Rebuilding resilient hi-tech SME supply chains

In this article Jerry Sanham, business development director at radio communication and RF-to-mmWave designer and manufacturer Filtronic, discusses the role of UK SMEs in the high technology supply chain.

Recent world events and an increase in geopolitical uncertainty has resulted in a renewed focus on building, supporting and strengthening of sovereign supply chains. UK businesses want to build robust, and resilient networks of suppliers, particularly in high-tech sectors. Furthermore, government and national security agencies are keen to ensure that capability, technology and resources critical for national security remain available within the UK.

Coupled with this, there is a desire, fuelled by government incentives, to tap into the expertise, innovation and agility of SMEs to build UK competitiveness.

There are sound economic, commercial and political reasons for investing in our UK supply chains, particularly in the current global climate. Alliances are shifting and the status quo is being upended due to global supply shortages. All of these are catalysts that can quickly disrupt economies and previously well-established and stable business models. Sourcing goods, services and expertise from within the UK minimises the risk of disruption and builds a self-sustaining business ecosystem that is better able to withstand external shocks and geopolitical upheaval.

By ensuring we have the capability within the UK SME base to deliver advanced, hi-tech components and products, we can better support future-facing UK industries. Building this capability helps to protect local industries and jobs, while enabling businesses to design, develop and deliver truly innovative solutions entirely within the UK.

The good news is that the skills, expertise and capability already exist within the UK start-up and SME community. Many SMEs have impressive track records in their specialist fields and are developing world-leading capabilities in emerging technologies.

Filtronic is among those pioneering companies. We have been designing, manufacturing and testing advanced radio frequency (RF) technologies for more than 40 years. With the proliferation of communication channels and devices, there is huge demand for high-performance RF components to develop UK mobile telecommunications infrastructure, aerospace and defence systems and space capabilities. Within all of these industries, there is a strong motivation to invest in UK supply chains.

Like other leading SMEs, Filtronic offers significant benefits to our supply chain partners. Firstly, we have a broad reach across several markets, which gives us the volume of orders and throughput to support innovative projects. For example, we produce thousands of modules per month for the telecoms sector, enabling us to invest in advanced precision manufacturing equipment. This allows us to develop high-performance components for lower-volume, higher-value defence, aerospace and space projects. We also apply lessons learned in one market to support innovation in others.

As an SME, we are willing to take on more challenging projects. We have a culture of pushing performance boundaries, being flexible and adapting to specific customer needs. We can customise our components and services for individual projects.

Innovation is led by our multidisciplinary engineer team that includes RF, mechanical, PCB, test engineers and process engineers – giving us the breadth of capability required to take on ambitious turn-key projects that require real ingenuity.

Another significant benefit offered by Filtronic, and SMEs like us, is the vertical integration of our business. We can manage projects from design through manufacturing and testing seamlessly within our organisation. The size of our business means that communication and collaboration between different specialists is constant, and everyone understands their role in delivering complex projects. Such close collaboration ensures projects run as smoothly as possible and enables us to adapt and respond at speed.

Many SMEs offer a unique combination of skills and capabilities. That is true of Filtronic, where we combine a rich track record in RF innovation with market-leading engineering expertise. We have also established a position at the vanguard of mmWave technology for next-generation communications. It all adds up to unique offering in the UK.

Like other businesses in the UK SME ecosystem, we are world leaders in what we do. Our technologies are vitally important to some of the UK’s biggest development projects. SME’s like ours deliver the essential building blocks that make the modern world go round – all designed, made and delivered in the UK.

Filtronic specialises in mission-critical communications for aerospace and defence, telecommunications infrastructure, space and critical communications.



Filtronic PLC

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