Tom Brown, an IMD MBA alumnus and engineering expert who has chaired 15 companies, has authored and successfully published a new book which explores the decline of the UK engineering industry. 

“Tragedy & Challenge” analyses the causes of the UK engineering industry’s deterioration, including poor leadership, the detrimental effect of government economic policy, and the destructive influence of the City, including an insider’s, uninhibited view of fund managers, analysts and private equity firms.

Brown offers unique insight into the challenges facing engineering companies, including the impact this has on the UK economy and society.

Tragedy & Challenge will appeal to readers interested in economics, politics, business, management, investing, and Britain’s changing society.  

The book compares how badly the UK engineering industry has performed relative to international competitors such as Germany, using existing UK manufacturing data. 

Brown recounts his varied, early experiences in the industry, from night shift manager to Managing Director, and the life-changing lessons he gained from working in a German-speaking company.  

Brown concludes that, while some decline was inevitable, due to global factors, the comparison with Germany shows that the UK engineering industry’s fall did not need to be precipitate. Some responsibility lies with management and unions, but ultimately, poor governments, the City, and decaying social attitudes were to blame — and now Brexit makes the prognosis even more daunting. 

After studying for an MBA at IMD in Lausanne, Brown learned the German language in four weeks so he could run an engineering company in South Tyrol. After working for the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, he became the CEO of a publicly-listed engineering company at the age of 38. He went on to be a board director of 22 independent companies, 15 of them as Chairman. These companies include those in the FTSE250 index and on London’s junior AIM market, a venture capital trust, and spin-off companies from Cambridge University.  

“All this experience has not only given me a very direct understanding of what befell UK engineering, but also an insider’s knowledge of what it is really like to be a company director dealing with the City, fund managers, private equity investors, and issues such as modern governance and remuneration policies,” Brown said. 

“I have also learnt about the realities behind issues such as our lack of exports, and the very serious problem of short-termism, where I believe my personal experiences bring these issues to life in a way that academics miss.” 

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