Colleagues and I from the University of Bath recently met Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, where we presented the latest developments in the University’s plans to build a new automotive research centre at the Bristol & Bath Science Park.
In what was a highly positive meeting, in which we were also joined by local MPs Ben Howlett and Chris Skidmore, Mr Javid was encouraged by the proposals we presented.
The Government and industry is already working together on researching and developing low carbon propulsion and driverless cars technology. However, Mr Javid recognised more could be done to help universities and industry collaborate to ensure the UK has the right skills for a 21st century automotive industry.
By combining the expertise of academia and industry and working closely with SMEs and multinational companies, the proposed facility would enhance the UK’s competitive edge in the automotive sector
Our ambition at the University is to build a unique £50m facility that would deliver transformational research for new advanced automotive propulsion technologies. By combining the expertise of academia and industry and working closely with SMEs and multinational companies, the proposed facility would enhance the UK’s competitive edge in the automotive sector.
The European and global automotive market is highly competitive but we believe this facility would put the UK in the driving seat in creating a new breed of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Locally, the proposed project would bring in new investment and thousands of highly skilled advanced engineering jobs to the West of England, as well as providing state-of-the-art facilities that will benefit a range of industry-led collaborations. It would also have educational value, delivering new undergraduate/masters and PhD training opportunities, helping to upskill the current workforce to support the expansion of the automotive propulsion industry.
ABOVE: The Powertrain & Vehicle Research Centre (PVRC) team
On a national level, the facility would build on links with the National Composites Centre which is based at the Science Park. Combining new materials and new technologies would make a powerful combination. It would also play an important role in the Government’s Propulsion Nation vision which aims to deliver world-leading technologies, as part of its strategy to support the automotive sector.
The University of Bath has a longstanding record for delivering world-class automotive research, and we feel we are best placed to lead on the creation and establishment of such an exciting and significant research facility. For over four decades, our highly regarded Powertrain and Vehicle Research Centre (PVRC) has been conducting prize-winning automotive research and has delivered nearly 100 business-led experimental projects worth £24m over the last 20 years.
Only recently, the University was recognised as one of the UK’s leading automotive propulsion groups, having been selected as a Spoke of the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). As an APC Spoke, Bath will form a centre of excellence bringing specific functional, technological and regional capability to the APC network. This proposed new facility would help us build on this momentum.
We have been very encouraged by the support from industry and political leaders. We will now work hard to turn this opportunity into reality.
Steve Egan is Vice-President (Implementation) at the University of Bath.