THE entrepreneur who is leading the project to create a 1,000 miles an hour car has made an impassioned plea for more investment in British manufacturing.
Richard Noble, who is behind the bid to create the Bloodhound, a car capable of supersonic speeds, told the audience at the Yorkshire International Business Convention that primary school teachers had a key role to play in recruiting the next generation of British engineers. Mr Noble argued that British manufacturing had been in decline since the Second World War.
He was one of the keynote speakers at the convention, which was held at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham. Rotherham-based Newburgh Engineering is one of the companies involved in the Bloodhound project.
Afterwards, Mr Noble told The Yorkshire Post: “The big focus has been on the service industries and finance. You can’t fund a country by gambling. You’ve got to get down to the hard stuff, which is manufacturing. This of-course is what the area (South Yorkshire) is all about here.
“This is the only way we’re going to get that debt paid off...If nothing is done about it, it’s the next generation that is really going to suffer.
“Vince Cable (the Business Secretary) at the Engineering Employers’ Federation Dinner said that the fundamental problem was that we needed 100,000 graduate engineers per annum. That’s what the system needs. We’re only getting 30,000. Why are we only getting 30,000? Well there are only 32,000 taking physics A level.
“Why is that? Because they’re not being excited about science and engineering at the primary school level. By the time they get to secondary school level, it’s too late.
“Engineering and science is creative. It’s incredibly exciting. All these kids have been deprived of this. When our team turns up there with a full-scale show car and explain what it’s all about, they get so excited. We’ve got 60 schools building rocket cars.”
Mr Noble, who brought the land speed record back to Britain in 1983, described the Bloodhound team’s painstaking hunt for the perfect terrain.
“You’ve got to match the perfect car, with the perfect desert,’’ he said. “The place we found was called Hakskeen Pan in South Africa. But it had a road going through the middle of it on a causeway and, secondly, it had got 21 million square metres of stones. The Northern Cape government decided they could do it, and they’ve had 310 people working for two years. Each person working there has picked up 20 tonnes of stones.
“We’ll be out there probably in September 2015 and start running the car, get her up to about 800mph, which should be enough to get us the new world record...We’ll go back again in 2016 to finish it all off.”
Other speakers at the event included former political foes Lord Prescott and Michael Portillo, the adventurer Rosie Swale Pope, the actor Brian Blessed and football referee Howard Webb.