Key investment to create pioneering centres for electrification of transport

Business Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma has announced a £36.7 million investment to design, test and manufacture electric machines.

£30 million will be used to create four new, cutting-edge industrialisation centres - based in Newport, Nottingham, Strathclyde and Sunderland – to research and develop green electric machines including planes, ships and cars.

The investment is funded through UK Research and Innovation’s Driving the Electric Revolution challenge. Using state of the art equipment, the network will specialise in researching and developing technologies to electrify transport. Each centre will propel UK manufacturing to the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change and ensure the UK can reach net zero emissions by 2050.

A further £6.7 million will be awarded to 14 projects that will help ensure the final buyer in supply chains – such as large automotive manufacturers – can access the parts and components they need to develop electric machines with ease. This investment will have applications for electric vehicles, as well as other industries including rail, marine, aerospace and energy – all with the aim of switching away from fossil fuel technologies.

Business Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma said: “The electric revolution is an opportunity for our transport sectors to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. The UK is leading the way in developing cleaner technologies to help us reach our target of zero emissions by 2050 and these new centres will play an important part in that.”

More than 30 partner research and technology organisations will be a part of the industrialisation centres. The network will be headed up by lead partner Newcastle University, along with 21 other universities from around the UK, plus 13 research and technology organisations including the Compound Semiconductor Applications, High Value Manufacturing and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapults – and will be essential in attracting both foreign direct investment and new, innovative entrants into this space.

Dr Will Drury – Challenge Director, Driving the Electric Revolution, said: “The development of these centres is a game changer for the UK. The growth of this sector is dependent on the ability to leverage manufacturing of the products throughout the supply chain.

“By bringing world-class technology research alongside world-class manufacturing research the centres will provide a catalyst to this growth.

“This investment, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will boost the UK’s position as a world leader in electrification. The leadership of the winning consortium bring a great depth of knowledge from industry and are positioned to deliver on the success this venture promises.”

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, said: “We are committed to expanding our leading research in this important area and working alongside our regional and national partners to deliver a UK-based, globally-leading supply chain that will scale up the use of electric-powered vehicles and other motors across a range of industries and transport systems.

“The DER Challenge, and the reduction in carbon it will help bring about, is a key focus for research at Newcastle University as we progress towards achieving the Government’s carbon neutral target by 2050.”

The centres are supported by a number of major industrial organisations:

Steve Marsh, Nissan Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, said: “We welcome the announcement of funding for the Driving the Electric Revolution (DER) centres, including one in the North East. The UK-built Nissan LEAF has sold more than 450,000 electric vehicles globally and the development of a competitive supply chain is critical to this growing sector.”

Dr. Andreas Docter, Director Electric Powertrain, Jaguar Land Rover said. “This is a great opportunity to support the most advanced projects in the development and testing of Power Electronics, Machines & Drive (PEMD) systems. Jaguar Land Rover has a specific interest in projects which improve manufacturing processes, accelerate the PEMD manufacturing innovation to production and an important one is flexible eDrive prototyping. These all contribute to the company’s mission of achieving Destination Zero.”

Rob Watson, Director - Rolls-Royce Electrical, said. “Championing electrification is a key part of Rolls-Royce’s strategy and we recognise the importance of investing in the industrialisation of power electronics, motors and drives (PEMD). We are delighted to support the Driving the Electrical Revolution Challenge (DER), which will provide an essential element in the successful development of UK PEMD supply chain capability. We also welcome the creation of DER centres which will play an important role by helping the supply chain to access both manufacturing process development and scale up and test capabilities.”

Dr. Drew Nelson President and CEO – IQE, said. “We are particularly interested in several specific aspects of the proposed DER centre offering: a focus on facilitating rapid entry for the UK and global Silicon Power semiconductor industry to the next generation compound semiconductor materials such as Silicon Carbide and Gallium Nitride; an open access ‘Pilot Line’ concept which will deliver academic researchers working alongside industrial engineers to ensure that any new semiconductor solution is designed for scale up and manufacture; and value-add incubation space for spins offs and start-ups to take advantage of the semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem in the UK. I cannot over-state the need for speed of execution of this project given the rapid expansion of Power Electronics applications and markets, and corresponding increasing interest from competing economies such as China and US. The UK currently has an undisputed global lead in CS technology, based on a long history of research excellence and manufacturing superiority.”