The car-making sector is helping to build a strong knowledge economy in the city, which is key to the North East’s economic growth. Sunderland City Council is playing a leading role, building strong partnerships with innovators, entrepreneurs, universities and business organisations to generate a knowledge-intensive economy.
A regional consortium has submitted a bid this month to unlock resources from UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund to help establish the Centre for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (CeSAM) at the heart of the £400m International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) in Sunderland.
The consortium, led by the University of Sunderland, includes Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham universities, the North East Automotive Alliance, Nissan Manufacturing UK, Sunderland City Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership together with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and Digital Catapult NE Tees Valley.
CeSAM will ensure the North East will benefit from major changes in manufacturing technology through exploitation of world-leading research. It will also help to develop a highly skilled workforce to meet these technological changes. CeSAM will tackle key challenges facing businesses, including supply chains, next generation factories, advanced materials and strategic workforce development.
CESAM will also help address current barriers to innovation within manufacturing industries by creating a realistic industrial environment, including production lines, which can test and prove technologies and processes. The centre will offer integrated advanced manufacturing solutions for sectors as diverse as automotive and transport, energy, aerospace, healthcare/pharmaceuticals, food and drink, infrastructure and construction.
CeSAM’s initial focus will be on automotive, with wider market focus following once the centre is established. Alongside the exciting developments at IAMP, Sunderland’s automotive and advanced manufacturing companies have been forging ahead this year.
HYVE, the UK’s largest independent battery manufacturing facility, outside major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), opened in Sunderland in July.
HYVE is based at Hyperdrive Innovation, the UK’s foremost designer and manufacturer of lithium-ion battery technology. Hyperdrive – which makes battery packs for electric vehicles and energy storage systems – has invested £7m into its manufacturing capabilities since 2014. HYVE will allow Hyperdrive to produce up to 30,000 battery packs annually and cater to the company’s growing demand from international customers.
The move accelerates Hyperdrive’s new product development and technology pipelines, maximising its global competitiveness. Hyperdrive moved to the Future Technology Centre (FTC) in Washington, Sunderland in 2014. Sunderland City Council has worked with the company since then, providing advice and support, enabling Hyperdrive to secure the 21,000 sq. ft HYVE facility, also at the FTC.
In the low carbon sector, Sunderland is one of the leading centres for electric vehicles and infrastructure. The North East accounts for 20% of all electric vehicle production in Europe, and Sunderland is home to the largest electric vehicle battery plant in Europe.
The highly advanced facility employs more than 300 people and produces the lithium-ion battery packs that power the Sunderland-produced Nissan LEAF. The city council worked with Nissan for many years to help put in place the infrastructure for electric vehicle production at Nissan Sunderland which resulted in the launch of the LEAF and important investment in the battery plant. Sunderland topped all other competing UK cities for electric vehicle infrastructure this year in a national survey, and is the first in the UK to open a fast charging station for electric vehicles.
The city opened a rapid charging electric vehicle station on West Wear Street in March this year. The first of this type in the UK, the station offers four 50 kW fast chargers and two 175 kW fast chargers that are enabled for 350 kW charging – the fastest in the UK. The facility can accommodate all fully-electric vehicles and provide enough energy for 350 miles of travel in just 20 minutes. There are now more than 80 charging points, some of which are double bays, across the Sunderland City Council area.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council said: “The close links and collaborative partnerships we have forged with the city and region’s universities, businesses and agencies are proving to be powerful, winning combinations.
“Together we are creating unique opportunities which will in turn boost jobs, the economy and the confidence of major sectors such as automotive and advanced manufacturing. We can achieve even more in the years ahead, building on their success.”
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