Every two years the IMechE awards the James Watt International Gold Medal to an eminent engineer who has attained world-wide recognition in mechanical engineering in any direction. This year’s winner, Sir David McMurtry, is a leader in his field and the Executive Chairman of Renishaw, a multi-disciplined engineering firm with a truly global footprint.
Sir David is highly respected in engineering circles for his many ground-breaking inventions (he is named on over 200 patents) and for his capable management of a company that is currently valued at 3.3 billion Euros. That said, the IMechE’s judges were especially impressed with Sir David’s lifelong emphasis on research and development, a focus which has helped make his company a true world leader.
Every year, Renishaw reinvests 15%-18% of its sales into R&D: “We set up the company with the ethos of a constant cycle of improvement, so that when patents expire on one product, another patented invention is available to take its place,” he explains. This approach has proved highly successful and is no doubt an important factor in Renishaw’s continued growth. Christopher Simpson, Chairman of Manufacturing Industries Division at the IMechE points out that this strategy “is an exemplar for other mid-cap UK companies”.
Sir David launched Renishaw in 1973 with friend and colleague John Deer, following 15 successful years at the company that is now named Rolls Royce. While there, he invented a new 3D touch-trigger probe which he realised had enormous market potential. Renishaw’s sensors went on to change forever how measurement was utilised, both in- and post-process, for component part manufacture. Brian Kent, a former president of the IMechE, recalls how in the 1980’s, “I was able to see the revolution his ideas had contributed to the manufacturing world around the globe”.
Today, Renishaw carries on that legacy of continual investment and improvement. Its precision measurement tools and services are used widely in a wide range of industries – from jet engines to dental equipment to wind turbines. The company is one of the few UK businesses that manufactures and utilises metal 3D printers, and its medical division is working on products that are being used to treat major illnesses including Parkinson’s diseases and cancer, including a novel system, being used in trials, to deliver drugs directly to the brain to cure Parkinson’s. At 79, Sir David is still heavily involved in engineering and works four days per week at the company.
He also makes significant contributions to the engineering profession more generally. He is a visiting professor at several UK universities, is a member of a number of leading engineering societies and has received numerous awards, including the Institution’s prestigious James Clayton Prize in 2003. He was knighted for his “services to Design and Innovation” in 2001.
Thanks to his business acumen and engineering expertise, Sir David has grown Renishaw to become a globally recognised and trusted business. From its HQ in Gloucestershire, where most R&D takes place, the company oversees manufacturing bases in the UK, France, Germany, the US, Ireland and India. It employs over 4500 people in 36 countries worldwide, making it a truly international business.
The James Watt International Gold Medal aims to celebrate engineers who achieve worldwide recognition. With his company’s global footprint, innovations which have changed how companies work the world over, and his continuous focus on innovation, Sir David is a fitting winner for this year’s award. We wish him our warmest congratulations.