Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman and founder of the WMG
Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, chairman and founder of the WMG manufacturing research centre, part of the University of Warwick, assesses the automotive sector deal between government and industry announced recently by business secretary Greg Clark.
The new automotive sector vision outlined by the government has been hailed as a “landmark”. It focuses around joint investment and long-term commitments between government and industry in areas including the design and development of connected and autonomous vehicles, the research and development of battery technology and accelerating the manufacture of ultra-low and zero emission vehicles.
It builds on much work that has already been done over the years and follows previous and very welcome injections of financial support.
This overview includes:
That is the background. Further, the automotive sector deal announcement committed up to £32m of new joint funding for an industry-led supply chain competitiveness programme plus £26.4m investment, match-funded by industry, in three cutting-edge low carbon vehicle projects involving Ford, GKN and Jaguar Land Rover.
The JLR element will help support the company’s development of electric hybrid vehicle systems – it is in the process of launching a series of electronic versions of its popular models.
We work closely with JLR and this latest government-industry initiative which follows on from another important development – news that a partnership of WMG, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and Coventry City Council have been awarded £80m to establish a National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility. The new national facility will be established in the Coventry and Warwickshire area.
And now WMG can reveal that on the back of the latest government research push we will be building a new centre in the Coventry area for the testing of prototypes.
Why is all of this so urgent?
Things are moving so fast around the world because of environmental problems and pressures – hence the need to switch to electronic and hybrid cars. We haven’t yet solved all the issues around batteries – at WMG we have been working on it for the last 15 years – but what is available now needs to be utilised now.
We are looking at testing autonomous vehicles in Coventry too but autonomous vehicles have a long way to go.
Coventry and the sub region has a significant contribution to make in the delivery of the UK’s national Industrial Strategy, being in a strong position to lead the advancement of battery development, and vehicle electrification and autonomous vehicles. It will be at the heart of the drive to become a smart motor city.
Partnership matters, and it is right that I pay tribute to the leadership of business and energy secretary Greg Clark. He has a “can do” attitude… and his thoughts are on the button.
Clark states: “For decades, the UK’s automotive industry has powered our economy forward. Today, automotive firms from around the world choose to set up shop here, citing our history of excellence, skilled workforce and world-leading supply chains.
“In the next 10 years, the sector will see more change than in the previous hundred. From the engines that power our cars, to the way we control them and our attitudes to owning them, technology is changing what the industry looks like and where money can be made.
“As a result of the sector deal, both government and industry will invest about a quarter of a billion pounds to develop and manufacture electric vehicles, create a world-leading testing environment for connected and autonomous vehicles and invest in a new industry-led programme to raise the competiveness of UK suppliers to match the best in Europe.
“As we open the automotive sector’s next chapter, we will continue to work with industry to make sure the technologies of tomorrow are developed, tested and manufactured right here in the UK.”
I endorse those words wholeheartedly. Japan, Korea, China and the United States are all striving for success in this area – it is vital we are at the forefront of this revolution. WMG, Coventry and the UK are indeed at the heart of it all.
We may not be able to match some of our competitors in terms of how much money they can throw at it, but we do have the brains, innovation and resourcefulness to take us a very long way.
This is the future and we must be part of it.
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