Royal visit celebrating 25 years of innovation

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

AN ENGINEERING company with a worldwide reputation for innovation hosted a royal visitor today (Tuesday 2nd July).

Princess Anne visited REACT Engineering to meet with staff and heard how the company has developed its global expertise.

The business, based at Cleator Moor in Cumbria, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and hosted The Princess Royal for lunch.

Bethany Holmes, aged seven, of Jericho Primary School, Whitehaven, and a member of the REACTioneers Science Club presents Princess Anne with flowers

Managing director Phil Redfern explained how the firm, which employs 40 people in engineering and project management consultancy for the nuclear and other industries, has developed its culture of innovation and has empowered a dynamic and talented workforce.

Phil, who was educated at the former Wyndham School, in nearby Egremont, and has worked his way to the top, said: “REACT is a great company to work for. Members of the team are always looking for better ways of working.

“We proactively recruit young people as they don’t fall back on previous ways of doing things and have more potential to look at problems with a fresh perspective and fresh thinking.

“The way we operate is to encourage smart thinking and a solution-based approach to complex issues in industry.

“Our mantra is that we provide ‘smart answers to difficult problems’.

“We rely on our people, often young people, to take that responsibility from an early stage in their careers. They do some seriously clever stuff.

Princess Anne meets young people involved with REACT Engineering and the REACT Foundation at its offices at Cleator Moor, in Cumbria.

“That’s what enables us to innovate, to be agile, and to provide effective and efficient solutions to problems in a range of sectors.

“We think that approach should be encouraged and nurtured. We’d like to see more companies like this coming through in Cumbria because it is this approach which will bring Cumbria the diversification and vibrant business economy it needs.”

REACT Engineering's innovative approach to business over the last 25 years has led to the successful formation, and subsequent development, of other companies such as Createc, in Cockermouth, and HiDef, also based in Cleator Moor.

It has a strategy of mixing creative free-thinkers, with those with more process-driven scientific, engineering and hard-edged business skills to come up with innovative solutions.

“By mixing amazing technology with creative thinking - it’s in the middle, where they combine, that there’s a rich seam of innovation,” said Phil.

The company’s approach to the workplace environment, to nurturing talent, and providing crossover opportunities in a range of diverse industries, emanated from its work in the nuclear clean-up sector, but has diversified to a range of industries.

REACT worked with its sister company Createc and a Japanese contractor on the nuclear-clean up at the Daiichi nuclear power plant at Fukushima, following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Princess Anne meets one of REACT Engineering's founders Pete Woolaghan (left) and Managing Director Phil Redfern (right).

It has also collaborated on projects across the UK with the likes of James Fisher Nuclear, WYG and Shepley Engineers.

While in Cumbria, Princess Anne also opened the new campus of St Benedict’s School.

Among the school's alumni is former head boy and one of REACT's founders Pete Woolaghan.

Pete, who started the company with Trevor Craig and Steve Knight, is well known for his work inspiring young people in science. He set up the REACT Foundation 15 years ago which aims to ensure young people in Cumbria have world class learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths.

He was also instrumental in bringing Professor Brian Cox to Cumbria in 2017 for an inaugural Infinity science festival to ensure young people in the region had a first-hand opportunity to be inspired by science with the type of experience that would normally be more associated with the major urban centres.

He is a supporter of the Choose Cumbria initiative which promotes the county as a great place to have amazing career opportunities, as well as an excellent quality of life, and a world-class natural environment in the form of the UNESCO World Heritage status Lake District and the dramatic Cumbrian coastline.