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Honorary Degree Orations


Mike Turner

Public Orator, Professor Ron McCaffer presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Thursday 19 July at 3.00pm

Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen and especially today, of all days, New Graduates of Loughborough University.

Many young people dream of changing the world but it is the engineers and technologists, like you, graduating today, who are destined to make the changes that will make peoples’ dreams come true.

However with today’s level of technological complexity it is unusual for the engineer to make a significant impact without the support and infrastructure of a major company.

Our honorary graduand today, Michael Turner, is the Chief Executive of such a company. One that employs around 40,000 engineers globally, invests over £1 billion annually in research and development and regularly produces over 100 patented inventions each year.

BAE SYSTEMS’ partnership with Loughborough University is close and mutually supportive. Including a sponsored degree, whereby the Company sponsors the students and supports the University. The day the students start their degree they join the company. The University provides the technical education and the company provides professional and commercial development and between us, working hand in hand, we produce the best and most able graduates in the discipline of Systems Engineering. Wisely, the Government is promoting more Employer Engagement with Universities but it lacks a clear understanding of what this could achieve I offer them our partnership with BAE SYSTEMS as an exemplar

BAE SYSTEMS also founded the Systems Engineering Innovation Centre, dealing with all areas of research, development, teaching and training. This is a ground-breaking partnership between BAE SYSTEMS and Loughborough University and is supported by our regional development agency, emda. It is setting new standards, for others to follow, of how industry and the University can work together. It is.greatly envied by our competitor Universities.The Company, together with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, provide a Joint Research Fund of £8million in Systems Engineering.

The Company also underpins our Engineering Doctorate Centre in Systems Engineering, a leading industrially led research effort funding 10 Engineering Doctorate Research Engineers each year.

These are major commitments by the Company to engineering education, to engineering research and to Loughborough University. We work with the Company to produce engineers of the future with the right skills, knowledge and personal qualities to succeed and through research to ensure a continuous flow of both innovative ideas and bright imaginative research engineers.

These are the activities of a large and visionary company.

BAE SYSTEMS is a large defence and aerospace engineering company. A global company with major research, development and manufacturing sites in the UK, the US, Sweden, South Africa and Australia and with customers and partners in over 100 countries.

At these sites BAE SYSTEMS develop, manufacture and maintain complex systems such as: the F35, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Tornado, Harrier and Hawk aircraft; surface ships such as Type 45 Destroyers; submarines such as the Astute; as well as radar, avionics and a range of electronic systems.

BAE SYSTEMS have grown to be the 26th largest company in the UK, it is Europe’s largest Defence contractor and one of the top ten in the USA. it employs over 100,000 people with a turnover of over £15 billion and profits in excess of £500 million.

This is a large operation with a huge agenda and vision, and as world leaders in engineering developments the responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the Chief Executive require both engineering training, skills and knowledge as well as business acumen.

Mike Turner was born in Manchester in 1948, educated at Didsbury Technical High School and joined Hawker Siddeley in Manchester in 1966 as an undergraduate apprentice and combined his work with the Company with his studies at Manchester Polytechnic, now Manchester Metropolitan University. Today, this would be regarded as a tough route to follow.

In 1973 he won the British Institute of Management’s Young Manager of the Year award and from there it was a steady rise through the ranks.

Leading roles as Director at various levels, responsible for the Advanced Turboprop Project, the Harrier and Hawk jet trainer. Marketing and Product Support of Military Aircraft, and the Jetstream Aircraft business. 0n joining the main board in 1994 responsibilities included Airbus. Over the years he has been responsible for BAe’s Defence Export Business and a member of the Airbus Supervisory Board.

In 1999 British Aerospace merged with Marconi Electronic Systems to form BAE SYSTEMS and Mike Turner was appointed the Chief Operating Officer and in 2002 he was appointed as Chief Executive of BAE SYSTEMS.

From apprentice to Chief Executive is a long hard road that only a few will ever travel because only a few have the necessary talent, tenacity, knowledge and the supporting education.

His record with BAE SYSTEMS is a proud one.

When Mike took charge of the company in 2002 the company had both issues to resolve and huge opportunities Cost overruns in two Ministry of Defence projects – the Nimrod aircraft and the Astute submarine – were causing some difficulties. Its joint ventures with European partners were described as tangled making them difficult to manage and the Company’s presence in the all-important US market was limited.

In the years since Mike’s appointment to head up the BAE SYSTEMS a number of things have changed.

• the losses caused by Nimrod and Astute have been arrested;
• the Company has enjoyed success with the Eurofighter.
• it has acquired a major US defence contractor, United Defence, and
• it has been commissioned to build new aircraft carriers by the Royal Navy.

He is particularly proud of the Astute submarine which is more complex and 40% cheaper than its US equivalent and the first of its Class was launched in June .

One feature of the Company under Mike Turner’s leadership worth highlighting, particularly today, is a strong commitment to education. The Company supports schools at all levels including GCSE and A levels. Mike is a member of the Government’s Apprenticeship Ambassador Network and BAE SYSTEMS have more than 1,000 engineering apprentices currently in training.

Mike Turner is married with four children. His wife Jean, son Andrew, daughter-in-law Puja and daughter Victoria are with us today and we welcome them to Loughborough University. We are particularly pleased to see his son-in-law Craig. Craig is a Loughborough graduate. Welcome home Craig.

His contribution to engineering and business has been recognised by his election as a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1991 and in 1999 the Queen honoured him with a CBE.

And now its our turn, for his services to the engineering industry, for his support for engineering education and research and education generally, for providing employment opportunities and challenges to graduates such as you and for his achievements as a business man in the tough competitive market of defence and aerospace engineering I present to you Chancellor and to the University Michael John Turner Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Bachelor of Arts, and Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society for the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa and I on behalf of my colleagues am very proud to do so.


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