With the coronation of King Charles III fast approaching, our nation is gearing up to celebrate. This provides an opportunity to reflect on Smiths’ long-standing relationship with the royal family.
In 1904 King Edward VII, a driving enthusiast, asked our then-CEO to help him measure the speed of his vehicles. Shortly thereafter, Smiths developed what would become the world’s first accurate speedometer. In 1937 at the British Industries Fair, the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Royal personally selected several Smiths clocks that caught their eyes. In 1944, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured a Smiths factory in Cheltenham, where watches were under development, a prototype being given to the King; and in 1959 the Duke of Edinburgh was guest of honour opening a new Smiths site in Cricklewood, London.
Roughly 60 years later, our technology enables air travel, global communications, and energy transmission on a global scale. Smiths’ solutions heat and cool half the homes in North America, support three-quarters of all satellites launched in the US and Europe, enable 80% of carbon capture projects worldwide, and protect over 90% of the world’s largest airports.
While we are a global business, employing fifteen thousand people across more than 50 countries, many of our high-tech facilities are still located right here in the UK. In addition to a half dozen R&D centres across our country, we manufacture components for the global space sector at our facility in Scotland. We provide cutting-edge security solutions from our operations in Hemel Hempstead. We make highly engineered sealing systems in Slough, and we recently expanded our presence in Wales, relocating manufacturing there from other countries.
The world’s decarbonisation imperative is one of the defining opportunities of our generation, and demands unprecedented innovation, collaboration, and investment to address. In support of our own net-zero commitments, just last month, we announced that we’re moving our global headquarters to the UK’s first zero-carbon, large-scale, mixed-use site, marking 172 straight years of being headquartered in London.
Which brings us back to King Charles, whose passion for environmentalism is well noted, including his support for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and his work to establish the Sustainable Markets Initiative. He has been a powerful voice for ESG, politely and persistently reminding us that we all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable world.
While our new King has not sought my counsel on automotive or timekeeping concerns, he does share his forebears’ focus on building a better world. We wish him every success and share his commitment to serving this great nation for many years to come.
Chief Executive Officer, Smiths Group
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth touring a Smiths watch facility in Cheltenham, UK.
Pictured from right to left are Sir Allan Gordon-Smith (the Chair of Smiths at the time), Sir Stafford Cripps, the King, W.E Watson, the Queen, Lady Cripps, Ben Havilland, Ralph Gordon-Smith, and three (unknown) attendants to the royal party.
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