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UK Formula One losing innovation race

18 May 2009

Formula one raceNew research from the University warns that the UK’s motorsport sector is in danger of losing the global innovation race.

A report by Professor Rick Delbridge, Cardiff Business School, suggests that changes to the way Formula One is run by its governing body are constricting the industry’s ability to innovate.

Professor Delbridge said: "For many years, Formula One has been a beacon of the UK’s engineering and innovation capabilities but recent regulation and cost pressures are closing the spaces where innovation is encouraged – or even allowed."

"I would not blame regulations for stifling experimentation in the Formula One industry but caps on investments and other interventions could have unintended consequences."

Previously, the vast amount of money invested in research and development by Formula One firms has led to innovations in everyday products, including non-slip footwear, lightweight leg braces, and monitoring equipment based on racetrack telemetry technology.

Professor Delbridge said: "Motorsport is highly regulated to ensure safety and fair competition. This is to be applauded but it has unfortunately led to banning of certain materials and the restriction of research to developing more efficient engines, recovery of braking energy and recovery of heat This has led to a shift away from the sort of risky, experimental research that occasionally delivered radical innovations with the ability to improve the lives of ordinary people."

The report also found that the UK sector displays a reluctance to engage with a diverse range of companies to seek out innovative new products and materials and that, due to fears over potential loss of intellectual property, companies are reluctant to co-operate with each other.

Professor Delbridge’s report, Racing for Radical Innovation, was sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council / Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Advanced Institute of Management and conducted with Dr Francesca Mariotti, Stirling University. A copy of the report is available here.

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