A GLASGOW-based engineer which makes high-precision components for the aerospace, defence and industrial sectors has raised the prospect of creating more high-value jobs in its home city as it unveiled a £4 million investment boost.
Walker Precision Engineering has revealed plans to invest in specialist engineering equipment in its Glasgow East Investment Park base, switch its operation in Basildon 
to a custom-built unit, and double the 
capacity of its manufacturing base in Poland further to the investment from Business Growth Fund (BGF). It comes as the 
family-owned company, headed by brothers Mark and Gary Walker, looks to capitalise on surging demand for its components from the space industry, with exports going to countries such Norway, Germany, Belgium and France. 
The company, founded in 1979 by the brothers’ late father Ian, noted that it has been forging closer links with the International Space Agency and academic institutions.
Walker’s components have been involved in around 60 satellites now in orbit, while the company is set to take part in a major European telecommunications constellation. The largest project of its kind to date, it will involve the launch of hundreds of satellites. 
Managing director Mark Walker said he was confident the project was “going to create job opportunities within Glasgow.”
“The ambition is to create highly-skilled engineering positions,” he added. “We are looking to develop our own team into more specialised areas for the space sector, and recruit for some of the technical posts we are working with our customers on.”
The company currently has around 250 staff, 165 based in Glasgow, and recently hired four graduates whom are already “contributing and adding value” to the business. It takes on four new apprentices every year, and currently has 16 in total on it books.
The company meanwhile is also continuing to experience strong demand from the defence and industrial sectors.
Mr Walker said it is heartening that the business has been able to transfer the skills it has developed in the defence and industrial sectors to the space industry. “The fact we are successfully exporting to several different countries, and growing our export business, is testament to the fact the skillset is transferable into other sectors,” he said. “It [space] is a nice niche sector to be involved with.”
The backing from BGF, which has taken a 20 per cent stake in Walker, is the first time the business has taken investment from an external party.
Asked why the company had decided to work with BGF, which has backed Scottish firms such as M Squared Lasers, Campion Homes, Bar Soba and Keenan Recycling, Mr Walker said the funding would allow it to continue growing in the UK and Europe, while fulfilling large-scale space, defence and industrial programmes. 
He said: “You need a lot of capital behind you for working capital and for capital investment, and we have found the BGF to be much more able to dynamically support us than the major banks, where the decision-making activity takes huge amounts of time at the moment.”
Mr Walker said the BGF would also open provide connections with industry leaders throughout the UK, adding: “They believe in our strategy and support us to grow the business, and [are] providing the funding to allow us to realise the opportunities we have got.”
As well as the funding, Walker announced yesterday that it has appointed experienced aerospace executive Chris Melrose as non-executive chairman. Mr Melrose is a former managing director of General Electric JV, vice president of Bombardier Aerospace and was latterly non-executive chairman of Daher Aerospace. He said the attraction of BGF as an investor was that it takes a longer-term view compared with banks or private equity backers. “With aerospace, defence and space activities, the cycle is a lot longer than it would be in oil and gas or in [the] automotive [sector], where you get the product off the line and your returns coming much quicker,” Mr Melrose said. 
“BGF are happy to live with that, they understand it, which is why they are a good bet for investing.”
BGF investor Paddy Graham said: “Walker is one of the leaders in its field, having built a strong heritage and long-standing customer relationships. Having known the business for a number of years, we’ve seen the team successfully scale up its operations and customer base and break into the space market. 
“There are significant opportunities for Walker to expand its capacity further in both existing and in new markets. We’re delighted to be helping the team capitalise on this.”