Technology is Driving the Future of Automotive

Over 130 delegates attended the region’s first automotive conference since 2010 at the Ramside Hall Hotel.

The Future of Automotive Conference held on 27 June was hailed a success by industry leaders. The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), and sponsors MAKE it Sunderland and North East Growth Hub, lined up with national speakers to present opportunities around new automotive on-vehicle technology and manufacturing process innovation. In addition, the conference offered an insight in to navigating the UK’s national innovation strategy.

Conference speakers included senior figures from Innovate UK, Department for International Trade, Advanced Propulsion Centre, UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC), Zenzic, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Accenture, Infinite Perspective Consulting, Siemens, TR Fastenings and Senseye.

Patrick Melia, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, who opened the conference, said, “Sunderland is justly proud to sponsor the NEAA’s first automotive conference. The city has established itself globally as a hub for the automotive sector and topped all other competing UK cities for electric vehicle infrastructure this year.

“We have seen great progress in the construction of the International Advanced Manufacturing Park and the development of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing which, together, will create superb new opportunities for investment in Sunderland by automotive and advanced manufacturing companies and help maximise the development and application of emerging technologies.

“NEAA is to be congratulated for organising this high-quality conference at such an important time for the car industry and Sunderland City Council is delighted to play a key role in support.”

The NEAA was established in 2015 to support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the North East automotive sector. The NEAA, who already deliver the region’s only automotive expo which is entering its fifth year, as well as the annual automotive awards, is the largest automotive cluster in the UK and is widely recognised as an exemplar.

Paul Butler, CEO of the NEAA said: “Our vision is for the North East to be to be recognised as a true automotive powerhouse which encompasses a very dynamic, forward looking and competitive supply chain and incorporates strengths in research, development and innovation in new automotive technologies and manufacturing processes.

“The future of automotive conference was an opportunity to ensure companies in the region are fully informed and prepared for the future opportunities that will occur in the sector. It was an honour to host so many senior figures from within our industry who have dedicated their time and experience to help deliver this comprehensive agenda.”

The automotive sector is entering unprecedented times in terms of the technology in the vehicles produced and how they are manufactured. This presents major challenges and significant opportunities for the North East automotive sector.

The North East is globally renown as a centre of excellence for automotive manufacturing, producing 30% of all UK passenger vehicles and is a significant contributor to the regional economy, generating over £11bn of sales. Despite near-term challenges around the transition to electrification, the sector is expected to grow to £14bn in the coming years.

In recent years, the region has also established significant capabilities in batteries, power electronics and electric motors. The North East manufacturing must capitalise on these strengths to ensure the region is at the forefront of the UK Government’s strategy to ensure the technologies of tomorrow are designed, developed and manufactured in the UK.

Keynote speaker, Paul Gadd, Head of Land Transport at Innovate UK, said: “The Future of Mobility is one of the four grand challenges that form the heart of the governments Industrial Strategy. Innovate UK are pleased to work with organisations like the North East Automotive Alliance in supporting UK businesses to take advantage of the global opportunity that innovation in transport will bring, delivering societal and economic benefits.”

Alan Welby, Innovation Director, North East LEP, said: “It has been a pleasure to sponsor this event through the North East Growth Hub. In talking to delegates and hearing from some of the industry’s leaders, It is clear that the automotive sector will change considerably over the next 5-10 years. The opportunities for our businesses in the North East are significant and the ability of those businesses to innovate will be crucial in taking advantage of those opportunities.

"This conference maps out what we must do and how to keep our sector ahead of the curve and able to compete on a global stage. I am confident there is a very bright future for this sector in our region.”

Butler continues: “The opportunities within the automotive sector are huge. The accelerated introduction of new technologies such as electrified propulsion, connected and autonomous vehicles will have significant impact on our supply chain, whilst an increased focus on localisation and the digitalisation of our manufacturing processes will open the automotive sector to new companies.”