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Engineering excellence at Hydra

Cornish engineering company The Hydra Group, based in Indian Queens, has been expanding rapidly since MD Steve Rivers established the company in 1992. It is now one of the world's largest suppliers of specialist stainless steel screens to the water treatment industry and has recently implemented automated systems which have taken its design and production to the very cutting edge, way ahead of many of its competitors.

Steve explains: "On a recent visit to a state-of-the-art factory in Germany I saw similar technology to ours – but it had taken their four designers three years to develop it. Our Project Engineer has achieved it within a year and this just goes to prove the excellent calibre of people we have in Cornwall!"

James Brennan from Helston is the project engineer responsible for this, incorporating a new CNC punching machine – which punches holes in sheet metal – and offline programming software at Hydra. Starting with the company on a graduate placement project through Combined Universities in Cornwall's Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP) scheme, James began on the shop floor learning the operating systems and evaluating opportunities for improvement. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Glamorgan, he was then able to evolve the existing methods of hand drawing designs and manually setting equipment into a highly accurate and efficient computerised system.

James explains: "The introduction of a new and very accurate punching machine was the first step but this then had knock on effects right throughout the process from drawing, material properties, tooling, procurement and right down to the shop floor. All had to be enhanced to get the best results. We are now seeing huge savings in time and efficiency – the CNC punch alone has produced an 8% reduction in costs. We also create more accurate pieces of work and have greater flexibility in terms of what can be produced. Overall we can offer a better quality of product and breadth of service for our customers."

Hydra has benefited from a number of UCP graduates' expertise over the years – James is the fifth such graduate to join the company and to be offered a full time job at the end of his project. As Steve Rivers confirms: "This really is the ideal model of how we like to do things – UCP gives us the opportunity to recruit fresh, talented graduates who have the right mindset to take on a project and run with it. All credit to our graduates – we can confidently leave them to carry on and improve our core business, leaving us free to expand the company into new areas. The outcome of using UCP has exceeded our expectations in every way."

Unlocking Cornish Potential is managed by Cornwall College and backed by Objective One. UCP places graduates with local businesses to work on specific projects to improve success or profitability. Both the business and the graduate receive ongoing mentoring and support. Over 70% of UCP graduates have secured full time roles.

For further information contact David Kirk, Combined Universities in Cornwall PR and Communications Manager on 01326 370471 or email

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF).


Editor's notes:

The Unlocking Cornish Potential (UCP) project is part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative and is managed by Cornwall College. UCP builds on 5 years of highly successful, ESF funded activity by the University of Plymouth. The UCP project seeks to measurably improve the efficiency, competitiveness and growth potential of SMEs in Cornwall through the placement of graduates in companies to undertake business development projects. These projects can last from 6 to 12 months.

The Combined Universities in Cornwall is a dynamic and visionary partnership that is one of the driving forces behind Cornwall's economic renaissance. This partnership combines the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, University College Falmouth, The Open University, The College of St Mark & St John, and the Peninsula Medical School, with Cornwall's Further Education colleges - Cornwall College, Truro College and Penwith College. It aims not only to provide the students of the future with more choice and greater opportunities, but also to boost the economic fortunes of the region for the benefit of one and all.

The CUC initiative has been invested in by the Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the South West Regional Development Agency, Cornwall County Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.


Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

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