Shining the Spotlight - Phill Cartwright

Shining the Spotlight - Phill Cartwright

In this edition, we shine the spotlight on Phill Cartwright, and his role within the High Value Design and Manufacturing Sector.

PhilcartwrightbodyWhat is your role?

I am Chairman for the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), and an Associate Director at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

What do you enjoy most about your roles?

I enjoy contributing to the success of technology based startup companies. The thing I like most about what I do is the focus on complex and mathematical engineering problems. The organisations that I am involved with all have an element of High Value Digitally Driven Design or High Value Manufacturing (HVM), with the goal of delivering products and services that delight customers and are the best in the world. Also, working with teams that possess an incredible combined intellectual horsepower can be both an inspiring and humbling experience.

What are the roles you have undertaken?

I have been very lucky in my career to have experienced a number of different roles, working with some amazing individuals and organisations. I started my career in the British Army in the Royal Engineers. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to live and work in a number of different countries. Following on from my military role, I was based in India for several years designing and building several power generation, transmission and distribution systems.  Following this, I also lived and worked in Brazil, Uruguay and China, designing, building and commissioning energy infrastructure such as High Voltage Direct Current Transmission, Wind Power and Tidal Generation.

In my most recent appointment, based in the UK, I was the Chief Technology Officer for the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, responsible for technology strategy across its seven centres.

The inspiration throughout my career has come from history, researching great engineering leaders and the fantastic, pioneering projects they have delivered. Isambard Kingdom Brunel is a great example here. His designs revolutionised public transport and modern engineering. Then there are also inspirational, hands on practical engineers such as Beatrice Shilling. Tilly, as she was best known, tinkered with motorcycles at 14 years of age, an engineer who wasn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty and engineering better systems to create better performance. She carried out research in supercharged single-cylinder engines and progressed to aircraft engines joining the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE). She was most well known for her pioneering work to develop the RAE restrictor, to address a problem where carburettors for engines used in Hurricane and Spitfire fighter planes, would cut out during a negative-g upon nosing over into a dive, during The Battle of France and The Battle of Britain. 

Did you always know this was the direction your career would take?

Absolutely not! Serendipity played the greatest role in my career. What was clear, right from the beginning was my interest in engineering, physics and mathematics in being able to provide solutions to complex problems. I studied electrical engineering at the University of Manchester, Institute of Science of Technology, and I also have a PhD in Mathematical Modelling of Complex Power Systems. The army is great for learning about discipline, rigour and delivery, and I have great memories of the countries I visited, the people I met, and the projects that I worked on. However, I wanted to experiment. I could see lots of exciting opportunities happening around the world in science and technology and I wanted to be part of the development of those new technologies. The army is not necessarily a place to experiment and post leaving, was fortunate to be able to step into industry and pursue my interest.

You are well regarded within the field of HVD and HVM. What do you hope to impart on the organisations and individuals you engage with?

My previous roles have involved a number of aspects linked to HVD and HVM. The vigorous design process, the robust manufacturing process, the ability to take the design to manufacture and to make products or systems easier to commission or assemble, through to generating an aftermarket service or revenue where one didn't previously exist. All of these elements benefit the company and the end user customer. To put this into context, the team at CFMS are developing and leading model based systems processes, high performing computing and simulations that are making aerospace, land, marine, energy and infrastructure products and services safer, more efficient, and the best in the world. 

What is also important for me, which I am very passionate about, is providing inspiration to the current, next and younger generations - doing all these things drives innovation, creates better products but also generates high value jobs and careers for the UK. The engagement that I have across industry, government and academia involves sharing all those lessons learnt throughout my career, from good to successful but also the challenges and hard knocks that everyone will usually encounter. 

What are you looking forward to in your area of expertise?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity of working in most of the big countries with organisations that have challenges in HVD and manufacturing, and helping to figure out the solutions, this is what I enjoy. At this current time, I find myself here in the UK, post brexit, and I think that if the UK is to increase productivity and inspire the next generation and create higher value jobs in the UK, they can’t be traditional manufacturing jobs and they can’t be traditional services jobs, because we are not that kind of economy.

The UK has to focus on what it is good at, and where we are the best in the world with our research in terms of our universities, and where we are best in the world at design. The UK is home to some of the most talented architects and engineering designers in the world. We have to focus on the things that are big, difficult and complicated because as a nation this is what we have always been good at. So in my small way I would like to make a contribution to addressing this with the companies I am working with. For example, I have had the privilege recently of assisting Automata Technologies who are developing low cost, lightweight, robust and easy to use robots which will revolutionise healthcare and food production with the obvious associated societal and health benefits.

Any predictions or advice?

There needs to be more investment in research, development and skills, in colleges and schools in high value digital design, because this is what is linked to the UK being a successful and resilient nation. Look at the success sectors - the automotive and aerospace sector are consistently able to increase productivity, profit and their contribution to GDP. Through this, thousands of good, long term high value design and manufacturing jobs have been created here in the UK. We must continue to invest and recreate lessons learnt in other sectors such as infrastructure, farming, healthcare and food and beverage, which will encourage other countries to invest and get the upside on it.

If you got stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take and why?

Surfing is one of my passions so it would have to be a surfboard. I enjoy listening to music so a radio would be essential. The third item would be a bottle of whiskey, just in case I need to start a fire, treat water or care for a wound! 

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