Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Foundation unveiled for JLR’s advanced R&D hub

The foundation stone for the new National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC) at the University of Warwick was laid today by four men, very well known to one another, but also closely involved with the project.

Ratan Tata (chairman emeritus of Tata Group), Cyrus Mistry (chairman of Tata Group) and Jaguar Land Rover chief executive officer Dr Ralf Speth joined Professor Lord Bhattacharyya (chairman and founder of the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) to mark the formal launch of the construction phase for the project which will create a new, cutting-edge UK automotive technology, innovation and education centre.

The 33,000 sq m facility, due to open in Spring 2017, will become the hub for Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) advanced research and will boast cutting-edge workshops, laboratories, virtual engineering suites and advanced powertrain facilities, equipped to enable a full range of design, visualisation and prototyping activities.

The development of the NAIC project is the next stage in JLR’s strategy to develop its global R&D and engineering capability. JLR employs over 8,000 engineers and designers in the UK and is investing in new technologies, skills and facilities. In the financial year 2015/16 the business will invest up to £3.8bn in product creation.

Dr Ralf Speth said: “The National Automotive Innovation Centre will serve as a generator of new skills and new thinking, providing a perfect, collaborative environment in which to learn, research and develop the designs and technologies that will shape the vehicles and personal mobility solutions of the future.”

“As well as helping JLR create key technologies that will deliver new experiences for our customers; smarter, safer and more connected cars and a low-carbon future, the centre will deliver wider benefits to the UK automotive industry. The NAIC will have a significant role inspiring the engineers of tomorrow and will help develop the skills we need the UK to nurture and develop to ensure we remain globally competitive,” he added.

The NAIC will aim to address the shortage of skilled R&D staff in the automotive supply chain, creating a pipeline of people into companies nationwide, including the creation of many apprentices in specific areas of vehicle technology.

Although a ‘national’ centre JLR will, no doubt, be one of the main beneficiaries for the NAIC. Ironically, it is just 10 years since Ford Motor Company, Jaguar’s then ill-fated owner, gave the decision to end mainstream production at the Browns Lane plant in Coventry (leased by Jaguar in 1951), most of which was later demolished leaving behind tainted memories.

“The NAIC builds on the success we have enjoyed as part of our long-standing relationship with WMG at the University of Warwick. This collaboration is our blueprint for how we expand our capabilities when the NAIC opens its doors,” added Dr Speth. “I am delighted that we are now less than two years from realising the long-term strategic vision shared by Ratan Tata and Professor Lord Bhattacharyya for a national hub for automotive innovation and skills.”

“Their support and investment in the development of an innovation infrastructure here in the UK will help this country – and JLR – remain at the forefront of global innovation in manufacturing and engineering for decades to come,” he declared.

When the centre opens in 2017, 1,000 highly-skilled people will work at the NAIC. The NAIC will enable JLR to co-locate 600 of its engineers, researchers and technologists to work collaboratively with academics and R&D specialists from across the automotive supply chain. 

Details of NAIC’s specific research projects will be revealed later, but they will be long-term, multi-disciplinary challenges – such as electrification, smart and connected cars and the Human Machine Interface.

The development of the new NAIC facility will complement JLR’s product research and development centres in Gaydon and Whitley. While the NAIC will become the hub for its advanced research teams, Gaydon and Whitley will continue to be JLR’s centres of excellence for engineering and product development.

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