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Pragmatic Research

Against a backcloth of contraction in the indigenous shipbuilding and shipowning sectors, the U.K's leading maritime research organization has raised its game by adopting an outward looking and pragmatic business approach that transcends national bounds. The fact that some 45 percent of British Maritime Technology's record turnover last fiscal year was generated by projects outside the U.K., and this, along with its implementation of an acquisition strategy covering both sides of the Atlantic, testify to a policy of growth that combines a commercial- mindedness with technical Circle 2 6 4 on Reader Service Card Maritime Reporter/Engineering News capabilities in depth.

With 500 people employed worldwide, it has developed an impressive pool of know-how over a period which has seen a parallel, considerable diminution in European resources of qualified and skilled professionals in the downsized and increasingly rationalized shipping and shipbuilding industries. But in the competitive international world of technical consultancy and technology transfer, since government does not underwrite those resources, commercial maxims have to be applied to achieve optimum utilization of that strong knowledge base. A perspicacious approach to European Union-sponsored research programs also bears on the viability of the undertaking.

The net result is an organization which marries commercial awareness in identifying and defining market requirements with continuous investment in a research and development framework to design and implement solutions. In the view of Chairman David Goodrich, "Successful exploitation and transfer of the resultant technology can only take place when the provider is a wholly profit-motivated company, as are all BMT's subsidiaries." Established in 1985, when turnover was around $18.3 million, the group's influence has steadily grown. The past few years have seen a pronounced rate of business increase, from $33 million in 1994 to the all-time high of $54.4 million achieved in the 1997 year, on which $4.9 million profit was made. Last year, $2.5 million was invested back from own resources into research, swelled by $1.7 million from EU coffers under joint European programs.

A bolstered international network of subsidiaries promises not only a greater yield and reinvestment in the technological and design base, but also a broader platform for providing solutions to the industrial and commercial shipping as well as defense markets. Having grown its South East Asian interests, where there is no lessening of commitment despite the region's current problems, BMT plans further company acquisitions not only in the U.K. but also in the U.S., which accounted for about 23 percent of group income last year.

Group Chief Executive John Gallagher is also intent on increasing BMT's involvement in the mercantile and offshore fields, without diluting the activities in the defense and non-maritime civil sectors. His aim is a fairly even spread of work across the generic fields, whereby commercial shipping and offshore would collectively come to represent about onethird of an increased turnover.

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