McLaren’s Michael Collier believes in the power of data

What does it take to succeed in the racing industry? Would you think of innovation as one of the key factors? A British F1 team McLaren believes so. Michael Collier, known from his work as a sports scientist and a physiotherapist of Jenson Button, has witnessed how the development in health tech has shaken p the industry over the past 15 years. Having extensive industry experience in  human performance, Collier is moving across from McLaren racing to take up a new role for McLaren’s innovative technology arm, McLaren Applied Technologies. Constantly seeking for fresh ways of thinking, McLaren Applied Technologies does that “through collaborations with like-minded visionaries outside the company to fostering innovation within our own walls,” Collier shares.

Being appointed to establish the McLaren Human Performance Centre of Excellence, Collier will be in the head of a project creating a centre first of its kind for the global sports and technology brand. This new Human Performance Programme aims to combine cutting-edge medical technologies and data analytics to create unique insights, allowing strategic interventions and ensuring peak human performance.  Collier is taking up his new role with enthusiasm and describes the inspiring and liberating culture of McLaren by embracing his colleagues: “People who work here are incredibly creative, deep-thinking and resourceful, and we want to give everybody the opportunity to develop their own ideas within the framework of the company.”

All too often we track or monitor what we have done but are offered little towards its benefits to us

To foster innovation, McLaren Applied Technologies has created the Innovation Framework, which guiding principle is to look for areas in which the organization can innovate. Combining the expertise in the competitive racing industry and the free-thinking spirit of the company, McLaren accelerates culture of innovation. Consequently, the trends in digitalisation of health are pursued paramount at McLaren Applied Technologies. Personally Collier is interested in the use of data. “All too often we track or monitor what we have done but are offered little towards its benefits to us” he shares. “For example: If I do 10,000 steps how will this affect me compared to 2000? If I eat x what does this mean compared to y?” The current technologies only focus on data acquisition - which should be the first step - and give little attention to deriving insights from this data to improve decision making processes.

When it comes to digitalisation of health, the world of elite sports faces a number of similar problems comparable to those found across the health sector. According to Collier, one of them is finding accurate and accessible parameters of human performance assessing psychological, neurological, biomechanical and mechanical factors. Even up to this day these measures remain somewhat difficult to obtain, Collier explains, providing examples of bloods and maximal exertion tests. However, developments in algorithms have provided the opportunity to test these passively and without bulky or expensive equipment. “The emerge of new technologies from wearable EMG clothing to detect muscle activity to  wearable technology to detect biomechanical imbalances, all available on your smart device, are making assessment and monitoring more seamless every day,” Collier describes.

The second problem McLaren is dealing with relates to remote athlete monitoring. Collier explains that traditional forms of communicating with an athlete for subjective feedback, such as Skype and email, remain an useful tool. ”The continuous improvement of the modern athlete requires specific software platforms and technologies to allow us to monitor the full spectrum of performance parameters and use data to design optimum human performance,” Collier adds. With the help of data McLaren wants to derive enhance making measured and informed decisions on the management of human performance and create optimum gains in athletic performance. When finding solutions for this problem, Collier emphasizes the role of conferences and argues that “Conferences like Artic15 provide the perfect environment to discover and exchange new concepts and ideas on these emerging techniques and technologies."

Collier will not only share his vision at Arctic15’s Health Track but is also eager to connect with you. He describes Artic15 as “a fantastic opportunity for me to meet people working at the forefront of data-driven human performance.” He further continues “I am keen to meet anyone who is looking to improve or invest in the improvement of technologies and techniques to assess and improve optimum human performance across the physical, neuro-physiological, psychological, and contextual spectrum.” Looking for something to break the ice? Maybe it is fun for you to know that in his free time Collier competes in triathlon and also in a witty manner describes himself as "a wannabe golfer - just to beat my Dad!"

Want to find out more about McLaren Applied Technologies’ vision on Human Health and Performance? Collier will be speaking at Arctic15’s Health Track on May 3rd at 13:00. Get your ticket now.

Alisa Knuutinen