McLaren Applied Technologies – F1 know-how for the World
The demands of Formula 1 racing mean we’re constantly pushing the boundaries in terms of what’s possible with technology to find a fraction of a second on the track.
In 2004, Ron Dennis had a vision of setting up a company which would allow for the technological expertise we gain from racing to be applied to challenges which exist in other fields and McLaren Applied Technologies was created as a result.
Its ethos involves identifying the things that McLaren as a Group is best at, such as developing a technology or a way of working, then applying them in order to increase performance across a whole range of fields – from performance of individual athletes to simulation in the medical industry to looking at how materials can be made stronger and lighter for use in a competition bike’s construction.
“Sailing people don’t come to McLaren asking us for wind tunnel support,” says MAT’s Managing Director Geoff McGrath. “What they may say is they have problems maintaining their sailing structures in a good condition. We then look at our technology and see how we can apply our expertise to their needs.”
Empathy, good marketing skills and solid technology are required to understand a customers’ need and fulfil it, he adds.
“MAT is quite a small organisation compared to the rest of companies in the [McLaren] Group. We thought we’d develop solutions that would truly deliver a breakthrough in performance for our target markets, then pick the leaders in those markets and try and win them as our first customers.”
For the past two years the company has been working on a timely project with UK Sport, the UK’s High Performance Sports Agency, to help the British cycling, sailing, rowing, canoeing and some winter sports teams expected to win to improve their performance.
It’s doing this by taking a closer look at the sports’ physical and mental aspects, as well as how the equipment being used can be improved.
Two years ago, Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke became the Women’s World Bobsleigh Champions after MAT looked at their bobsleigh in minute detail to see how it could be improved. See the case study below for more detail.
Just this week it was announced that the Rugby Football Union has enlisted MAT’s help to better its understanding of data it collects from sensors found in the England rugby team’s players’ shirts. This is allowing the RFU to tailor training sessions to get the best from each individual and replicate Test match intensity as close as possible.
“We’re pleased to be working with a team that shares McLaren’s competitiveness and passion for winning. We have worked closely with England RFU’s elite coaches and analysts to create a solution that improves their workflow and greatly increases the clarity, quality and timeliness of insight enabling them to focus on driving performance improvement,” says Geoff.
Simulation is also high on MAT’s development agenda. It has almost completed a simulation facility which is able to replicate any kind of car, be it road or racing, in any kind of condition. It’ll also be used to train drivers when operational.
MAT’s simulation capabilities aren’t restricted to motoring - the company is working with the medical industry to simulate surgical procedures. The idea involves performing a surgical operation on a highly advanced robot, currently under development, using all the usual surgical instruments to simulate a procedure before it’s performed on a live patient.
All these highly innovative projects follow on from the huge success of the S-Works + McLaren Venge racing bike, which you can read about in our case study below.
This week MAT hosted the finalists in UK Sport’s Ideas4Innovation initiative at the MTC. This initiative invited budding researchers to come up with ideas that can improve the performance of British athletes in international sporting competitions.
Entrants were grilled by a panel of judges in a Dragon’s Den –type scenario and the winner will receive £25,000 to develop his or her idea further.
Already pushing the boundaries of what’s technologically possible, MAT’s staff numbers have grown tenfold over the past two years and will continue to grow as the number of projects it takes on increases. Watch this space for the emergence of the company’s exciting new projects in the coming months!
Team GB bobsleigh
Brief: Improve to ensure the GB Women’s team wins gold
Who used it: Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke
Application of McLaren knowhow: Telemetry system fitted for real-time data logging, weight reduction, use of better materials to increase stiffness and aerodynamics
Notable achievement: Won gold at the 2009 Women’s World Bobsleigh Championships in Lake Placid, USA.
S-Works + McLaren Venge
Brief: Create the lightest and fastest road bike ever made
Who uses it: Top level professional cyclists
Application of McLaren knowhow: Carbon fibre construction (making bike lighter and stiffer), aerodynamic analysis
Notable achievements: Won its first-ever race - Matthew Goss won the Milan-San Remo one-day sprint; Mark Cavendish claimed the Tour de France green jersey after winning five of the tour’s stages.