Celebrating 50 years as a world leader in automotive testing

May 31, 2020

IT OPENED as an automotive test facility in the Bedfordshire countryside. Now Millbrook Proving Ground is to celebrate 50 years as a world leader in its field.

The company has postponed a full celebration due to the coronavirus pandemic but will mark its golden anniversary with a new website and the memories of its alumni.

Millbrook president Alex Burns said: “I am delighted to be leading Millbrook into its second half-century of supporting the development of new vehicles. This anniversary is a great opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary pace of development of automotive technologies and to recognise the investment that the industry is making to promote cleaner and safer transport in the future.”

Business continues as normal at Millbrook, which has remained ‘Covid-secure’. It continues to offer almost all of its services to its customers, adhering to the new rules and minimising risks.

Millbrook Proving Ground was opened in 1970 by General Motors as a dedicated testing and development facility for vehicle manufacturers Bedford and Vauxhall. In 1988, the company began to trade independently as a subsidiary of Group Lotus – itself part of General Motors at the time. This was the start of Millbrook’s role as a customer-focused automotive test service provider.

Millbrook became independent of GM in 2013 and began to expand in 2015 when it acquired world-leading winter vehicle and tyre testing facility Test World, in northern Finland. In 2017, it acquired Lancashire-based Leyland Technical Centre to broaden its test capabilities in the UK.

This was followed by the acquisition of Detroit-based Revolutionary Engineering in 2018 and the opening of a new Millbrook Revolutionary Engineering site in California in 2019.

Back in Bedfordshire, the original proving ground has enjoyed significant investment in recent years. In 2019, it launched the UK’s most comprehensive independent propulsion systems test facility.

It also opened its Battery Test Facility – the largest private investment in independent battery testing in the country, became  home to the UK’s first 5G network for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and opened the Autonomous Village to enable the development of driverless vehicles onsite.

It has invested more than £120 million since 2015 and now has facilities across the world.

Alex Burns, president of Millbrook Proving Ground.

During its 50 years as a local employer, Millbrook has maintained strong links with local schools and universities and runs successful training schemes for apprentices, undergraduates and graduates. It has a loyal workforce of 500 staff at the proving ground, many of whom joined the business on one of the training schemes. 

The longest-serving members of staff have been with the business for over 40 years. Investment in training and professional development for the company’s workforce has enabled Millbrook to remain a highly regarded employer within the local area, said Mr Burns.

Millbrook also takes the health and wellbeing of its staff seriously, he added. The business runs a series of initiatives including dedicated counselling sessions, run in partnership with mental health charity Mates in Mind. Millbrook nominates and trains dedicated mental health first aiders as part of its mental health strategy across the business. 

It also runs regular financial wellbeing sessions and an employee assistance programme.

Millbrook’s vision is to be a leading global provider of independent impartial test services and test systems. It is working with customers in the automotive, transport, tyre, petrochemical and defence industries, and provides them with test services to support the development of new vehicles.

Mr Burns said: “I am delighted to be leading Millbrook into its second half-century of supporting the development of new vehicles. 

“We will continue to invest in our most valuable asset – our incredible staff, providing great opportunities for professional development and offering them challenging and rewarding careers working at the forefront of technology. 

“We will also keep adding to our stock of test assets, which complement the great test tracks at the proving ground, particularly in areas that help our customers to develop the cleaner, safer, connected and autonomous vehicles that we will all use in the future.”

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