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The position of Engineering R&D recruitment in the UK

01/09/16 David Collins Business/Customer Development Manager

The speed of modern technology development is relentless. Since the introduction of the Internet, technology has continued to advance and the pace is being set by hard-working R&D teams around globe. Today, a Research and Development job allows engineers to apply knowledge and skills to spark new innovation and push the frontiers of science in countries such as the UK.

The aim of research and development (R&D) is to improve the current technologies offered by an organisation or to develop innovations that strengthens an organisation’s position in the market place either as a product or intellectual property (IP) used in an array of products.

Within engineering companies, research and development is continuously evolving with key drivers often being – quicker, faster, smaller and cheaper. However, R&D is not just about developing new ideas, tools and techniques; delivering best in class service to clients, improving health & safety and the environment whilst eliminating risk are all areas that require constant innovation and development.

The growth and support of R&D jobs in the UK is due to a mix of frameworks including education, government policy, stability, market size and legal system all combining to assist in the environment which allows innovation to take place. e.g. The UK is home to 3 of the world’s top 10 Technology and Engineering universities and has 150 independent electronic system design houses, more than any other European country.

Other factors include:

  • Strong intellectual property rights (IPR) framework and legal system
  • Established intellectual property rights development
  • Ability to quickly introduce products to the market
  • Big software sector
Some engineering product businesses like to focus on brand development and sales & marketing strategies rather than R&D, yet they rarely lose sight of the importance of the R&D investment choosing to outsource to R&D organisations that have the specialist skills to develop ideas at speed – leaving the engineering organisation time to focus on other business objectives.

Nevertheless, in a fast moving market like engineering, R&D faces an immense challenge. An influx of new technology and market trends and changing client expectations compels engineering companies to evolve rapidly. It is no longer acceptable to simply update an existing product or service to incorporate the latest electronic components, software operating system or product colours and features. Today’s R&D teams must be ready to shift direction fast, patent new techniques, and anticipate future market movements all in order to prepare for an ever changing business environment. With ever-shortening product development cycles and differentiated products essential for the attraction of customers, R&D risks being treated as a rush job, one which should result in positive ROI (If the market has been analysed correctly) – but which might not.

Where does R&D stand in the UK’s engineering sector today?

As the success of R&D intrinsically relies upon a positive financial return, engineering and technology companies look to streamline their investment costs in order to negate any risks being taken. This leads to companies setting up their innovation centres around the world based on cost, local skills, size of the market and the outsource R&D capability within the region e.g. there are over 3,000 companies in the UK medical devices sector, with a turnover of over £13 billion. The National Audit Office estimates that the National Health Service (NHS) will be replacing 80% of its machinery between 2012 and 2017, creating supply opportunities for such companies.

In the UK, it is the country’s universities who have invested heavily in Research & Development jobs. The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, which encourages partnerships between UK universities and the UK engineering industry, invest into projects such as engineering innovation centres. Education based centres play a significant role in driving the skills and diversity needed to enhance R&D throughout the wide UK engineering and technology industry.
David Collins, Manager of Redline Group R&D and Engineering Division comments: “Unfortunately the topic of Brexit has caused anxiety with many electronics, engineering and manufacturing businesses in the UK. There is an argument that continued steady investment in R&D jobs is exactly what is needed to keep the UK’s Engineering and Electronics sectors competitive. Continued R&D Innovation is what will provide a competitive advantage in the future.”

“From the evidence we have, it seems engineering firms are at odds in regards to their needs and intentions. With R&D costs being lower in some geographical regions, UK and international firms will seek expertise abroad. However, UK engineering associations and government-led bodies are influencing companies to invest their R&D in the UK. All that is required is a clear economic outlook and the willingness to investment to continually push UK R&D talent”, says David.

At Redline Group, we are placing skilled engineering candidates into a mix of Research & Development jobs in the engineering, technology and manufacturing sectors across a variety of market segments including electronics, aerospace, automotive, consumer, defence, medical, semiconductors and power.

For more information on R&D, Technology & Engineering Jobs, please contact David Collins.