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Home > News > Industry News > The EW BrightSparks are the UK.....

The EW BrightSparks are the UK’s future

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-05-26
RS Components CEO Lindsley Ruth talks to Josh Brooks about the promise embodied in the 2017 BrightSparks cohort.

What have you made of the young people who have come through the BrightSparks programme and who we have met today?

It’s been an amazing experience and I’ve been impressed by the BrightSparks candidates for the spirit of entrepreneurship they have. They’re not afraid to take risks, which, candidly, I don’t see a lot of in the UK when it comes to electronics these days, so I found it very encouraging.

What, for you, characterises this cohort of people?

If there was one word to characterise this group of people I would say it’s curiosity. Each individual that I have talked to today was discussing ideas and concepts outside of their own expertise – it’s a very sincere curiosity about the industry and how to make things better and bring technology to the forefront of our industry.

Has this programme changed your view of the prospects for electronics in the UK?

Our involvement in this programme and seeing all the fantastic entries and winners has changed my view in one way, and that is that there’s a lot of hope for the UK. There’s still uncertainty, and there’s still a shortage of engineers in the UK, but from the calibre and quality of the BrightSparks winners and nominations, there’s a great future ahead for the UK.

You are closely involved in some of the discussions in Westminster around Brexit, representing RS Components and the wider industry. What would you like to see from the next government both on Brexit and domestic policy to support our industry?

In order to build an ecosystem – which I believe is what’s needed in the UK in order to be successful in the future in technology and innovation – it starts by having government, business and the schools and universities working hand in hand. I don’t see enough of that today and with the shortage of engineers in the UK, estimated by Engineering UK to be around 20,000 engineers a year. There’s only one place you can go to fill that shortage and that is to the EU and outside the EU to bring in people to the UK.

So on one hand there’s a tremendous fear of EU nationals who are in the UK in technology and digital innovations functions wondering whether or not they will be protected in the future; and then there’s a concern on the free flow of products, so if you want to start up in the UK you want to be able to get the product easily without a lot of bureaucracy or red tape.

What would you say to your colleagues and counterparts in the industry about what the industry should be doing to help solve these challenges?

The industry still needs to be a voice and an advocate for business to the government. We need to be vocal about what’s required in terms of innovation and technology today – as opposed to what it was 20 years ago. But I think industry has a role to come together, whether it’s via the CBI or through other organisations, to offer the right apprenticeships, the right programmes of support such as Code Clubs, to stimulate the interest in engineering and technology as at early an age as possible.

You have an international view of the electronics industry. Does the UK have a bigger problem in attracting young people than other countries?

The UK is behind, there’s no doubt about it, and it’s similar in the US. China is ahead – it has made great progress, as has India, in the past five to 10 years in the number of engineering graduates they are putting out, with the universities working with business and the government to build an ecosystem and a structure that will last for many years to come. If we’re not careful in the western world, we’re going to be way behind the eastern competition in the future.

What gets you excited about the electronics industry at the moment?

We’re in such an exciting time today around the industrial Internet of things, the connectivity, and being able to use data. Throughout my career we’ve talked about inventory and people as being our greatest assets, but in the future what we do with data, and where we take data, where we turn it into information and knowledge and wisdom and use it to make better-informed decisions, to improve the profitability of our overall supply chain – that’s what gets me excited and that’s the future of this business.

And what is the big worry, aside from staff?

My biggest concern is the fear of becoming irrelevant. In today’s digital economy and digital world, things are moving at such a faster pace than ever before. A quarter in the digital world is like a year in the analogue world. You’ve got to be agile and fast and you’ve got to have a very strong digital platform. My fear of becoming irrelevant is at the centre of all our thinking and at RS we won’t do that.