30th June 2023 - Careers Q+A with... Anthony Baxendale

After 32 years of dedicated service to HORIBA MIRA, Dr Anthony Baxendale, mobility innovation hub consultant, who retired in May, shares his story 

So, where did it all begin for you, Anthony? 

I began at MIRA 8 April 1991. I'd seen an advert in the paper one day whilst waiting for a train - it said CFD Consultant (Computational Fluid Dynamics), and I thought: that sounds interesting. Previously, I'd been in aerospace engineering and had been working on CFD there; I was interested in what other industries were doing in that space.  

So, the role was at MIRA - I did some research, decided to apply and ultimately got the job. I was really interested in setting up new technology in a different industry. My fist day came along and as I considered the role and what was in front of me, I was, to be honest, really quite overwhelmed with the task at hand. It wasn't just a technical challenge; it was a much broader business challenge - this was very early days of this work and I had to be committed to growing the discipline as a commercial success over time and from the first business case onwards. I had great support from colleagues around me, and investments came into the right equipment to develop the capability over the course of my first year.   


How did you go about developing the new function into a commercial success? 

At the time there was a lot of interest in the automotive industry in redesigning exhaust systems to reduce emissions during engine start-up. Now, that's actually a really complicated fluid and thermo-dynamic problem, and so I chose this as an internal project through which we could develop a customer offer.  We landed work with Ford which really took off, and from that other customers quickly came on board. I was suddenly in a position to grow a team, and with that came more investment. From there we were able to do more and different things, really interesting projects like supporting the Thrust SSC land record.   

That growth moved me towards taking a more leadership position, managing other's work etc. It was a threshold for me in which I made a conscious decision to move towards management as a career discipline. To support that focus I took on a part time MBA at Henley Management College. It transformed my understanding of management, leadership and what fostering innovation really means. On top of that I was a volunteer for the Samaritans, which also had a profound influence on me in terms of listening skills.  


We know you today as a leader of our research and development at MIRA, when did that start? 

In addition to my work on aerodynamics, fluid dynamics and CFD, an opportunity came up for me to take on responsibility for MIRA's internal research activity. That was really the door to the second half of my career. We set up a new department called Advanced Engineering - a home for individuals experienced in R&D across different disciplines in order to create a culture of innovation and collaboration. My focus within that has been to create the right environment, the right support and guidance, for the brilliant team members within that function to flourish. 

That has evolved since then within MIRA and ultimately brought us to a place where we are now with the Mobility Innovation Hub, which remains within the MIRA family but with the primary goal of supporting all of HORIBA. That is where we are today, and I know that I leave the team in great hands.   

There is a great legacy of achievements and influence our research and development investments have delivered over the years across much of what HORIBA MIRA does and has become known for. Like all of what we do at MIRA, that has emerged from the great people we have brought into our family - in years gone by and to today. 

What has stood out for you as most important within your career at MIRA? 

One of the things I have tried to be is a leader rather than a manager. There’s an important difference. As Charles Handy put it, “Managers do things right, leaders do the right things.” I think MIRA has a great culture for supporting and developing leaders and this is another aspect that marks it out as a special place to work. Leadership for me has been more a privilege than a responsibility because I have had the privilege to lead such diverse teams of outstanding scientists and engineers over the years.    

But, today, after 32 years. The transformation in MIRA facilities, tech park and technology has been staggering. Heroic achievements across all areas of the business. None of this would have been possible without MIRA’s people. They are what makes the difference. They are the spirit of MIRA’s ingenuity today. As for tomorrow, I’ll never forget the words of a young person entering the MTI for the first time when they exclaimed with excitement – “Wow. I want to work in a place like this!”