opening the Dyson School of Engineering in 2015 too.

This degree doesn’t follow the traditional format but instead combines the best bits of an apprenticeship with a degree. Students will be paid a salary wage whilst working on Dyson’s projects and will earn a bachelor of engineering degree from the University of Warwick’s manufacturing centre without paying the crippling tuition fees.

 

IBM

IBM has been contributing hugely to the strength of our tech cluster ever since it landed here in the 1990s. And it’s not content with hiding in the background either – IBM is a company eager to interact and inspire others, participating in many events across the South West, such as the Online Influence Conference, to shout about all the great stuff they’re doing with data.

With its newest AI software, Watson, the things IBM can do with data just reached new heights. This latest technology platform can take natural language and make sense of unstructured data using machine learning. Before its creation, only people could do this.

IBM is offering a true helping hand to businesses as they say: “No human alone can read, see, feel, hear, and make sense of all the data transforming their work and profession.” This all changes with Watson.

IMDb

IMDb is a world renowned website for all you need to know about film – be it the actors, actresses, directors or the motion picture itself.

This multi-million-pound website has one of the most humble beginnings out there. IMDb began 25 years ago as founder Col Needham’s own personal resource for critiquing his favourite films; he never considered it would soon become the world’s movie resource.

Col tells us how it all began: “I would type in the director, the writer, the producers and the main cast just for my own use. Ridiculously geeky, but it worked out alright in the end! I’ve been tracking everything I’ve seen for the last 37 years and in that time I have seen 10,315 unique films.”

And now, IMDb has introduced the ‘F-rating’ on its site. As it’s such an influential source in modern day film, we hope this will encourage greater gender equality in the film industry.

The site has grown from strength to strength since its origins, welcoming 250 million unique users a month and having two offices in America. But Col hasn’t let his roots go; IMDb’s organisation base remains at Castlemead Tower in Bristol where the founder often visits.

Here at TechSPARK, we commend Col’s work so much so that we’ve shortlisted him for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award at The SPARKies. This award is to celebrate an individual who has had a positive long-term impact on strengthening the tech cluster in the South West. If you can’t make it to find out if Col is successful, why not download The SPARKies App?

 

Just Eat

This tech-fanatic food ordering company opened its first Bristol office 2 years ago. The former CTO of Just Eat chose to launch an Innovation Hub at the Engine Shed tech incubator in order to begin Just Eat’s journey into the world of technology.

Since then they’ve been working so hard it’s a challenge to keep up! From HoloLens’ to chatbots to Amazon Alexa, Just Eat is slowly revolutionising how we order food.

But why Bristol? Well, Ben Glynn, the Principal UI Engineer at Just Eat, praises Bristol for its wealth of expertise: “There seems to be no end to creative and digital talent in the region.”

The team are also eager to give back to the city. Ben tells us: “My favourite thing is probably our relationship with the University of Bristol. I’ve been working quite closely with their computer science undergrads, we’ve been doing regular mentoring that’s part of their studies,” says Ben Glynn. “There’s a combination of me looking at it from a UX point of view and their assessors looking at it from a computer science point of view but it’s all really good, the lecturers are all really up for it.”

And it doesn’t stop there – if you’re looking for a venue to hold your tech event at, Just Eat encourages you to contact them as there could be an opportunity to use Just Eat’s rather impressive offices!

Nokia

Nokia has been implementing its influence in Bristol for almost a decade now. It bought billing software developer Apertio in 2008 and has built a strong connection with the University of Bristol, so it was no surprise when it joined smart city project Bristol is Open (BiO) in October 2016.

Cormac Whelen, Head of UK and Ireland at Nokia explains why they made the decision to launch a series of projects here: “We chose Bristol Is Open because it has an advanced understanding of the technology involved in the smart city of the future.”

Nokia was attracted to the ambition and motivation Bristol as a whole has towards building a smart city. The company is set to bring a lot to Bristol as it has pledged to contribute funding, technical staff and expertise from the tremendously successful Nokia Bell Labs as part of several pioneering technology trials over the next three years with BiO.

Projects will cover a plethora of aspects of tech including hardware, software and wireless. The first trial is currently underway and involves looking at video analytics from Bristol’s CCTV system consisting of over 1,700 cameras.

Oracle

This multinational computer cloud technology corporation chose to establish its South West offices in Bristol – and it has now decided it’s about time to give back to the city.

Oracle is in the midst of launching its first ever UK Cloud Startup Accelerator, designed to take nationwide cloud startups under the wing of its expert R&D team for 6 months.

The aim is to propel these budding ideas into the near future through providing access to 420,000 enterprise customers around the world.

Reggie Bradford, Senior Vice President at Oracle’s Startup Cloud Accelerator, recently told TechSPARK, “It’s not your traditional ‘accelerator’; we really see this as a next-generation acceleration initiative. Of course it has all the support of a traditional program but we put a focus on peer-to-peer interactions across our Oracle resources, especially our R&D teams and with business development.”

Renishaw

The South West has quickly become a hub for aerospace technology, with Renishaw bumping shoulders with the likes of BAE Systems, Airbus, Altran and Rolls-Royce.

Renishaw is certainly not a one-trick pony either. It has expertise in measurement, motion control, healthcare, spectroscopy and manufacturing – so it can proudly call itself a world-leading engineering and scientific technology company. Renishaw strives in providing cutting-edge technology to all the sectors it throws itself into; anything less than total customer satisfaction isn’t sufficient for this company.

And Renishaw doesn’t just take a backseat when it comes to giving back to the community. Its collaboration with the Colston Hall to create an educational music tech project has seen huge successes since it first began. The scheme, called ‘Beat Lab’, takes on 800 children each year to introduce them to the world of combining engineering skills and creativity.

Toshiba

Toshiba is amongst the many computer solutions companies that have R&D centres in the South West. The global organisation prides itself on its collaborations with truly good causes. Some of the projects the Bristol’s Telecommunications Research Laboratory team worked on include ICeWater, IES Cities and DIWINE.

ICeWater aims to, “increase the stability of freshwater supply to citizens in urban areas by adjusting the water supply to the actual consumption while minimising energy consumption through smart-grid integration and water spillage through leak detection”, whilst DIWINE has a great tech focus. The latter project takes on the mission to find a new approach to wireless networking to improve energy efficiency – so good things all around for Toshiba in the South West!

Thanks to all the companies mentioned – and keep up the good work! If you were thinking of moving to the region yourself, check out Invest Bristol & Bath’s website.

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