From the RAF to PPPs,
Serco has been a pioneer since it started 80 years ago
Serco began life in 1929 when Radio Corporation of America formed a UK subsidiary, RCA Services Limited, to support the country's growing cinema industry. In the early 1960s the company won a piece of work that was to shape its future direction - a maintenance contract for the UK Ballistic Missile Early Warning System at the Royal Air Force (RAF) base at Fylingdales. This expanded into a contract to operate the technical facilities at the base and provide comprehensive support to the RAF - which we continue to do today. In the 1980s the UK Ministry of Defence began a programme of outsourcing and contracting for the operation and maintenance of defence installations and facilities - and it used Fylingdales as the model.
Blast-off for a new era
Two other outsourcing markets emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s - and with them, important new opportunities for us. The European Space Agency (ESA) was formed in 1973, with operational support provided by member nations. And, in 1982, for the first time, the Greater London Council awarded contracts for the maintenance of London's traffic signals by geographic area. By successfully improving services such as these, we quickly established a reputation for helping customers achieve their policies and objectives.
New name, new opportunities
Following a management buyout in 1987, RCA Services Limited was renamed Serco Limited. In 1988, the company achieved a full listing on the London Stock Exchange as Serco Group plc. A period of expansion and diversification followed. Governments across the developed world were beginning programmes of management reform and outsourcing, introducing competition for the services needed to sustain and improve public services. At the same time, private sector organisations increasingly saw the value of outsourcing support services, freeing up management to focus on core activities. Serco won business in the civil government, transport and commercial/industrial markets, and established operations in Asia Pacific and North America.
The forefront of innovation
Since the 1990s, with the success of initiatives to introduce change in public services, the market has become more complex. Increasingly, Serco's role is not just to support core public services but actually to provide them, with our staff dealing directly with the public. More sophisticated public private partnerships have emerged such as joint ventures and private finance initiatives (PFIs) which involve collaboration with public authorities and charity partners in areas such as education, health and justice. Many opportunities are being created that our track record, expertise and innovation put us in a great position to support.