John Britten.

Source: University of Canterbury

The University of Canterbury is to name a College of Engineering building in honour of trailblazing Christchurch innovator and engineer John Britten.

The naming of the John Britten building was announced today with the approval of John Britten’s widow, Kirsteen Britten. This year marks the 20th anniversary of John Britten’s death at 45.

Of the announcement Kirsteen Britten said: “John would have been so honoured to have this wonderful building, a centre of innovation and creativity, named after him and to see the incredible talent that walks through these doors every day.”

The John Britten building is home to the Wireless and Spatial Engineering Research Centres and the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLab) as well as being the main centre of the College of Engineering.

Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr said: “John Britten’s innovations continue to inspire new generations of inventors to follow their dreams. The University of Canterbury is proud to be associated with the Britten legacy of innovation excellence and we hope that his ability to develop new ways of solving problems encourages UC students to reach new heights of creativity.”

Professor Jan Evans-Freeman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Engineering, said the College was proud to have its main office and central facility named after John Britten.

“While John is best well-known for his achievements with the Britten motorbikes, he was a well-rounded creative talent. He was also an architect, builder, glider pilot and fine art glass sculptor. While we’re naming our college building for him, he also reminds us of the range of skills available to students through a tertiary education, many of which we teach at UC.

“Some technical staff in the mechanical engineering department recall working on prototype Britten bikes in the College wind tunnels.

“I was an amateur motorbike racer in the United Kingdom and the Britten bike was legendary all round the world. It’s an honour to be able to name this building after such an exciting engineer and inspire our current and future students to the big things they can achieve whatever discipline they chose to pursue.”

Previously the building on Creyke Road housed the New Zealand ICT Innovation Institute, which connects the ICT research resources of the University of Canterbury with industry. The Institute is now located elsewhere on UC’s Ilam campus.

John Britten’s legacy

Christchurch inventor and engineer John Kenton Britten designed world-renowned motorcycles and engines. The Britten motorcycle was a ground-breaking invention that won races and set numerous speed records on the international circuits, astounding the motorcycle world. His V1000 was considered the most influential racing motorcycle of the 1990s, breaking world speed records.  John Britten died aged 45 in 1995 of a malignant melanoma.

Today, Britten motorcycles are spread around the globe at museums, including Te Papa in Wellington, and with private owners in the United States and South Africa. Three of the Britten Motorcycle Company’s V1000s remain in New Zealand. Only ten of Britten’s V1000 motorcycles were built.

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.