Bruce McLaren’s first engineering workshop was a shed with a dirt floor – but he was always aiming for the stars.
Breaking with Formula 1 racing convention and founding his own team as both engineer and driver in 1963 was audacious, but this was a time when anything was possible if you backed ambition with ingenuity: just a few months earlier, US President John F Kennedy had committed to putting a man on the moon “not because it is easy but because it is hard”.
And there you have the racer’s mentality: believe in your talent, commit, then make it happen. Be brave.
Success in motor racing demands creativity and flair as well as bravery. On the journey to multiple world championship wins, we’ve delivered game-changing engineering innovations that have revolutionised the very fabric of the sport.
But what if that ingenuity could be channelled into delivering performance advantage in other industries – perhaps even changing the world for the better in the process.
A new era for McLaren
Drawing on our motorsport heritage, McLaren Applied was formed in 1989 to deliver one thing: advantage.
Motorsport is in our DNA and remains a core focus for the business. For decades, McLaren Applied has been leading the digital transformation of motorsport through high-performance electronics and data systems.
All Formula 1 cars use McLaren Applied’s electronic control units (ECUs). On every lap of every race, the cars produce vast quantities of data: we’ve developed robust high-fidelity sensors to gather performance information accurately within a harsh, fast-moving, vibration-filled environment, and we’ve perfected the transmission and processing tools that enable us to identify and act upon the most relevant data to generate race-winning strategic decisions.
Based on our unrivalled capabilities and pedigree of delivering advantage in motorsport, there was a sense that we really could do anything, for the McLaren brand opened many doors and potential clients were struck by the ingenuity with which we solved even the most complex problems.
It was this bold step on a journey that ultimately led our business to coalesce around four core business units: motorsport, automotive, public transport, and health..
From monitoring cars to humans
Our health business today sprang from an approach ten years ago by a global pharmaceutical company, who wanted to see if it was possible to monitor humans the way we monitor cars.
Applying that knowledge to the healthcare space might seem straightforward, but it demanded humility to recognise that we had much to learn; while the specifications of a racing car are thoroughly codified, every human body is subtly different in the way it responds to inputs.
The challenge was great, but by creating a sophisticated and accurate system that delivered on the brief, we demonstrated the power of our technology in the healthcare space. High-fidelity measurement created the foundations for potentially life-changing insights.
Wearable technology has become familiar in the marketplace now, but at that time most products were cumbersome and unsophisticated. The success of our proof-of-concept not only engaged the interest of the pharmaceutical industry, it provided us with an opportunity to get involved with UK Sport just as it embarked on its mission to secure a record medal haul in the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London.
We were the first Formula 1 company to stretch ourselves beyond racing into areas including health and transport, which meant there was no established roadmap to follow. So we created our own map.
Having demonstrated that we could measure performance parameters on people as well as mechanisms, we worked with UK Sport on Olympic disciplines including sailing, canoeing and cycling, and that enabled us not only to grow the company but also to develop our capabilities in applying our core skill set in more diverse areas.
The fearless pursuit of advantage
Taking a lead in the science of marginal gains, we explored the boundaries of what’s possible in both sporting equipment and human performance, which in turn gave further impetus to our involvement in healthcare. Athletes are essentially one end of the patient spectrum; they’re utterly focused on success and therefore very engaged in the process of maximising their own performance. There are many synergies between them and patients who have long-term conditions that need to be monitored and managed to improve their health and surgical outcomes.
Our growing capabilities in biotelemetry and biomechanics opened the door to partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies, and our role in helping UK Sport’s athletic heroes maximise their potential – drew the attention of consumer brands. Our collaboration with the bicycle manufacturer Specialized, the S-Works + McLaren Venge, propelled Mark Cavendish to both the coveted green jersey in the Tour de France and the UCI World Championship.
Scale has enabled us to pursue our ambitions as a global provider of innovative technology solutions whilst retaining the agile mindset that has been so valued by our partners.
But what makes us unique regardless of the market we work in, is that we have spent over half a century developing solutions that support continuous improvement and deliver advantage in highly competitive environments.
Delivering advantage across our 4 core markets
We’re conquering new horizons as we build on being the trusted provider of high-performance components in Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Moto GP and beyond; and making breakthroughs in battery technology that have transformed the competition in Formula E, doubling the energy capacity without significant weight increase. We also believe Applied has the expertise and technology to work alongside key stakeholders to shape the future of motorsport entertainment, changing the way fans engage with the sport both in their homes and in the grandstands.
Our expertise in designing robust and sophisticated electronics, including safety critical systems, is paving the way for the next generation of connected and autonomous cars. In 1997 we were the first Formula 1 company to build a racing simulator, and we’ve also pioneered unique simulator technology that will enable automotive manufacturers to radically shorten the design and development process of mass-produced road cars, thereby securing market advantage for our partners. We’ve led the way in developing hybrid solutions too: witness the searing lap record of the Nürburgring set by a McLaren P1 LM in 2017.
Our journey in public transport started with the creation of a truly connected fleet. Through our domain expertise and effective collaboration, we have provided a train operator with a game-changing connectivity solution which is dynamic and highly configurable. Optimised and tailored configuration of the connectivity platform allows not only specific passenger internet connectivity but precision asset data capture and visualisation. This allows the operator to predict, plan and employ real-time operational interventions – ultimately improving services for passengers.
Harnessing our experience in sensor technology, telemetry, electronic systems, software, simulation, predictive analytics and design, we will continue to collaborate with industry to accelerate the transformation of transport system performance, perfecting vehicle availability and unlocking operational capacity.
In health we’re exploring two key areas; digital therapeutics, making humans feel better and human performance, making humans do better. The knowledge in biotelemetry and data analytics we have developed over decades in competitive motorsport is a driving factor in pursuing digital therapeutics. These solutions range from real-time monitoring, giving healthcare professionals a richer insight into patient behaviour and the effectiveness of therapy, to capturing high-fidelity functional metrics that inform vital surgical decisions. Similarly, in human performance, our experience of extracting incremental gains from humans placed in harsh environments, racing drivers for example, means the company will explore opportunities in seamless data acquisition and personalised predicative insights to further push the boundaries of possibility.
In each of these markets we’re challenging assumptions and delivering advantages for our partners and ultimately the public. And while our in-house manufacturing focuses on producing low to medium volume products, including the electronics we supply every McLaren Automotive car with, as we look to the future we’ll happily engage with partners looking to break the mould on a larger scale.
Collaborating with Deloitte
In this way we’re currently working with Deloitte to develop, a series of data driven products and services that bridge the digital and physical worlds to help businesses make better decisions, faster. One such product is helping manufacturing companies to stabilise their supply chain and inventories, and to optimise the planning for their manufacturing process. While that might sound like an elementary proposition, most companies find the complexities of it quite challenging, especially at scale. Eventually the sheer quantity of variables begins to exceed the planners’ mental and IT bandwidth.
So while large-scale manufacturing doesn’t align with our own brand, we know we can help other companies do this more efficiently, to perform better – after all, agility in manufacture is an essential tenet for a racing team.
It’s been a long and eventful journey from the shed Bruce McLaren set up shop in 55 years ago – we now have hubs in the USA, Singapore and central London as well as the McLaren Technology Centre – but we like to think we’re staying true the principles of our founder. He was already a successful racing driver, but he believed that he and his hand-picked colleagues could step out of the established system and design and build a better car themselves. They fought to prove that, and they succeeded – over and over again.
We’re still in the business of proving ourselves – day in, day out. If we’re hard on ourselves it’s because we’re always striving for better. That’s what being brave is all about.