Behind the Booth: Stories from the show floor – Meet Pim van Baarsen, CEO at Silverstone Technology Cluster

30 & 31 October 2024

NEC, Birmingham

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30 & 31 Oct 2024 | NEC Birmingham

Behind the Booth: Stories from the show floor – Meet Pim van Baarsen, CEO at Silverstone Technology Cluster

Welcome Pim!

  • Could you share some insights into your career path and what leaded you to be part of the Silverstone family?

Growing up in Holland, I very early identified the area surrounding Silverstone as the world leading area for advanced engineering, which the research we did back in 2016 reaffirmed. I tailored my school path to bring me over here as best I could and through working for some fantastic companies I eventually got asked to head up the STC, which was, and still is, a great honour and something I very much enjoy.

  • Why do you feel it’s important to get involved with bringing the industry together at Advanced Engineering?

Believe it or not, people need to meet face-to-face to get deals done. They even quite like it! Seriously, we’re all guilty, particularly since the pandemic, of falling into the trap that communication is by email or text only, then things getting lost in translation and then realising actually we used to meet for a coffee, around a table or in a workshop or factory, physically show off what our capabilities are and really talk detail. That is how people click and how the best deals get done and the show is a great reminder of that – and also of just how strong the UK engineering and manufacturing scene is. It gives all the industries and sectors within the tech sphere a buzz.

  • You’ll be back again this year as VIP lounge sponsor and with the innovation zone, have you begun preparations yet? Is there anything you can tease?

We’ve already announced that our combined VIP Lounge and Innovation Zone will be the biggest yet. The VIP Lounge is a natural magnet for people to meet, chat and potentially do business there on the spot and the extra space means we can accommodate even more people over the two days. This is really good for our members who are exhibiting in the Innovation Zone as it means they are rubbing shoulders with more guests – many of whom are there looking for potential partners.

  • Let’s talk more about the industry,  do you think there are any industry-specific challenges or opportunities in the UK market that your projects or initiatives address?

The skills gap. That is a major concern and something I highlighted in my presentation at the STC’s Innovation & Growth Conference last November (which can be viewed here: ), shortly after Advanced Engineering, and why we have introduced a new workstream to help industry address those concerns. It’s something that should be high on the agenda of any show or conference as the harsh reality is that it will fall to industry – the businesses and the various bodies – to make real change. And we have to – otherwise the future is not looking too rosy for many businesses, with a dire lack of engineers for the future.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There is time for us to work this out, but it needs a collective effort across industry. We’d very much want to play a role in that with others thinking the same way.

The Silverstone Park Schools Programme, which majors on tech-based careers, is a great example of what can be achieved. This brings together people from tech businesses willing to volunteer their time to give careers workshops in classrooms to secondary school students and is having a significant impact on raising awareness amongst young people about the type of jobs and career paths available to them. There are many programmes doing similar and we, the industry, should support these.

  • Does STC contribute to sustainability and environmental considerations in the engineering industry?

In 2023 we were delighted to receive a Gold Award (for a micro business) at the International Corporate Social Responsibility Awards which was obviously great news for a small organisation like ours. We encourage all our members to consider their sustainability and environmental credentials and are proud to have a Business Management group which helps guide people in the right direction. It’s worth pointing out that one of the champions of this group Dr Cristiana Pace whose Enovation Consulting company is leading the way in sustainability, while another champion is Richard Collins, who is head of the CSRA, the accreditation body for ESG.

  • What ongoing efforts does your organisation make to stay at the forefront of technology? 
    advancements and maintain a competitive edge in the market?

Our special interest group (SIG) events in particular help give businesses an advantage by providing latest insights into market topics, trends and advancements that are highly pertinent to their types of work. These attract some of the most knowledgeable and influential people in industry to give presentations and sit on Q&A panels. But they see the value as well – they themselves are looking for businesses to help solve challenges and often they will find them in our audiences which comprise owners or directors of businesses or organisations which are STC members. Currently we have SIGs focusing on Digital & Advanced Manufacturing; Design, Simulation & Metrology; Future Mobility; and Wearable Technology.

These are complimented by our Business Management group events which can cover other key areas to help businesses to thrive, from sustainability and funding to skills and recruitment etc.

We also work hold networking and insights events with larger organisations, such as the UK Space Agency and British Business Bank, which can yield further advantages in terms of contacts, potential new business and finance.

  • Do you have advice for any students starting in the engineering industry?

I would say you are in a great position because industry is looking for you! Businesses need young talent coming through for their future and, given the lack of ‘next generation’ engineers, then those just starting out on their careers are perhaps going to be even more valued. Companies will really want to take them under their wing and support them in teaching them a skill and keeping hold of them for the future. So to any youngsters out there, please do consider engineering as a career as there are great opportunities within our region and you’ll get to work for some amazing companies and some fantastic projects.

  • Where do you see the future of the engineering industry going?

If I wanted to be negative, I could say I can see the future being bleak as we are haemorrhaging engineers at an alarming rate and if we just keep doing what we have always done, it will not end well. But I’m not into negativity and so what I’ll actually say is that the future of engineering is collaboration. Only together can we solve the problems that we are facing in the world today (including the Skills shortage) and developing new technology is very much a key part of that. That is why I love shows like Advanced Engineering as that is where you can meet fellow professionals from all sorts of sectors who can inspire and support us all in coming up with new solutions.

This was an insightful conversation, thank you Pim for your time!

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