Thatcham gearbox engineering business wins Queen’s Award for Innovation

Photo shows: James Setter, Head of Xtrac's High-Performance Automotive business unit
Xrac James Setter head of Xtrac HPA division

Vehicle transmission specialist Xtrac, whose energy-efficient gearbox designs are helping to influence radically different technology for future road cars, has received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The company has won the award in the category for Innovation for its development of an Integrated Lightweight Electric Vehicle (ILEV) gearbox range spearheaded by Xtrac CEO Adrian Moore.

Xtrac, which is based at Thatcham in Berkshire, previously received a Queen’s Award for Export and Excellence in 1992, less than a decade after it was founded to serve the motorsport industry. Nowadays, as well as continuing to serve the industry globally, it has successfully reached out to the automotive mainstream.

Xtrac CEO Adrian Moore“Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected us like all other businesses in our industry, in the UK and around the world,” said Adrian. “With international motor racing now at a standstill, it has been necessary to furlough some of our employees, and every single one of us has volunteered to take a pay cut to get us through these uncertain times.”

“So, to receive such prestigious recognition for the highly skilled accomplishments of our people is a very welcome boost to morale for all of us. And, it’s particularly good news, of course, for our fast-growing High-Performance Automotive business unit, headed by James Setter, which led the implementation of the winning Integrated Lightweight Electric Vehicle transmission project.”

Part of the UK’s renowned high-performance engineering sector, Xtrac will attend a Royal reception later in the year. Her Majesty, The Queen, personally approves the winners announced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). James Puxley, the Lord-Lieutenant of the Royal County of Berkshire, will present the award, which will also be later in the year, at the company’s newly expanded design and manufacturing headquarters at Thatcham in West Berkshire.

Xtrac has put intense research and development effort into its energy-efficient hybrid & electric vehicle transmission systems and more recently has further ramped up these efforts.

“Xtrac was one of the early leaders in the inception of low carbon vehicle technologies,” says Setter. “We first presented our ideas to policymakers at the Palace of Westminster in 2008 in response to the increasing interest in electric vehicles.”

Initially, Xtrac worked with a consortium of automotive companies supported by Innovate UK to help develop new, highly efficient, propulsion and driveline systems.

Queen’s Award log“We then realised that we could lead the market using lightweight materials and patenting ground-breaking gearbox designs that could be used by carmakers globally,” said James, who represents the Motorsport Industry Association on the UK’s influential Automotive Council Technology Group, which is coordinating the development of new energy-saving and CO2 reducing technologies.

As well as supplying motorsport teams, Xtrac today also provides many different types of automotive clients with new technologies and a skill base that can adapt quickly to shifts in market conditions and regulatory changes, including requirements for environmentally-friendly road cars.

While global motorsport takes a temporary pause, Xtrac will defer its celebrations and instead has joined the UK motorsport industry’s efforts to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, by repurposing parts of its factory and staff to rapidly manufacture medical ventilator components for the Ventilator Challenge UK initiative.