16 inspirational people in manufacturing and engineering in Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire is blessed with engineering and manufacturing talent, from incredible businesses big and small, to those who run those companies, the staff, the apprentices and those who train them. SoGlos salutes 16 of those individuals right here.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
The team from Gloucestershire engineering firm McMurtry Automotive celebrate their car setting the fastest ever time for the 1.6 mile hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed - covering the course
The team from Gloucestershire engineering firm McMurtry Automotive celebrate their car setting the fastest ever time for the 1.6 mile hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed - covering the course in 39.08 seconds in June 2022

When it comes to manufacturing and engineering Gloucestershire is blessed with diverse and exceptional talent, and in partnership with Cheltenham legal experts BPE, SoGlos has listed out 16 individuals here to turn the spotlight on (in no particular order).

Some of those featured have come to our attention through our SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards, some by their deeds, some through recommendation, and all of them represent companies that help make this such a thriving county.

Sir David McMurtry - Renishaw and McMurtry Automotive

Those lucky enough to exceed the age of 80 and be working out of choice probably usually get featured in lists like this for deeds done at their peak, but Sir David McMurtry’s achievements continue onwards.

For sheer scale of business success, number of inventions patented, jobs and wealth created for the UK and himself, few, if anyone, in engineering or any business ranks close. His business, Wotton-under-Edge-based Renishaw, has championed diversification in engineering, apprenticeships and graduates and is pioneering in its work. This summer McMurtry Automotive, his electric supercar company, broke the hill climb record at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Kathy Lewis – FutureAM

Kathy Lewis joined Staverton-headquartered FutureAM in 2015 as the firm’s finance manager and is now the finance director for the engineering business, whose last set of published accounts show a turnover of £7.2 million.

She joined the firm with 30 years’ experience following a career that has seen her work in the building industry and for PKF, which was UK’s ninth largest firm of accountants. She supports managing director Craig Peterson with his commercial and financial decisions.

Chris Biddell – Sartorius

It was more than thirty years ago when Chris Biddell started his business, Sartorius Stedim Lab Ltd, in his uncle's garage in Oakridge, Gloucestershire, and today the now Stonehouse-based firm is one of the county's most successful companies.

The business, which develops and manufactures consumable devices for scientists working in medical research, food and beverage testing laboratories worldwide, is a leader in its sector. Its last set of accounts show turnover of £20.4 million-plus.

Fanzi and Sebastian Down – DPS Designs

It was impossible to separate out this husband and wife team Fanzi and Sebastien Down, so we didn’t. It is easier to describe their business, DPS Designs, a company started by Sebastian’s father, Leigh Down, which recently won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise and stands out not just for the quality of what it does, but what it does.

The Coleford-based business is in the extraordinary position of being able to engineer products for the likes of aerospace firms as well as design and produce moulds for most of the hollow chocolate products that you will ever have come across, whether you shop at Fortnum & Mason’s or Lidl.

Alex Lee – Duku

Alex Lee, of Duku

Alex Lee studied transport and product design at Coventry University where he found his passion for problem-solving, creating novel solutions to complex problems before joining a design consultancy to hone his skills.

He left in 2013 to form Duku, which he co-directs with Andrew Aylesbury and has overseen many projects through to production from start-ups to well-known companies. He currently leads the Cheltenham-based firm’s in-house EV charger project, making headlines for being the world’s first fully accessible EV charger, designed to make moving over to electric vehicles a practical possibility for all.

Neill Ricketts – Versarien

This year Neill Ricketts stepped down from his position on the board of Gloucestershire’s powerful local enterprise partnership, GFirst LEP, having served his maximum nine years.

During those years his own business, Versarien plc (now headquartered in Longhope), has continued to grow and invest in Gloucestershire with the proud Forester and champion of Gloucestershire and British engineering continuing to sign deals that see the material he specialises in, Graphene, find its way into more and more sectors.

Lucy Phelps – Ultra Precision Control Systems

Lucy Phelps came to our attention here at SoGlos when we profiled her for a feature on her roles at Ultra Precision Control Systems, the world-leading aerospace and defence firm headquartered in Cheltenham.

Her route to her current role is an inspiration for all those yet to find their way post education, as are her achievements to date and ongoing ambition are - all proof that if you have the talent, the work ethic and join the right company, a fulfilling career can be won.

Mark Stewart – Stewart Golf

Mark Stewart is one of the architects of the much-championed Gloucester-based Stewart Golf – designers and manufacturers of the international hit that is the follow golf trolley and winner of the International Business Award in the inaugural SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards in 2021.

The ingenious electric vehicle will carry your clubs and follow you down the fairways. The cleverness is not confined to the product, the business has continued to grow and was ranked in The Sunday Times Fastest Growing Companies of 2022. Exports currently go to 25 countries and sales soared to £6.7 million in 2021.

Jonathan Groves – Lanes Health

This year Gloucester business GR Lane Health Group, known to many as Lanes Health, makers of Olbas Oil, Kalms and Pro Plus – among other products with household names – began a task it has managed successfully three times since.

That being the transition from one generation to the next, with Jonathan Groves named as the new executive chairman of the Sisson Road-headquartered manufacturer. Groves is the fourth generation to lead the £40 million business, a specialist in over the counter medicines and health products sold world-wide.

Peter Miles – Forge Motorsport

Peter Miles, managing director at Forge Engineering and Forge Motorsport

Peter Miles is the managing director of £6 million-plus turnover, 50-staff-strong Gloucester-headquartered Forge Engineering – a business he helped steer to growth through the pandemic and has helped establish a world-wide reputation for in the world of performance motoring.

A former engineering apprenticeship at once mighty Dowty, he has driven a culture of lifelong learning at the Gloucester business, successfully taking on an MBA (Master of Business Administration) through county leadership specialists firm QuoLux and also encouraging colleagues to follow in his footsteps.

Mags Addyman – Trelleborg Sealing Solutions Tewkesbury

We make no apology for going heavy on the apprenticeships in the list, because we think they speak volumes not just for the current and future talent in the county, but are a tribute to the companies investing in that future.

Trelleborg staff member, Mags Addyman, is in the third year of her Engineering Technician Level 3 apprenticeship, a course she started in September 2019 after making the decision to transition from a career as an academic to engineering. Gloucestershire Engineering Training described her as outstanding.

Andrew Steward - ALS Mechatronic

Andrew Steward started ALS Mechatronic from his spare room in Tewkesbury in 2002 and has steered it to consistent year-on-year growth, without any outside investment or borrowing.

Today the firm operates out of a 10,000 square foot facility in Winchcombe, was recognised with a Queen’s Award in 2021 for its growth in international markets – having seen sales quintuple in Ireland, Mexico, Poland and the USA. Steward won the Entrepreneur of the year award at the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards 2021.

James Ashly ­– Gloucestershire Engineering Training

When a life-threatening road traffic collision should have derailed the start of the second year of his Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician Level 3, James Ashly – who works for Gloucestershire Engineering Training – continued to study hard from home and still achieved his Level 3 Technical Certificate within the original time frame.

Outside of his day-job, the 19-year-old is also a qualified Level 4 Cave and Mine Rescue First Aid Responder. He is shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year award in the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards 2022.

Karim Ali – Ontic Engineering & Manufacturing UK

Ontic is where customers including Boeing and Airbus come when they want parts to keep their military and civilian planes airborne. It is a specialist parts maker for legacy aircraft from across the world and has made parts for the Harrier Jets to Red Arrows’ planes to B52s.

According to Ontic, his progression has been self-driven by a determination to learn with his employers impressed ‘on a daily basis’ with the quality of his work as well as his attitude and aptitude. He is shortlisted in the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards Apprentice of the Year category.

Warren Thomas – Gloucestershire Engineering Training

Founded in 1977 by a partnership of county businesses, Gloucestershire Engineering Training provides apprenticeship training for the county’s best and most innovative engineering firms and continues to support apprenticeships as a route to work and career development.

Warren Thomas became its operations director in December 2017 and chief executive officer in September 2021 after a career in the armed forces, engineering and then a move into teaching. Interest from businesses wanting to use GET’s services continues to grow.

Marc Begg – Cirencester Fabrication Services

Marc Begg is the managing director of Cirencester Fabrication Services (CFS) and has a CV which includes successfully combining an engineering apprenticeship with becoming the National Snowboarding Champion in his native New Zealand.

It was a Masters Degree that brought him to the UK where he has since spent 25 years building teams in a variety of roles including, from building early mobile phone apps, creating the Vodafone Operational Centre in Budapest, and in lockdown taking ownership of CFS and reinvigorating the business. Shortlisted in this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year award at SGGBA.

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