The automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy accounting for more than £71.6 billion annual turnover and employing over 814,000 people across the wider automotive industry. The sector accounts for 12% of total UK export of goods and invests £4 billion each year in automotive R&D. More than 30 manufacturers build in excess of 70 models of vehicle in the UK, supported by over 2,000 component providers and skilled engineers.

Geographically the Midlands is located centrally among vehicle manufacturers and suppliers and provides excellent access to the UK automotive market including seven volume car manufacturers, seven commercial vehicle manufacturers, and 16 of the world’s top 20 automotive suppliers. This creates efficiencies in the supply chain, 35 of the top 50 global suppliers have a presence here and contribute to the competitiveness of the region.

Over 60% of the UK’s automotive R&D happens in the Midlands. Supported by a mature supply chain and world class manufacturing and engineering base, companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota, JCB, Aston Martin, Lagonda, Geely’s and BMW all have production operations here, whilst SAIC Motor and Changan have technical and R&D centres. New developments in connected and autonomous technologies, light-weighting, battery and energy storage are among the future technologies being developed in the region.

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers both forecast substantial benefits from digitalisation in manufacturing including productivity gains, shorter lead times, more personalised vehicles and enhanced services for customers. There is a major opportunity to not only develop and implement company digitalisation strategy but also end to end supplier integration.

Areas of opportunity include:

  • Collect, store and transmit data – sensors and tracking (e.g. RFID), communications interface & standards (enabling cyber physical digital transfer)
  • Cloud based storage and service models, 5G, analyse data – predictive analytics, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, Interact with data – virtual reality, mobile/tablet/watch, visualisation tools (e.g. Tableau)
  • Crowdsourcing (sentiment analysis)
  • Additive manufacturing techniques (3D printing)
  • Advanced robotics (collaborative robots & cyber physical systems)
  • Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)
  • Cybersecurity & digital trust (blockchain)

The intelligent application of autonomous and connected vehicle (CAV) technology creates significant scope to increase automotive R&D activity as well as exploit the emerging technology in areas including intelligent parking, data mining & real-world testing.

Automotive technology development:

  • Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) Engine Manufacturing Centre represents £1bn investment and is home to the high technology, low emission Ingenium diesel engine.
  • Toyota is producing hybrid vehicles in Burnaston, Derbyshire, whilst JLR, Detroit Electric, Geely, London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) and JCB are all driving EV investment. Westfield Technology, RDM and others are leading on the development of driverless vehicles.
  • The new £80m UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, together with the £120m National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC), will be major UK catalysts for future powertrain, UK battery development and manufacture.
  • HORIBA-MIRA, WMG, Coventry University and JLR are among partners running driverless car testbeds. These include UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (CITE) and UK Autodrive.
  • Leicestershire hosts Europe’s largest transport technology park Horiba MIRA. There are over 35 major test facilities and laboratories including crash/impact simulation, noise and vibration, a full-scale aerodynamic wind tunnel and a 93km proving ground complex supported by 450 engineers.

University Strengths

Supported by significant investments in facilities, Coventry University with the National Transport Design Centre, the University of Warwick and the National Automotive Innovation Centre, as well as a significant number of Midlands universiworld-classl closely involved with the automotive sector.

Collaborating with vehicle manufacturers and major suppliers, Midlands universities are world-class institutions with specialisms including:

  • Connected and Autonomous Vehicles
  • Powertrain testing and development
  • Electric vehicles
  • Advanced materials
  • Vehicle light-weighting
  • Battery and energy storage
  • Low carbon energy
  • Future vehicle design

Centres of excellence

The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) develops and proves innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in a low-risk environment in partnership with industry, academia, and other institutes.

The Proving Factory wraps automotive standards of New Product Introductions around application ready technology, working to commercialise new technologies.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) funds technology projects among commercial partners developing new auto powertrain solutions.

WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) provides research, education and technology to businesses, students, and government organisations worldwide.

Cenex (Centre for Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies) was established in 2005 as the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies.

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