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Inspired Engineering with Scott Herring


His position as Engineering Director is crucial to the operations of the company, especially within battery development and has reignited his passion for the engineering industry he first entered.

Inspired Engineering with Scott Herring

With an illustrious 15 years in Formula One across teams such as Red Bull and Caterham, Scott Herring joined Delta Cosworth in 2014 as Senior Engineering Manager. Eight years down the line, his position as Engineering Director is crucial to the operations of the company, especially within battery development and has reignited his passion for the engineering industry he first entered.

What was your background before Delta Cosworth?

I had an engineering mind from an early age as a child, I liked building technical things such as model planes. However, I was never very academic in school, I preferred the applied way of learning. I did Maths and Physics at A-Level, but I really struggled with both. When I got it, I got it – it was drummed into me, and I would be able to apply my learnings. Even though I struggled in examination terms, I understood all the principles we were taught, giving me the confidence that I could still succeed in the future.

Initially, I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university, so I took a year out to work and think about what I wanted to do. I spent a lot of my time developing things and working on projects.

I ended up going to Coventry University because a couple of my colleagues went there, and I studied Industrial Product Design. The course was a 50/50 mix of conceptual artistic design, and then framing that in an engineering delivery capability. We dipped into all the fundamentals of engineering, which was perfect for me at the time. We were taught to form a great idea and work out how to justify and balance it. 

It was a course with a sandwich year, so when you get to year three you went out into the industry to work. I ended up at my uncle-in-law’s business. He was influential at March F1 Racing, and he had a little business developing an all-composite superbike. There were only two engineers in the workshop, drawing. The second engineer did a lot of sports car work, it was a group of really good people that were doing old school engineering. I went in there to help with design work and was the first one with 3D CAD. The whole experience got me into advanced engineering.

I finished my final year with a drone concept, and that was back in 1998. It ended up similar to what drones do now; search and rescue, negating the role of search helicopters and being small enough to fit in the back of a police car. It was cool to see how that idea developed through other people.

I came out of university, and I said to myself “I want to get into racing so, I’m just going to start applying to Formula One teams”. I wrote letters and sent them out. I got a few interviews, one of them being at Stewart Grand Prix. Apparently, it was between myself and one other to get the position and the job was mainly to draw models and test components for the wind tunnel model. The person who interviewed me liked that I came prepared with a number of drawings and produced engineering-based sketches, which set me apart from the other candidate. The interviewer viewed me as a more conceptual thinker. I worked really hard there because it was quite a small team trying to punch above its weight. I immediately felt like I needed to help and take on as much as I could. I started as a design engineer, and long story short, I spent seven years at that establishment which went from Stewart Grand Prix to Jaguar Racing and eventually Red Bull.

I worked my way through model design, working on several wind tunnel parts. There were a lot of components related to data acquisition and movement of the models, I had to draw things like strut and model retention systems; drawing and learning at the same time about why it had to work a certain way.

That then got me into the wind tunnel and exposed me to what was really going on in there. I’d been drawing model parts for a long time and not been going to tests – these tests were at San Clemente in California. I then progressed into the test engineer role and developed from that into an aerodynamicist, understanding the ‘why’ and principles of what was taking place aerodynamically.

It was probably during the last two or three years in that role where I progressed into a leadership role. I ended up managing the wind tunnel group because I had a balanced understanding of what we were trying to do aerodynamically and how we were going to do it, with the minimum number of parts in the fastest possible time.

At this point, the 2009 F1 regulations were about to come out and that was a big game changer. All the fiddly bits and pieces were coming off a car and designs were going back to a very pure, simplistic form again. I thought that would give me a good opportunity to explore, so I went right to the back of the grid. I went to Midland as it was known at the time, formerly Jordan, to run a group like I’d been doing previously, but focused on the new regulations.

I ended up running a live car, which was very exciting. The group would really listen to what I had learned at my former, bigger team but equally they were pretty strong in what they could do as a small group of people. It was a really good environment, and the governors were great, Simon Phillips and Simon Belcher. They could give you the umbrella to work under and the confidence to be conceptual and ground-breaking and we made a pretty decent first 2009 car to run in the wind tunnel programme at Lola.

It got to a point further down the line where I felt like we had reached full potential with the car, I had stayed right through five cars at Force India. And that’s when I decided to head to Caterham.

At Caterham, they built a very strong theoretical capability but struggled to putting the theory into practice. It was an interesting journey but underpinning that were the pressures of keeping everything moving, whilst people were picking at the little things, and it just didn’t have the spark that it used to have.

How did you find out about Delta Cosworth?

I met Simon Dowson through our children, they went to the same school, we had been chatting at football for a couple of years on the side-line. I would tell him a bit about Formula 1, and he would tell me about the ground-breaking innovative ideas they had at his company called Delta. I never really paid enough attention to him, he would say “we’re building an electric car” and I would always shrug it off, until one day he turned up in it! After that I thought to myself, “who and what is Delta? They seem to be doing some exciting work!”. I then got offered the chance to work with Delta as a result of some consultancy work for F1 whilst I was still in it.  After a couple of discussions with them, I decided I wanted to jump right in.

What did your role involve when you first started?

I entered Delta as the Engineering Manager. They had done a really good job with the E4 which kickstarted a lot more R&D activity. On the back of what I could do, we ran an F3 aerodynamic programme. I didn’t really find out about Delta’s full scope of work until after I joined, such as working on a microturbine too. They managed to get half of the funding for three projects from government funded bodies; one project was the microturbine, the second was selective laser melting of materials to produce parts for microturbines, and the final one was selective laser melting manufacturing for engines.

After the F3 project finished, I started to do some more commercial work on the microturbine programme which is now called Cat Gen.

I eventually ended up leading the Cat Gen programme, being given that umbrella from Nick and Simon meant that they trusted me with the budget to explore all of the options and routes we could explore. We worked well on that because we were open with one another. From there, both sides of Delta, pre-Cosworth grew simultaneously.

Today I am the Engineering Director at Delta, which has been a good challenge. This title brings more responsibilities and more free-thinking. I am now closely following processes and what that looks like from an R&D and a new technology perspective, whilst still implementing that in a revenue-generating way.

What has changed after Delta became Delta Cosworth, following the company’s acquisition?

Cosworth bringing us into the Group has fundamentally changed us a lot. We had to work out and utilise everyone’s capabilities in order to function in the most efficient way. I work well with the people I work with, so when we sit down to talk and make new ideas happen, that’s when I really understand how things can work harmoniously.

The challenge here is very different to the challenges in Formula One because every year F1 is more or less the same. The ability to achieve greater things is much higher in this field, so your fulfilment is a lot more rewarding on an individual, and a group level – you are learning so much more as a group when you develop things, and they don’t always come to fruition. Having the confidence to fail quickly is really key in engineering.

Within Cosworth, Delta has the right balance of “let’s do it” whilst acknowledging that there are always risks. So, if things do go wrong, we know how to resolve them and are given the time and opportunity to work on them.

What’s next for Delta Cosworth?

The next step is scaling up battery systems. This process will be massively different from an engineering and delivery standpoint. It will be a lot of work, but we are reflecting on everything we have learned over the past five years. This means we can analyse everything we’ve generated as a technical capability and I’m trying to frame that within the market.

If we put a box around it and say, “these three things are the best things we can do”, and they are strong capabilities against our competition, we can then concentrate on being able to build on them more robustly – that is next year’s work. We can then work with the marketing team to communicate that externally to attract the right customers. A big part of my role now is to make that statement and bring it to the surface.

Outside of work, what do you do for personal enjoyment?

I’ve got a relatively young family, my children are 14 and 16 and are starting to enter the next phase of their lives, which takes up a lot of my time. I love mountain biking and motorbikes and sometimes I love to just get out on my own. This job means you’re connected and working with people all the time and it can be very full on.

Sometimes my head is my own worst enemy, I can’t get to sleep without thinking of something different about engineering or a project that I’m working on – which is for all the right reasons – but sometimes it’s just really hard to switch off. Riding bikes just gets my head away from work and is a nice change. I ride superbikes on the road and do a few track days. I’ll dip into a lot of fitness-based stuff, I’ll head into the countryside or go take a quick 30-minute bike ride on my break at work.